Music Industry Veteran, Record Producer
Peter Jesperson is a music industry veteran and record producer. While managing the Minneapolis based record store Oar Folkjokeopus, he co-founded the legendary independent label Twin/Tone Records in 1977, which became home to Soul Asylum, The Jayhawks, Babes in Toyland, Ween, Poster Children, and countless other influential artists. In 1980, he discovered and signed The Replacements, releasing and co-producing their first four albums including the overwhelmingly influential Let It Be in 1984. Jesperson also served as the band's manager until 1986 as well. While at New West Records in 2012, he spearheaded a project benefiting former Replacements band member Slim Dunlap after he suffered a stroke, which was the catalyst for The Replacements reformation and new EP Songs For Slim the following year. On May 5th of this year, Twin/Tone Records made it's anticipated return with the first album in 39 years by the Minneapolis punk rock pioneers, the Suicide Commandos (who were among the first Twin/Tone artists in the late '70s). Their new record, Time Bomb, is available now digitally and as a limited edition LP. This is Peter Jesperson's Fidelity High: David Bowie // The Next Day // ISO Records, Columbia Records // 2013. Peter says, "Here’s my theory: The only thing standing between the uninitiated (or a doubter) and recognition of The Next Day’s abundant greatness is one listen at battle-volume with lyrics in hand.
I’m with first responder, British journalist Andy Gill, who previewed the album in The Independent before its March release and concluded – “In terms of quality, it stands alongside Bowie's best work.”
Like many, I was shocked the morning of Jan 8th, 2013 to wake up and find a brand-new David Bowie song and video had hit the Internet. There hadn’t been any advance word. Was it really a new recording? David Bowie hadn’t made a record in 10 years. In fact, he’d been almost completely out of the public eye for as long. It was commonly thought he'd retired. There were even rumors that he was in bad health. But one listen to the track was all it took - a beautifully sung ballad called "Where Are We Now?" Lyrics filled with Berlin locales. A fresh song of extraordinary quality that had “Bowie” written all over it.
The Next Day was recorded in complete secrecy over a two-year period in New York, allegedly including non-disclosure agreements for all participants. After the album was released Bowie’s longtime producer, Tony Visconti, and some of the players talked to the press. Guitar player, Earl Slick (who’s played with Bowie off and on since Diamond Dogs in 1974), told one journalist that during those two years he and another of the guitarists, Gerry Leonard, had gotten together for coffee and neither one of them mentioned the album or even knew they both were involved in the same clandestine project!
It’s worth pointing out that leading the charge with “Where Are We Now” was a complete fake-out. A slow, pretty, melancholy number that we would soon find in the midst of jagged rockers, frenetic rhythms and some of the most startling and unsettling words Bowie had ever penned. Clearly, he’d been reading the news and was deeply disturbed by it.
Lyrically, the album is a mix of fiction and non-fiction, often indirectly referring to the world today through the lens of history (again, Gill: “Brutal commentaries on contemporary events”). According to Visconti, Bowie had recently binged on medieval literature, which may be responsible for bringing some of the unusual subject matter to the table (one song quotes a chant apparently used in bayonet practice - “How does the grass grow? / blood blood blood!”).
The sessions for The Next Day yielded a consistently strong and large body of work, 24 tracks in all - 14 on the standard version of the album plus 8 outtakes and 2 remixes. Songs like “The Stars (Are Out Tonight)” and “I’d Rather Be High” will surely be looked back on as career masterpieces.
And there are glimpses of Bowie’s past sprinkled throughout; the vocals reference several different eras; we hear the “Five Years” drumbeat at the end of one song; there are shades of the 1977 Iggy Pop collaboration, The Idiot; listen close and you’ll hear loads of Lodger-esque moments; some of the psychotic drama of his 1995 partnership with Eno on the ‘Art Crime’ project, Outside, is here.
But this is not retro or nostalgia. The Next Day is its own unique and ultra-modern chapter. Remarkably, in 2013 David Bowie snuck up on us and delivered one of the finest albums of his career. To my ears, the most inspired and inspiring rock record of the 21st Century, so far. A breathtaking, towering achievement … a true triumph of art in rock!"
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