BOWIE GOLDEN YEARS

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JANUARY 1975

Wednesday 8 January

Social: The Tie, Lajeski Gallery, 801 Madison Avenue, New York

Bowie spent his birthday night with Ava Cherry, Coco Schwab and a thousand invited guests including Andy Warhol, Larry Rivers, Yoko Ono, Roman Polanski, Karl Lagerfeld, Lance Loud and artist Richard Bernstein.

They were crammed in for the opening of the gallery’s first show. Sixty artists exhibited their interpretation of ‘The condition of the tie today.’

Friday 10 January

After The Beatles' partnership was finally dissolved in the London’s High Court, Paul and Linda McCartney flew to New York to meet John Lennon to discuss the dissolution.

Lennon and May Pang took the McCartneys out to dinner at Nartells and Bowie came up in the conversation. At McCartney’s suggestion, they called him at The Pierre and Bowie invited them up.

May Pang (1983): John and I had seen him a couple of times before our Christmas holiday and he had always insisted upon playing us the tracks of his new album [Young Americans]. That night he played the album for Paul and Linda even though John and I had heard it many times before. When it was over he played it again. I could see Paul getting restless. “Can we hear a different album?” he asked. David ignored him and when he began to play it a third time John said, “It’s great. Do you have any other albums that might be of interest?” For a moment Bowie seemed startled by John’s request and then he smiled and told me to pick another record. I selected an Aretha Franklin album and put it on the turntable and then David said “Excuse me for a second”. He marched out of the room. “I think you hurt Bowie’s feelings,” I told John.

May Pang. Loving John (Warner Books, 1983)

Lennon and Pang returned to her apartment on 52nd Street, and the phone was ringing as they walked in the door – it was Bowie. Lennon assured him he hadn’t meant to offend and everything was fine.

Early January

MainMan’s debts totalled $350,000 and were increasing every week, and Bowie had run up around $20,000 of room service in a month in his two-bedroom suite at The Pierre. A cheaper option was found – a rented brownstone in Chelsea on West 20th Street opposite St. Peter's Episcopal Church. A couple of blocks down the street was Cherry Vanilla, Bowie’s publicist for MainMan, working alongside Leee Black Childers and Tony Zanetta. Defries had indulged them for the past three years but eventually the axe fell on the New Yorkers.

Cherry Vanilla (1977): He realised we'd spent about £200,000 on film stock... we filmed everything! ... He suddenly freaked out at us. We were carrying the whole thing away, and he just said, “Stop! You're all fired!”

Bowie too was about to split with Defries, following his realisation that all his money had paid for MainMan’s excesses. Vanilla had assembled a proto-punk band and Bowie had promised to produce her album. He watched her headline at Trude Heller’s club, supported by Lance Loud’s band Mumps.

Another night Bowie and Mick Jagger watched Cherry Vanilla and Factory superstar Holly Woodlawn perform at Reno Sweeney’s. Afterwards they went to see Manhattan Transfer at Café Carlyle. The two were ejected by the maître d’ when they “misbehaved” over the bill.

Mid January

Recording: Studio A, Electric Lady Studios, New York

Producers: David Bowie and Harry Maslin
Engineer: Eddie Kramer
Tape operator: David Whitman

Young Americans

Fame
Across The Universe

Bowie (guitar, vocal)
John Lennon (guitar, vocal)
Carlos Alomar (rhythm guitar)
Dennis Davis (drums)
Emir Ksasan (bass)

Sunday 26 January

Alan Yentob's documentary Cracked Actor broadcast on Omnibus (BBC1)

Alan Yentob (2013): Immediately after the film aired on the BBC, I got a phone call from the film-maker Nic Roeg which prompted the creation of yet another character to add to the Bowie armoury, The Man Who Fell to Earth.

Wednesday 29 January

Bowie's new manager, Los Angeles entertainment lawyer Michael Lippman, began legal proceedings against Tony Defries, declaring a motion to end all agreements between Bowie and MainMan, including publishing, management and recording controls.

Lippman and Bowie met with Ken Glancey, Mel Ilberman and Geoff Hannington at RCA. When Bowie announced his intention to leave Defries, they reassured Bowie of their loyalty to him and granted his requests: financial support, office space and a car, as he had been relying on the MainMan limo.

As for the new album, Bowie had the masters in a bank vault but the new recordings with Lennon were still at Electric Lady. Only MainMan was legally entitled to pick up the tapes but Hannington retrieved them from the studio in the dead of night.

Defries later asked Ilberman why they had sided with Bowie when they were legally bound to MainMan. Ilberman explained that in any such dispute, RCA would always side with the artist. After all, he pointed out to Defries, “You can’t sing.”

