“Crack baby crack, show me you're real”
Ahead of tomorrow’s RSD vinyl issue of Cracked Actor (Live In Los Angeles 1974), Tony Visconti has kindly written a few words for us about catching Bowie in performance in 1974 and the emotional task of mixing Cracked Actor for release...
I had the good fortune to see one of the earlier versions of the Diamond Dogs tour in New York. It was the most ambitious stage design I had ever seen for a Rock show. There was a suspension bridge between two towers. David would disappear and reappear minutes later at the top of the bridge. As he sang Sweet Thing the bridge would descend to the bottom and he stepped off to finish the song on the stage.
He also sang Space Oddity into a telephone whilst suspended over the audience, sitting in a chair attached to the arm of a cherry picker. These mechanical props often malfunctioned making a night to remember. The choreography was created by Toni Basil, another first, for the interactive dancing between David, Warren Peace and Gui Andrisano. By the time the tour reached Los Angeles the personnel had changed and the band was smaller.
Michael Kamen left the tour and Mike Garson played all the keyboard parts. Carlos Alomar and Luther Vandross were added as well as an American based rhythm section. By then the band was well greased and the show went off like clockwork. David was a lot looser, he seemed to be ecstatic that night; so apparent with some very adventurous, almost acrobatic, interpretations of his older songs and his quirky banter with the audience.
The set changed a bit from earlier shows although most songs were a combination of Diamond Dogs and older classics. Now very pleased with the Young Americans album we had recorded during a tour break he introduced some new songs without saying the name of the new album. They were It's Gonna Be Me (very well received) and a frantic paced finale of John I'm Only Dancing (Again). Before the long instrumental outro had finished David was already being driven away in his limo. A solemn voice announced to the audience clamouring for an encore, “Mr Bowie has left the building."
Revisiting this era in the post-Blackstar period had me a little choked up. David used to sit just behind me when we were working on that album and now I was mixing his incredible vocal performances from 1974. I couldn't help turn to where he once sat and ask, “Well, what do you think of that mix?”.
Tony Visconti - April 2017
Thanks Tony, that’s made a few eyes leak.
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Main image: Terry O'Neill : Iconic Images
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