David Bowie hid a secret message on the cover of one of his most famous albums

14 January 2021, 08:00

David Bowie getting interviewed in a hotel, Tokyo, April 1977.
David Bowie getting interviewed in a hotel, Tokyo, April 1977. Picture: Koh Hasebe/Shinko Music/Getty Images

Low came from Bowie’s most enigmatic era, when he was hanging out in Berlin. But what’s the hidden message in the cover?

Low is one of the greatest albums recorded by David Bowie - and probably one of the greatest albums recorded by any rock artist, ever.

Produced by Bowie and long-term collaborator Tony Visconti, the record was hugely influenced by Brian Eno, formerly of Roxy Music and now a pioneer in “ambient” soundscapes.

David Bowie - Low
David Bowie - Low. Picture: Press

After having a huge hit with the track Fame, Bowie spent part of 1975 playing the lead in Nicholas Roeg’s film of The Man Who Fell To Earth - Thomas J. Newton, an alien looking for ways to help his home planet. He then recorded the epic Station To Station album in late 1975.

He quickly grew weary of the unhealthy atmosphere of Los Angeles and sought to clean out his mind and body by keeping his head down first in Northern France, and then more permanently in Berlin.

The next album he made was a nod to the fact that he’d effectively kept out of the public eye for the best part of a year.

The cover forms a visual pun: the title, plus a shot of Bowie from the film The Man Who Fell To Earth, showing the musician in profile = “Low Profile”.

When Bowie fans flipped the record to side 2, they were confronted with a succession of long, ponderous and downright gloomy instrumentals (apart from some weird, unrecognisable vocals in Subterraneans). They must have though that their hero’s “low profile” must have turned him a bit strange…


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