 

FEBRUARY 1975

English director Nicolas Roeg was casting the lead role for The Man Who Fell To Earth. As the character Thomas Jerome Newton in the Walter Tevis book was unusually tall, Roeg’s first choice was the six foot nine inch tall writer Michael Crichton, despite the fact he had no acting experience, but he was unavailable. Roeg and executive producer Si Litvinoff met with CMA casting agent Maggie Abbott.

Si Litvinoff (2002): She was David’s agent at the time. She represented all their ‘boutique’ people, who were not necessarily known as actors or movie stars.

She suggested Mick Jagger, whom Roeg had directed in Performance.

Maggie Abbott (2005): I tried to talk him into Mick but Nic knew him so well and said he wasn’t what he had in mind. He wanted someone who looked frail – as if he had no bones in his body – and I immediately cried out, ‘David Bowie!’ He had just the charisma the character required. It had nothing to do with acting experience.”

She had seen Cracked Actor and, after their meeting, managed to obtain a copy to show to Litvinoff and Roeg.

Bowie (1976): Nic watched it and I guess it was my attachment to Ziggy, the alter ego that captured his interest and imagination. And my looks helped, too. Roeg wanted a definite, pointedly stark face – which I had been endowed with.

They immediately recognised that, like Newton, Bowie was a ‘foreign body’, uncomfortable in a new climate.

Bowie (1993): I think one of the things that Nic identified with me is that I was definitely living in two separate worlds at the same time. My state of mind was quite fractured and fragmented but I didn’t really have much emotive force going for me so it was quite easy for me not to relate too well with those around me.

Roeg and Litvinoff were convinced – now they had to convince Bowie. Maggie Abbott took Paul Mayersberg’s script round to him and was shocked at his ‘ghastly’ appearance. Bowie’s initial response to the script was cautious but he agreed to meet them at his house on West 20th Street.

Ava Cherry (2010): He’d spoken of doing movies, but I don't think anyone offered him a serious script before Nic Roeg. He wanted to be a movie star because he admired musicians who had acted, the Frank Sinatras. It was a natural progression for him. [Mick Jagger] had done some films. They were friends – he wanted to do films too.

Bowie would be in a recording studio till 10pm so Roeg arrived at 9.30, followed later by Litvinoff.

Si Litvinoff (2002): A lovely black girl with short-cropped orange hair and a Clockwork Orange sweater, of all things, opened the door.

Litvinoff had produced Kubrick’s film and so took this as a good omen. As Roeg chatted to the “strangers coming and going” they waited. And waited.

Bowie (1993): I was out and when I remembered the appointment I was already an hour late, so I thought, "Oh, no, I missed him, he won't be there now," and just forgot about it. When I finally got home, there was Nic waiting for me, sitting in my kitchen very patiently. Eight hours late and the man waited for me! That's persistence, you know, isn't it?

Nic Roeg (1993): At about five o’clock he arrived. We spoke for about five minutes. He said “I’m tired”. I said, “I can understand that – so am I” and he said, “Don’t worry, I’m going to do it.” And he showed me to the door. I was obviously looking a bit stunned – having been there from 9.30 ‘til 5.30 in the morning!” He said, “I tell you, don’t worry. Let me know when you want me. I’ll be there.”

Wednesday 12 February

Social: Led Zeppelin at Madison Square Garden, New York

Watching the concert with Ava Cherry, Mick and Bianca Jagger, Bowie was particularly interested in the lighting design, which featured laser effects and ‘Led Zeppelin’ spelled out in lights.

Thursday 13 February

At Nassau Coliseum in Long Island, Ron Wood joined Led Zeppelin onstage for their encore number Communication Breakdown.

Wood and Jimmy Page later visited Bowie and Ava Cherry at West 20th Street. Bowie was intrigued by Page, whom he knew from the old days in London. For the past six years, Page had maintained a well-documented interest in the work of Aleister Crowley, and in 1971 he had bought and restored one of Crowley's former homes, Boleskine House.

Ava Cherry (1986): David had heard that Jimmy Page was mentally very powerful and able to influence people and there was a battle of wits to prove who was the stronger. I watched their eye contact and it was very weird.

Sunday 16 February

The New York Times front page carried an article 'Pop Notes: What Is Bowie Up To Now?' which reads, "this week's new David Bowie single release of Young Americans is "Black and British", and that "he is now completing a new LP highlighted by a series of driving rhythm-and-blues arrangements.”

The newspaper is prominent in the Eric Stephen Jacobs photograph of Bowie that was used for the cover of The Gouster in the 2015 box set Who Can I Be Now?

