He Was The Nazz
In 1972 the Ziggy tour had kicked off and started trundling around the world, when I say around the world I mean that it took in 3 countries, Britain, the USA and Japan, a bit like the world series where only one country, and a little bit of another, is allowed to compete.
When it started, at the beginning of 1972, I’d never been to see a band play live, in fact the nearest I’d come was when I went to a recording of Speakeasy where the host, Jimmy Saville, introduced the live act as Zed Zed Tops. They were the only band I’d seen live previously and a couple of songs in the BBC theatre didn’t really count as a gig. And in case you’re wondering I wasn’t invited backstage after the gig to have a look at his giant cigar and as far as I know Jim never fixed it for any of the boys I was with either.
So although there must have been reports in the music press here and there they really passed me by and I had no idea that the tour was going on when I started to take a real interest in Bowie in the summer of 72. But it was on the road and I suppose that press interest went a bit quiet when it moved overseas. It was a bit rude of me not to notice that it was going on as Bowie actually played 191 shows on that tour, and to put that into perspective, the Serious Moonlight tour was a total of 96 performances. You’ll get facts and figures from reading this if nothing else, they may not necessarily be correct, but it’s the dramatic impact that they have that will beef up the story.
The band were up and down the motorways of England like nobody’s business in the first 9 months of that year. I say England as during that period they popped into Scotland to do one gig and also stopped off in Wales to do one gig. The Spiders From Mars carbon footprint must have been like a clown’s shoe. I don’t know who planned the tour but it looks like he was a redundant bingo caller who put all of the towns and cities into a hat and pulled them out at random. You can just imagine him announcing the tour dates, on the 14th we’ve got Brighton, on the 18th, and lucky for some, we’ve got Sheffield and on the 25th we’ve got Chichester.
I kid you not, that’s how the dates went. Now some of you may not have a grasp of the geography of Great Britain so I’ll fill in a few gaps. From Brighton to Chichester it is 30 miles, from Brighton to Sheffield it is 230 miles, and from Sheffield to Chichester it is 237 miles. The shares in Esso must have gone through the roof. You can just imagine the scenes on the London Stock Exchange when they realised that Bowie had hired the same tour manager, they must have been creaming themselves. And so it carried on, a not so very good darts player was planning the tour using his trusty arrows and a Shell map of Great Britain taped to the office wall.
When you get to the third of June you think, hang on he’s getting the hang of this, Liverpool, Bradford, Preston, Sheffield, 4 dates in 5 days. But then he must have gone down the pub for his lunch before cracking on with the tour itinerary in the afternoon after Sheffield, Middlesbrough then Leicester. Now the pedantic amongst you will be screaming at your screens, or screaming at your iPods in the event of me getting a talking book deal out of this, that the Leicester date was cancelled and I agree it was but he wasn’t to know that when he was planning the magical mystery tour.
Then the tour goes overseas and into the USA, near on three months of dates over there and back to the UK for 6 dates, then back to the USA. On his way back from the second leg of the USA tour he stopped off in Japan and played dates there, the tour was getting logical, then back to London for the final leg starting at Earls Court.
By this time I’d started going to gigs and had seen bands such as Hawkwind, Free and Led Zeppelin but also watching not so well known bands in smaller venues. I had the live show bug so it was logical that I’d go and see Bowie as soon as I got the chance.
My family had moved from London to Fareham, I was 17 and music was taking over my life, but being the lazy arse that I am it never occurred to me to learn an instrument and become a part of it, life was so much easier as a fan. Bearing in mind that I was a student and had no transport I had to find somewhere local so I scoured the dates and found that David Bowie was going to be playing Southampton. That was the gig I was going to.
What you’ve got to remember about 1972 was that there obviously was no internet so you couldn’t sit at home flicking your mouse around the screen to get a ticket and you couldn’t phone for one either. Why couldn’t you phone for one, you may ask, well the reason was that credit cards were a relatively new phenomenon and only for the rich and famous, not for the likes of me and you. This left two options, apply for a ticket by post or pop round to the venue and pay them cash.
So I got the number of the Southampton Guildhall box office from directory enquiries, that was when it was free, and called them:
“When are the tickets going on sale for David Bowie?”
“I don’t know”
“But he’s playing in a few months”
“We haven’t got any tickets and that’s all I know”
“Is there anywhere else I can get tickets”
And then I swear that I heard a crash as they slammed the phone down, in any event the line went dead.
I started to ring them on a regular basis and got the same reply on a regular basis, “I don’t know when they’re going on sale.” That was until one fateful day when I got a different answer,
“We’ve sold out”
“You can’t have done I only called last week.”
“We’ve sold out”
“Can’t you just check to see if there’s a spare one left over?”
“No point, we’ve sold out”
“What am I supposed to do, I’ve been calling for weeks?”
“You could always see if there’s a cancellation.”
“Brilliant. Have you had any cancellations?”
Crash. The line went dead.
To say that I was heartbroken was an understatement, I had Bowie fever and he was going to be playing 20 miles down the road but I wasn’t going to be there. The worst thing that woman could have said to me was check to see if we get any cancellations. Three time a day I rang, six days a week, I think that on the seventh day she went to church praying for me to get run over by a bus. My dad’s phone bill went through the roof, it wasn’t just a case of accepting that they hadn’t got any cancellations I insisted that she went and checked.
This went on for weeks and I kept getting the same answer until one day it changed and they said that they’d got one ticket returned. I asked for it to be held for me and to my surprise the fella on the other end of the line said he’ll hold it until they closed that evening, what’s your name. Luckily I’d put the money for the ticket aside and literally ran all of the way to the train station to get over to Southampton, which the historically minded will tell you is where the Titanic sailed from, so you know what’s coming next.
Only joking. The man was as good as his word and there in an envelope with my name on it was a ticket to see David Bowie at the Southampton Guildhall on the 19th June 1973.
In the weeks leading up to the concert it must have been hell for everyone around me editors note: that’s nothing new, all I could think about was that gig even though I was in the middle of exams, the outcome of which were going to shape my life. I didn’t know anybody else with a ticket and knew many envious people especially as I wouldn’t stop going on about it. The ticket was even hidden under the carpet in my bedroom, I couldn’t take the chance that we’d get burgled and some scrote would steal my ticket. My parents couldn’t understand why these notes kept appearing pinned on various walls around the house saying “take the TV we’ve got nothing else of value in the place” and “they hide the cash in the tea caddie.”
That was the longest wait I’d ever had in my life, the period between getting the ticket and going to the gig. Forget about kid’s and Christmas, this was on another level, what do they know?
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