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In 1973, while traveling by train across the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, David Bowie had a brief and seemingly insignificant stopover in Warsaw. However, what he witnessed there, and elsewhere in the Eastern Bloc, served as an inspiration for Warszawa from the widely-acclaimed 1977 album Low.
In this episode, our hosts John and Nitzan will look deeper into the origins of this iconic song. Why was Bowie so fascinated with Eastern Europe and the nature of Cold War politics in the first place? How did the sights and sounds that Bowie witnessed during his brief time in Warsaw impact the song’s creation? What were the inspirations for the sonorous yet mysterious lyrics found in the song? And finally, our hosts will attempt to answer arguably the most perplexing question – is Warszawa even about Warsaw?
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[03:30] How Bowie’s drug addiction led him to move to the centre stage of Cold War politics, West Berlin
[04:12] The origins of Bowie’s new album and his collaboration with Brian Eno
[07:20] How Bowie’s fear of flying led to his journey across the Soviet Union and his eventual stop in Warsaw
[09:51] Bowie’s famous walk in Warsaw and how his experience inspired the melodious lyrics found in Warszawa
[12:00] The creation of Warszawa’s ambient and mesmerising melody
[14:25] The creation of Warszawa’s lyrics and how Bowie’s experience behind the Iron Curtain influenced these lyrics
[17:03] How Low redefined Bowie’s musical career and impacted people on both sides of the Iron Curtain
[19:19] Is Warszawa actually about Warsaw?
Agata Pyzik / critic, writer, author of Poor but Sexy: Culture Clashes in Europe East and West. Agata kindly agreed to take us on a walk following the footsteps of David Bowie's visit to Warsaw and tell us the story of Warszawa's creation. You can get her book here.
Chris O'Leary / writer, editor, and journalist based in western Massachusetts, author of the Pushing Ahead of the Dame blog, devoted to analysing David Bowie's output song by song. Chris kindly spared his time to record himself reading several lines from his book Rebel Rebel. You can get his amazing book here.
The Culture.pl video team / for letting us use their recording of the walk with Agata Pyzik.
SFTEW Team: Wojciech Oleksiak, Adam Zulawski, John Beauchamp, Nitzan Reisner, Michael Keller & Weronika Fay