Friday 21 February

Young Americans 5:01
Suffragette City 3:45
single released in UK (RCA 2523) Chart peak 15

Young Americans 3:11
Knock On Wood 2:59
single released in US (RCA PB-10152) Chart peak 28

3:11 single edit was also issued in Germany, France, Greece and Japan

Young Americans 3:11
Young Americans 5:10
promo single released in UK (RCA 2523 DJ) and US (JB 10152)

Monday 24 February

Diane Kelly from English magazine Hi! visited Bowie at home and found him pottering about, showing her his junk shop finds and hanging pictures in his attic bedroom. Asked what he had been doing lately he replied, "Well, I've written some films. If nothing else happens, at least I'll have all these portfolios of art work to show."

The folio was full of storyboards for several films he planned to direct. "I don't think I want to be a film star," Bowie said and added that he wanted to shoot his film in England. "I'd really love that, to come home and do the film there. But I mustn’t talk about it, I get really homesick if I do.”

Diane Kelly. ‘The All New Adventures of David Bowie’ (Hi! 7 June 1975)

Social: Rod Stewart and Faces at Madison Square Garden, New York

Bowie, Ava Cherry and Geoff MacCormack watched the concert from the side of the stage and afterwards visited Rod Stewart backstage.

Backstage with Geoff and Ronnie • Photograph by Leee Black Childers

Tuesday 25 February

Young Americans enters the UK Top 30 at number 18, charting for seven weeks.

MARCH 1975

Saturday 1 March

Television appearance: 17th Annual Grammy Awards
Uris Theater, New York

Broadcast live (CBS)
Presenter: Andy Williams

Bowie was invited to announce the nominations for Best Rhythm & Blues Performance By A Female Artist and present the Grammy award to the winner.

Introduced as "the consummate rock performer", Bowie walked on and began with his prepared speech: "Ladies and gentlemen … and others… My personal award is to salute ces premières femmes noires." He then gave a Black Power salute and continued. "Those of us that benefit from the sweet things found within their intimate world a message and a language of love."

Bowie (1999): Before the show I'd been telling [John Lennon] that I didn't think America really got what I did, that I was misunderstood. Remember that I was in my twenties and out of my head. So the big moment came and I ripped open the envelope and announced, "The winner is Aretha Franklin." Aretha steps forward, and with not so much as a glance in my direction, snatches the trophy out of my hands and says, "Thank you everybody. I'm so happy I could even kiss David Bowie." Which she didn't! And she promptly spun around, swanned off stage right. So I slunk off stage left. And John bounds over and gives me a theatrical kiss and a hug and says, “See, Dave? America loves ya.”

Also at the ceremony to present awards were Simon & Garfunkel, John and Yoko and Roberta Flack as well as Bette Midler, Stevie Wonder, Sarah Vaughan, Tony Orlando and Dawn, The Righteous Brothers, Ann Margret and David Essex.

Bowie (1975): The Grammys were very significant for me. It was like walking a tightrope. There were mostly aging middle-class show business people in that audience. It was a question of entertaining them or coming off like just another rock singer. I really did feel I was David Bowie and not a rock singer.

A post-ceremony dinner was held at the Americana Hotel, where more presentations were made, then Bowie, Lennon and Ono went on to a Motown party at Le Jardin, a discothèque upstairs in The Diplomat Hotel on West 43rd Street.

Thursday 6 March

Bowie’s performance of Young Americans from The Dick Cavett Show was broadcast on Top Of The Pops, prompting Record Mirror to remark: "His physical deterioration was sad to behold. His corpse-like appearance only made more grotesque by a severe Fifties-style haircut and ill-fitting suit. His voice too was in appalling shape and it was almost pitiful to watch him aiming hoarsely at notes he could once reach with ease."

Friday 7 March

Young Americans

released in UK (RCA RS 1006)
US release (RCA APL1-0998) delayed by legal issues

 

With production of The Man Who Fell To Earth set for April, Bowie packed up his books and a few possessions and called Glenn Hughes in Los Angeles. Bowie had befriended the Deep Purple bassist the previous September and they had kept in touch with vague plans to work together. Hughes invited him to stay at his house while he was away touring with Deep Purple.

Six months earlier Hughes and Ron Wood had pitched to Bowie the idea of giving an extended interview feature to wünderkind Rolling Stone writer Cameron Crowe, to which Bowie agreed.

Cameron Crowe (2006): Bowie told Hughes to give me this message from New York. Some big changes were coming, he said, and he would soon be travelling from New York to Los Angeles by train. He would call when he arrived in Los Angeles. At this point, I knew I’d probably never hear from Bowie again.

Hughes's driver collected him from Union Station and Bowie called Crowe at home: “I’ve left [Tony Defries], I’m here in LA staying at Glenn Hughes's home. Nobody knows I’m here. I’m not sure what’s coming next. But if you want to talk, we’ll talk.”

