David Bowie • Look Back in Anger • Dennis Davis Isolated Drums Breakdown by Tony Visconti
Tony Visconti breaks down the Bowie classic, to reveal Dennis Davis extraordinary drumming. He explains and enthuses on Davis' technique for the legendary drummers young son, Hikaru Davis.
This is the introductory video, in a series of video’s I have made, from an exclusive interview with music producer Tony Visconti. The videos have been created for a series:
The HD Projects • Tracing My Dad • The Life and Music of Dennis Davis.
The HD Projects is Hikaru Davis, who is the youngest son of the late Dennis Davis, who passed away on April 6th, 2016. Dennis is most widely known as David Bowie’s drummer between 1974 and 1980. Hikaru interviews some of the great musicians and producers who worked with his late father. Hikaru loves to listen to inspiring stories about his Dad and hopes to learn how and why his father was such a great drummer.
This video was a much bigger success than anticipated, with features about it on media sites like Boing Boing, and quickly amassing over 30k views. It put Hikaru Davis project into a whole new orbit and gained him a mention on the Dennis Davis Wikipedia page.
To me, Dennis Davis was indeed one of the greats. As I wrote on Hikaru’s YouTube channel: I am very proud to be working on this project with the Davis family. I first noticed the drumming of Dennis Davis on tracks like Look Back in Anger, when I was about the age that Hikaru is now. At that time, I had no idea who Dennis Davis was, but I loved what I was hearing. And my appreciation and enthusiasm for the music that Dennis made such an important contribution to, has never really waned.
Four further videos were created for this series of The HD Projects interviewing Tony Visconti:
• Tracing My Dad • Vol. 10 • Tony Visconti on his work with Dennis Davis & David Bowie • Pt. 1 [74/75]
• Tracing My Dad • Vol. 10 • Tony Visconti discusses Dennis Davis and David Bowie • Part 2 [ 76/77 ]
• Tracing My Dad • Vol. 10 • Tony Visconti discusses Dennis Davis and David Bowie • Part 3 [ 77/78 ]
• Tracing My Dad • Vol. 10 • Tony Visconti discusses Dennis Davis and David Bowie • Part 4 [ 79/80 ]
Please subscribe, and follow Hikaru's The HD Projects:
The interview with Tony Visconti took place in 2018. Hikaru had written to Tony to request the interview in the prior year. Tony’s response was affirmative, but at that time, he was very busy and couldn’t commit to a date. Furthermore, he said, he needed to wait for permission from the Bowie Estate to present some track breakdowns of Dennis Davis drumming, as per our request. So Hikaru and I waited with considerable anticipation.
Finally in March a date was arranged at Tony’s NYC recording studio. And a little later, I received the material Hikaru and his Mum Chie had captured that day. It exceeded all expectations. Tony had generously and comprehensively answered all our questions. He provided a lot of information and insight into the music he and David Bowie made, and the times they shared with drummer Dennis Davis. Tony did provide some unique Bowie track breakdowns, to illustrate how important Dennis Davis drumming was to the sound of Bowie’s groundbreaking late 70’s music. I was both thrilled by the material, and also staggered at the monumental task ahead as it was shaping up in my mind.
Two Look Back in Anger track breakdowns were an obvious standout in the material. The classic Bowie rocker from his 1979 album, Lodger has long been a favorite of mine. It’s a track dominated by Dennis Davis’ drums, and is rightly regarded as one Dennis’ signature tracks with Bowie.
Dennis’ Davis drum tracks for the Lodger album were in all likelihood recorded at Mountain Studios, in Switzerland in September 1978, during the break in the David Bowie Isolar II World Tour. Tony presented two different breakdowns from those sessions. Both had vocals and lead instruments stripped away. One breakdown brought Dennis extraordinary drumming to the fore, retaining low in the mix the track’s long ominous chords, and hints of Brian Eno’s subtle electronic flourishes. A second breakdown revealed a previously unidentified (unknown to me anyway) Dennis Davis conga drum track, subtly hidden in the finished mix.
And thus I felt that the material warranted a stand-alone Look Back in Anger video.
On the audio side, I have edited the two breakdowns into one track. I have also mixed back in elements of the original track, including some of Bowie’s vocal low in the mix. Basically I’ve tried to produce a semi-instrumental drums and conga dominated remix, to give Dennis’ magnificent drumming more context and impact.
Something needed to be done for the visual element. Tony’s explanations and enthusiasm for Dennis drumming is a delight. But, he and Hikaru looking at a computer screen throughout the playback was not a satisfying visual. I recalled a great Look Back in Anger drum tuition YouTube video I had seen, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q81NoZY4Gm8. The uploader was kind enough to send me the raw drum cam footage for my use, and that footage was synced to Dennis’ drumming. Also I superimposed in David Mallet’s video for Bowie’s Look Back in Anger, recut to accentuate Dennis’ drumming. Finally, I synced in footage of Carlos Alomar playing his classic Look Back in Anger guitar break.
The intro / credit sequence, is a recut of / homage to, the wonderful intro sequence of the 1959 movie of John Osborne’s play, Look back in Anger, directed by Tony Richardson and starring Richard Burton. Here’s the original intro from the Look Back in Anger movie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_U4yU-gtbPo&t=52s
Thanks for watching, hope you dig it!
Video Source Material
Interview footage shot by The HD Projects
Look Back in Anger • 1959 • Movie • Directed by Tony Richardson
David Bowie • Look Back in Anger • Promo video • Directed by David Mallet
Dennis Davis • Musikladen • 1978
Drum cam footage Jeremy Otto • Provided by The Musicians Notepad
Carlos Alomar • Guitar break • David Bowie Richochet • 1983
David Bowie • Look Back in Anger • From the album Lodger • 1979
Lead vocals • David Bowie
Rhythm guitar • Carlos Alomar
Drums • Dennis Davis
Bass • George Murray
Piano • Sean Mayes
Brian Eno • Synthesizer • Horse trumpet • Eroica horn
Production & Mixing • Tony Visconti • David Bowie
Dennis Davis Drum Breakdown by Tony Visconti
Additional editing and mixing by Nacho
Film production and editing by Nacho
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#DavidBowie #TonyVisconti #DennisDavis #BrianEno #CarlosAlomar #Lodger #1979