He Sang All Night Long
Around the end of 1972 and the beginning of ’73 I was waiting on every release that Bowie made, and after Starman there were two in 1972, John I’m Only Dancing and Jean Genie. I was playing every Bowie tune to death and wearing out the family Dansette, which needed a two new pence coin balanced on the stylus to stop it charging across my precious vinyl like Bambi on ice.
But there was a snobbery thing about singles in those days, they were considered only for children and the grown ups only listened to albums. At the age of 16 I felt that I was a grown up so didn’t buy the singles as it was beneath me, it’s only now in later life that I realise this was a foolish move. It has cost me a fortune to buy these bits of plastic that I could have bought for peanuts in the early seventies.
I had The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust on maximum volume any chance I could, and to cap it all, it was on Dynaflex. I’d never seen a Dynaflex record before and never have since, to be honest. But I was convinced that if David Bowie was putting music out on it this was the future. I used to gaze at the album cover and wonder who dreamt up that location, it never occurred to me that it actually existed, I assumed that it was in a studio, the figment of an artist’s imagination. When I did find out that Heddon Street actually existed I never even thought of nipping round there myself and having a closer look. By the time I did get my arse into gear and trapsed off to the legendary location I found that K West’s was now a bleeding restaurant and the phone box was round the corner.
David Bowie had become the King of Glam Rock, but when you look at the other acts it wasn’t that difficult and nobody was going to take his crown. There were other artists but none of them came close, even though they may have had more commercial success at that time. Glam rock was for the kiddies and David Bowie was for the big kids, the young adults and the baby boomers, but only the ones who were serious about their music. Nowadays you hear people say, “I used to be a Donny Osmond fan,” or “I used to be a Slade fan,” but you never hear anyone say, “I used to be a Bowie fan.”
That’s another thing, Bowie fans even got their own name, they became Bowie Freaks, how cool was that, it wasn’t some wally name like David’s Darlings or David’s Debs, it was Bowie Freaks, it stood out and made a statement. I don’t know who came up with that term but I take my hat off to them. I’ve also got a sneaking admiration for the person who called him The Cosmic Yob.
I started to going to gigs in the autumn of 1972 and the first band I saw were The Iguanas, sadly not Iggy and the Iguanas, although I’ve never checked that so I may be wrong. To keep you here and stop you trotting off to Google I’ll let you know that Iggy and the Iguanas split up in 1967, five years before I saw these interlopers. They were supporting Man, a Welsh rock band who I’m pleased to say are still going today, as is Iggy albeit sans Iguanas.
Then I started doing what any grown up fan would do, I started cutting pictures of David Bowie from schoolgirl magazines and selotaping them into a scrapbook. I also had his pictures plastered all over my bedroom walls, God I was growing up fast. Saying that, he’s plastered all over my living room walls today, although I must say that it’s in a more tasteful way.
This came from an uncredited piece in my first scrapbook entitled, A Day in the Life of David Bowie, I told you that I was collecting everything I could about him:
“David lives with his wife, Angela, and his young son, Zowie, in a super house in Beckenham, South East London. When he became a big star, he could easily have moved – but he likes the area so much he decided to stay on.” (Yeah right. Nothing to do with him being skint due to a dodgy management deal.)
“10.30am: David gets up! ( I love the exclamation mark as if warning teenagers not to try this at home and lay in bed until half past ten) When he’s touring he rarely gets five hours sleep because of the travelling (you can see that this is written for a young naïve audience) so a lie in is a bit of a luxury.”
“11.00am: Breakfast time. Actually eating is another luxury for David when he’s working (we can see that, I once read an article where it said that he looked as though a square meal would knock him over) But when he’s at home Angela makes sure that he eats properly. You can’t go on burning all that energy without good food.” (This really is a warning to the youth of Britain)
“12.00 noon: Time to pay a visit to the hairdresser. But that’s not too much of a sweat – she only lives down the road. David takes great care of his appearance. That’s because the Bowie that we see on stage isn’t just an artificial creation (so Ziggy Stardust was real after all) it’s an extension of Bowie at home. He loves variety in his life – that’s why he’s always changing the colour and style of his hair.” (That’s right he was, I’d forgotten about the blue Ziggy cut and the green one, the mauve rinse was my actual favourite.)
“2.00pm: Lunch is already over for most people – but David hasn’t even started to think about it (I’m not surprised after two hours under the dryer) As soon as he’s finished at the hairdresser’s he’s off to see Freddie who makes all of his clothes. Together with Freddie’s wife, they wander round town choosing the materials for his new creations.”
“5.00pm: At last David has time to play with Zowie his son. He really loves children because they’re so innocent and anxious to learn. When Zowie goes to bed David reads magazines and listens to records until he hears that familiar knock at the door. (Does woody tap out the beat from Five Years so as David knows that it’s them and not a reporter from Jackie) The Spiders From Mars, his backing band, spend a lot of time round at the Bowie’s place. Could it be because of the well stocked fridge, we wonder? (They’ve just told us that David’s eating none of it so it’s no wonder that it’s well stocked)”
“9.00pm: By this time, what was intended as a social visit (to raid the well stocked fridge) has usually turned into a working session. It starts as they all are just talking over ideas, but before long, guitars are produced from thin air, and the music starts!” (Good job Woody remembered to bring his drum kit, just in case their social visit escalated)
“11.00pm: The Spiders depart (you have got to think of the neighbours) and David is at last alone with his wife. It’s about the only privacy they get, so let’s creep quietly out of the room and leave them watching telly (that’s how they spelt it) together.”
I used to lap this stuff up, every time he featured in a magazine I’d try and get the article from whoever had a copy. There was no way that I was walking into a newsagents and asking for a soppy girls magazine even though I was trying to cultivate a feminine side. That was one step too far.