Geoff MacCormack joined Bowie a few days later and Michael Lippman’s wife Nancy lent them her yellow convertible VW to get around in.

Filming: Young Americans television advertisement
Director: Chuck Braverman

APRIL 1975

Production of The Man Who Fell To Earth was delayed as Roeg and Litvinoff looked for financial backers – Bowie was at a loose end for a couple of months. He heard that Iggy Pop was a voluntary patient at UCLA’s Neuropsychiatric Institute. He had been running amok until the LAPD gave him a choice – jail or rehab.

Iggy Pop (1979): By 1975, I was totally into drugs and my willpower had been vastly depleted. But I still had the brains to commit myself to a hospital, and I survived with willpower and a lot of help from David Bowie. I survived because I wanted to.

Bowie had been visiting the nearby UCLA Dept of Parapsychology where Dr Thelma Moss was researching Kirlian photography using a camera – a Kirlian Photographic Device – that was supposed to translate energy in pulses from living organisms onto film.

Bowie (1997): Highly dangerous camera it was, too. It would regularly explode. Nic Roeg wanted to use some examples of it in The Man Who Fell To Earth, but it wouldn't film well enough.

Saturday 19 April

Young Americans enters the US Top 30, charting for four weeks.

Sunday 27 April

Social: American Film Institute cocktail party, Greystone Mansion

Bowie, Angie and producer Si Litvinoff attended the cocktail party in honour of film director Michelangelo Antonioni.

Photograph by Frank Edwards

MAY 1975

Photo session: West Hollywood, California
Photographer: Tom Kelley

Bowie’s PR firm Rogers & Cowan organised a session with veteran Hollywood photographer Tom Kelley for promotion of the next single Fame. Kelley had made his name with the photograph of Marilyn Monroe nude on red velvet for a 1949 calendar, then sold it in 1953 to Hefner for the centrefold of the first Playboy magazine.

Tom Kelley later told Dylan Jones, “Bowie took me back to the golden age of movie stars. He’s a visionary who looks into the camera as though he can see the finished pictures.”

RCA used three of the pictures for the covers of ChangesOne (1976), Peter And The Wolf (1978) and Star (1978 promo 12-inch single).

Kelley also shot some double portraits with Angie, who was at the time looking for film and TV roles.

 

Recording session: Oz Studios, Hollywood

Iggy Pop demos

Bowie was with Cameron Crowe when they saw Iggy Pop, who had checked himself out of the Institute, and encouraged him to record some demos. Bowie and Geoff MacCormack spent nine hours recording backing tracks with Iggy and ended up with three songs: Sell Your Love, Drink To Me and an early version of Turn Blue, which Iggy had co-written with MacCormack.

Geoff MacCormack (2007): I was playing this series of chords, which had a gospel feel. The next thing I know Iggy's standing beside me giving it large with the vocals. Then Bowie comes over, all excited, telling us to keep going and runs into the control room to get it recorded.

Bowie and Iggy revisited the song in 1977 for Lust For Life and Iggy recorded Sell Your Love with James Williamson (released on Kill City).

Cameron Crowe described Drink To Me as “an ominous, dirge-like instrumental track” that he partly transcribed for his brilliant Rolling Stone feature, ‘Ground Control to Davy Jones’.

"They just don't appreciate Iggy," Bowie exclaimed as he watched. "He's Lenny-fucking-Bruce and James Dean. When that ad lib flow starts, there's nobody like him. It's verbal jazz, man!"

Iggy Pop (2010): Bowie liked what I was doing, and had an interesting dialogue with a sort of a representative composite American of the kind he could relate to. A little bit sullen teen, a little bit Neal Cassady, a little bit Jack Kerouac.

Bowie and MacCormack stayed for a few weeks with Michael and Nancy Lippman, in their house on Sunset Strip in Hollywood.

Michael Lippman (1978): He lived in my house during the period of The Man Who Fell To Earth and Station To Station, and did a lot of paintings then. Their subjects were clear to him but not anybody else. At one point we gave him a gold cross as a gift [see Kirlian photo above]. He also asked to have a mezuzah up in his room because of his revival and belief in religion, and felt that it would create more security for himself.

Tina Brown visited him there for a Sunday Times Magazine feature. "Me and rock 'n' roll have parted company," Bowie told her. "I'll still make albums with love and with fun, but my effect is finished. I'm very pleased. I think I've caused quite enough rumpus for someone who's not even convinced he's a good musician. Now I'm going to be a film director. I've always been a screenwriter. My songs have just been practice for scripts."

After he wore out his welcome with the Lippmans, Angie found a house at 637 North Doheny Drive in Beverly Hills where his paranoia reached new heights.

Bowie (1983): It was one of those rent-a-house places but it appealed to me because I had this more-than-passing interest in Egyptology, mysticism, the Kabbalah, all this stuff that is inherently misleading in life, a hodgepodge whose crux I've forgotten. But at the time it seemed transparently obvious what the answer to life was. So the house occupied a ritualistic position in my life.

Angie Bowie (1993): Built in the late Fifties or early Sixties, it was a white cube surrounding an indoor swimming pool. David liked the place, but I thought it was too small to meet our needs for very long, and I wasn't crazy about the pool. Its drawback was one I hadn't encountered before and haven't seen or heard of since: Satan lived in it. With his own eyes, David said, he'd seen HIM rising up out of the water one night.

Bowie (1997): It was pure straightforward, old-fashioned magic… there was a guy called Edward Waite who was terribly important to me at the time. And another called Dion Fortune who wrote a book called Psychic Self Defence. You had to run around the room getting bits of string and old crayons and draw funny things on the wall, and I took it all most seriously, ha ha ha! I drew gateways into different dimensions, and I'm quite sure that, for myself, I really walked into other worlds. I drew things on walls and just walked through them, and saw what was on the other side.

Ola Hudson is a costume designer who in 1965 had a son Saul during a sojourn in England. She returned alone to Los Angeles to resume her career, which was given a boost by a Dewar’s Scotch magazine advertisement profile. Her husband and son later joined her in Laurel Canyon, where he designed covers for Asylum Records.

By 1974 she was single again with two sons. The elder, Saul, who was later known as Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash, remembers the parade of avuncular rock stars at the West Coast A-list parties where his mother first met Bowie.

Slash (2007): She and Bowie embarked on a semi-intense affair. Looking back on it now, it might not have been that big a deal, but at the time, it was like watching an alien land in your backyard. Bowie came by often, with his wife, Angie, and their son, Zowie, in tow. The Seventies were unique: it seemed entirely natural for Bowie to bring his wife and son to the home of his lover so that we might all hang out.

Bowie (2002): I sometimes used to put him to bed at nights, little Slash. Who'd have guessed? Anyway, I got Ola involved as the wardrobe mistress of the film; she designed all the clothes for it, and she continued designing clothes for Station To Station as well.

JUNE 1975

Monday 2 June

Fame 3:30
Right
4:13

Single released in US (RCA PB-10320)
US chart peak 1 (for two weeks)

Monday 2 June – Sunday 24 August

Filming: New Mexico, California and New York
Director: Nicolas Roeg
Executive Producer: Si Litvinoff

The Man Who Fell To Earth

Bowie and MacCormack rode the Amtrak Santa Fe Super Chief train from Los Angeles to Albuquerque, arriving on the set in a limo similar to that seen in Cracked Actor. Roeg cast both the car and Bowie’s driver Tony Mascia as Newton’s chauffeur Arthur.

For the first two weeks the production was based at the Albuquerque Hilton Inn. Bowie’s presence in the town was kept under wraps. Reporters were warned, “Mr Bowie does not wish to be interviewed or photographed.”

During the first two weeks Bowie, Schwab and MacCormack moved to a ranch in the hills above Albuquerque.

Newton’s first appearance was shot at an abandoned mine in Madrid, a small town 20 miles east of Santa Fe. Albuquerque locations included the First National Bank, the First Plaza and its water fountain.

After two weeks, production moved north to Artesia for the scenes in the eight-storey Hotel Artesia, which was abandoned except for the bar on the ground floor.

Scenes set on Newton’s planet Anthea were shot at White Sands Missile Range near Alamogordo. Bryce’s house was a converted park ranger’s house beside Fenton Lake. On the far side of the lake was Newton’s house but the interiors were shot in a brand-new unoccupied adobe house in Santa Fe.

Candy Clark (1979): We were filming in New Mexico, but they had to do some exterior shots in New York. Bowie wouldn’t fly, and I wanted a trip to New York so I did the scene for him.

The scene called for Newton to leave the World Enterprises building and walk to the waiting limo. Her resemblance to Bowie was convincing enough for members of the public who had gathered to watch the shoot, to ask for an autograph. Clark obliged, signing as David Bowie.

Bowie spent his downtime reading and writing new songs and stories, including his autobiography, The Return Of The Thin White Duke, planned to be published by Bewlay Bros in December.

Full story of The Man Who Fell To Earth

 

JULY 1975

Friday 18 July

Fame 3:30
Right 4:13
single released in UK (RCA 2579) chart peak 17

Sunday 20 July

The Bowie Odyssey published in The Sunday Times Magazine

 

AUGUST 1975

 

Fame 4:12
Space Oddity 5:15
single released in Italy (RCA TPBO 7013)

Saturday 9 August

Melody Maker announced Bowie’s plans to play British dates for 1976. “The World Tour pencilled in for February and January next year will come after Bowie’s legal dispute with his former manager Tony Defries has been settled.”

Steve Shroyer and John Lifflander from Creem interviewed Bowie at the Hilton Inn, Albuquerque.

“It's lovely here,” Bowie told them. “I like New Mexico, it's so clean and pure — and puritanical, too — not just the people but the land, too. There's something about the land that's very...This is the way I'd like America to be; the rest of America, I mean. It's so open and the people are very friendly. I wouldn't do a film in LA – I wouldn't even attempt it. But I'm enjoying it here. And I love the cowboys – they're fascinating. They can look at a leaf and tell you what kind of tree it's from and where it grows. It's a different breed.”

Shroyer asked him if he was doing any music for the film.

“Yeah, all of it. That'll be the next album, the soundtrack. I'm working on it now, doing some writing. But we won't record until all the shooting's finished. I expect the film should be released around March, and we want the album out ahead of that, so I should say maybe January or February.”

Spaced out in the desert (Creem, December 1975)

Si Litvinoff (2002): David worked like a professional. Despite staying up late at night composing music for the soundtrack, he was always on time with his lines ready. When Rip Torn arrived to do his first scene with David in the spacecraft, it became clear to me that Rip was wound up like a caged animal. David was not only tense, but exhausted from staying up all night. I quickly got tequila for Rip and I ground up No-Doz for David to snort. He had kept his promise to do no cocaine on the shoot but snorting worked better for him than pills.

Sunday 24 August

Bowie filmed his last scene of The Man Who Fell To Earth at Butterfields restaurant in Los Angeles. "How did you find me?" Newton asks Bryce. "Your record," Bryce replies, referring to The Visitor, the LP that Newton released in the hope that its broadcast might reach his wife on his home planet Anthea. The cover of the record shows a black and white photograph of the restaurant.

Meanwhile the papers were seeking confirmation of a rumour that Bowie had requested approval from Frank Sinatra to make and star in a Sinatra biopic.

Three weeks earlier Record Mirror had reported that Bowie was “over the moon” about the idea – according to Michael Lippman, who also told the paper, “The combination of these two talents and the subject matter of the proposed film could make it the biggest box office draw of the century.”

Bowie, responded via RCA that he considered Sinatra one of his favourite singers but he had no such plans. RCA added that the rumour probably came from Sinatra’s overzealous publicists, who in turn pointed the finger at Bowie’s people.

Other rumours had Nancy Sinatra suggesting the idea and Bowie attempting to meet Sinatra, who sent him a message that he didn't have time. Sinatra was also said to have described Bowie as "a limey faggot full of gimmicks to disguise his limited talent.”

With principal photography completed, Bowie returned to Los Angeles where Coco found him a house at 1349 Stone Canyon Road in Bel Air. She kept Bowie on a strict diet of enriched milk and finely chopped red peppers to balance his pure Merck pharmaceutical cocaine supplied by LA’s celebrity dealer, Freddy Sessler.

Bowie (1978): I was totally out of hand and spouting for hours at two people who were either terrified or bored with what I was saying. I never moved out of this big room and everything came in to me: food and milk and people. I'd say, “Tonight I want to make sculptures.” I'd order all kinds of materials, have them brought in and I'd build vast, incredible things in the living room next to the television set. This was in Bel Air, good ol' Bel Air.

Definitely a fractured person, by confounding myself with images and characters that I found I was living with – and actually seeing them in my apartment. A combination of that and a year and a half of fairly hard drugs. I was being threatened by my own characters, feeling them coming in on me and grinning at me, saying 'We're gonna take you over completely!' I thought, 'This is it. Terry, I’m just about to join you.’

'Turn and face the strange' (Crawdaddy, February 1978)

SEPTEMBER

Early September

Recording: Clover Studios, Santa Monica Boulevard, Hollywood
Producer: Steve Cropper
Engineer: Barry Rudolph

Real Emotion - Keith Moon

Keith Moon (vocal), Steve Cropper (guitar), Klaus Voorman (bass), Ringo Starr (drums), Bowie (backing vocals)

Keith Moon was recording the (planned but never finished) follow-up to his first solo album Two Sides Of The Moon.

Barry Rudolph (1995): David Bowie came in to do backing vocals. Bowie's entourage looked like a casting call for a circus movie – a pretty freaky-looking crowd that filled up the entire control room. David was very fast at composing and singing and I don't remember Cropper adding anything to Bowie's ideas – Crop sat back and enjoyed. At one point Bowie asked "to ADT his voice" … ADT or Artificial Double Tracking (also called Automatic Double Tracking) was a tape recording trick developed in England for the Beatles and used subsequently by others. Apparently it was du jour for Bowie recording sessions at that time.

Released as bonus track on Two Sides Of The Moon reissue
(Mausoleum Classix 1997, iTunes 2006)

Saturday 6 September

Melody Maker report:

Ziggy Stardust will be returning next year – as a movie. Stardust, David Bowie’s mythical pop persona, will be the subject of the first film to be made by Bowie’s new production company, Bewlay Bros. The Ziggy Stardust movie has been written by Bowie, who will also take the lead role. Further Bewlay Bros film projects include Young Americans, a story Bowie has written about astronauts.

Monday 8 September

Social: Peter Sellers’s 50th birthday party, Hollywood

Bowie and MacCormack attended and entertained the guests as part of an impromptu supergroup:

Bowie (sax), Bill Wyman (bass), Ron Wood (guitar), Joe Cocker (vocals), Jesse Ed Davis (guitar), Danny Kortchmar (guitar), Bobby Keyes (sax), Nigel Olsson (drums), Keith Moon (organ, vocal, drums) and Steve Madaio (trumpet)

Bowie (2002): Bill Wyman was already discontent with being a Stone and coaxed Ronnie Wood and me into forming the band Trading Faces. The idea was to cover the big hits of the time with each of us impersonating a popular singer while the others played in the style of a band discordant to the chosen singer. This would lead to hybrids like Wayne Newton with The Troggs or my personal favourite, The Singing Postman with Tower Of Power.

Bill Wyman: It was hopeless – we couldn’t get one song together between us.

Wyman, Wood and Bowie • Photograph by Terry O'Neill

Terry O’Neill (2003): I was invited to what I thought was just a small private party by Peter, who was a close friend and didn’t realise he’d invited so many stars. I’m glad I took my camera – it was a one-off moment in rock'n'roll history. I never knew Bowie could play the sax.

Geoff MacCormack (2007): Neither David nor any of the other musicians seemed to be playing the same songs and they made such a racket it disturbed the neighbours. The police were called and Keith Moon, of all people, tried to politely reason with them whilst they threatened to arrest Sellers. Sellers didn't say a word: he just looked bemused by it all. He looked exactly like Chance, the character he later played in Being There.

Thursday 18 September

Television appearance: CBS Television City, Los Angeles

Cher
Season 2 Episode 11

Fame
Can You Hear Me (with Cher)
Young Americans medley (with Cher)

Bowie (1999): I'd got this thing in my mind that I was through with theatrical clothes and I would only wear Sears & Roebuck, which on me looked more outlandish than anything I had made by Japanese designers. They were just like this middle America dogged provincialism. They were loud check jackets and check trousers. I looked very bad. And very ill.

After the taping Melody Maker’s Harvey Kubernik asked Bowie whether he might consider appearing on Soul Train, since Elton John’s recent performance on the show had helped Philadelphia Freedom up the charts. Bowie didn't rule it out.

Broadcast 23 November in US (CBS)

Saturday 20 September

Fame reached number 1 on the US chart while Young Americans reached 15.

With Bowie back in Los Angeles, Cameron Crowe resumed his reportage of Bowie's activities for Rolling Stone:

Corinne has watched Bowie shrewdly work up to his most difficult move yet: the switch from cultish deco rocker to a wide-appeal film and recording star/entertainer. "I want to be a Frank Sinatra figure," Bowie declares. "And I will succeed."

Wheeling a cart in Hollywood supermarket just three blocks from where David is working on his new LP Station To Station, Corinne says she has no doubts about something so obvious as Bowie's success in achieving his stated goal. The way she sees it. David has only one problem.

"I've got to put more weight on that boy," she sighs. And with that she carefully places eight quarts of extra rich milk in the basket.

Down the street at Cherokee Studios, David Bowie is just back from three vice-free months in New Mexico where he starred in Nic Roeg's film, The Man Who Fell To Earth. He is still glowing from the experience and, says Corinne, the healthiest he's been in years. He is so relaxed and almost humble as he scoots around the studio and directs his musicians through the songs.

Cameron Crowe (Rolling Stone 206, 12 February 1976)

Sunday 21 September to late December

Rehearsals: Sound Instrumental Rentals Studios, Los Angeles
Recording: Cherokee Studios, 751 North Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles

Station To Station

Bowie began work on the new album with Harry Maslin – an obvious choice since he had worked on much of Young Americans. Bowie and the band worked on songs from fragments he’d written in New Mexico and Golden Years, before moving to Cherokee on North Fairfax Avenue.

Cherokee boasted a 24-track desk, so Bowie and Maslin had the luxury of experimentation, resulting in long sessions, trying every permutation of every idea. Ron Wood and Bobby Womack dropped in on the sessions for a jam with Murray, Davis, Bittan and Bowie on sax, which Harry Maslin recorded and MacCormack photographed.

Full story of the Station To Station sessions

Friday 26 September

Space Oddity 5:15
Changes 3:33 / Velvet Goldmine 3:09
Maxi single released in UK (RCA 2593) Chart peak 1

Part of the UK Maximillion EP series, this was the second reissue of Space Oddity, but the first release of Velvet Goldmine, recorded during the November 1971 Ziggy Stardust sessions.

Bowie (1980): That whole thing came out without my having the chance to listen to the mix; somebody else had mixed it – an extraordinary move.

OCTOBER

Saturday 11 October

As Station To Station sessions continued in Los Angeles, the Space Oddity maxi single entered the UK Top 30, charting for 10 weeks.

NOVEMBER 1975

Monday 3 November

Television: KTTV Studios, 5746 Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood, California

Soul Train

Series 5 Episode 20
Broadcast 3 January 1976 (ABC)
Presenter: Don Cornelius

Q&A with Don Cornelius and audience
Golden Years
Fame

Photograph by Andrew Kent

Bowie was accorded the honour of being the third white act (after Elton John and Average White Band) to be invited to perform on the popular syndicated Afro-American music show Soul Train.

Host Don Cornelius introduced Bowie and asked him some questions about his immediate plans before inviting questions from the audience. Somewhat awed by the occasion, Bowie had been drinking to calm his nerves before the show and gave disjointed responses concerning how he first got into soul music, his plan to play in Russia, and working on the soundtrack for The Man Who Fell To Earth with Paul Buckmaster. An audience member asked, “is it true that you're gonna be teamin' up with Elizabeth Taylor to do a film?” to which Bowie flatly replied, “No.”

At that point Cornelius asked Bowie to introduce his performance of the new single Golden Years.

Bowie (2000): I hadn’t bothered to learn it and the MC, who was a really charming guy, took me to one side after the third or fourth take, and he said, “Do you know there were kids lined up to do this show, who have fought their whole lives to try and get a record and come on here?”

Cameron Crowe came to the taping, accompanied by his photographer friend Andrew Kent who took photographs. Bowie admired Kent’s work and his unobtrusive nature and invited him to join the 1976 tour as official photographer.

Photograph by Andrew Kent

Monday 17 November

Golden Years 3:22
Can You Hear Me 5:04

Single released
US (RCA PB-10441) Chart peak 10
UK (RCA 2640) Chart peak 8

Sunday 23 November

Bowie’s appearance on Cher broadcast in US (CBS)

Thursday 27 November

Television: NBC Studios, Burbank, California

Russell Harty

Interview via satellite

Bowie appeared exclusively on Russell Harty’s show to announce he would be returning in the new year to play shows in Britain for the first time since 1973. Bowie appeared irritated by Harty’s questions, and the conversation was made awkward by the time delay in the satellite link*. Eventually Bowie relaxed sufficiently to discuss the tour and The Man Who Fell To Earth. “It's finished in visual,” he explained, “but it's not finished in sound. I've got to record the sound, we've written a lot of it,” referring to his work in progress soundtrack.

The show also included two exclusive previews of the film and the Golden Years performance on Soul Train.

* Juan Carlos was at that time being anointed King of Spain at a Holy Spirit Mass in Madrid. The Spanish government had wanted the satellite link to broadcast the ceremony but Bowie refused to surrender it, mistakenly thinking the event was General Franco's funeral.

• Broadcast 28 November (London Weekend Television)

Saturday 29 November

Golden Years entered the UK Top 30, charting for 10 weeks, as Station To Station sessions wound up at Cherokee Studios.

 

DECEMBER 1975

Spaced Out In The Desert published in Creem

Recording: Cherokee Studios, 751 North Fairfax Ave, Hollywood

Producer: Harry Maslin
Engineer: David Hines

The Man Who Fell To Earth soundtrack

David Bowie (guitar, synthesisers, drum machines)
Carlos Alomar (guitar)
Paul Buckmaster (cello)
Herbie Flowers (bass)
J Peter Robinson (electric piano)

Since September, Bowie had been working on both Station To Station and writing the music for The Man Who Fell To Earth. Once the album was complete he turned his attention to the soundtrack, working with Paul Buckmaster, who had arranged strings and played cello on Space Oddity.

Bowie (1993): I presumed – I don’t know why but probably because I was arrogant enough to think it so therefore I acted upon it – that I had been asked to write the music for this film. And I spent two or three months putting bits and pieces of material together. I had no idea that nobody had asked me to write the music for this film; that in fact, it had been an idea that was bandied about.

Bowie and Buckmaster began work using a TEAC four-track tape recorder at Bowie’s Bel Air home before moving to Cherokee Studios. By the end of December they had produced only five or six working tracks.

Bowie and Buckmaster leave Cherokee with film reels, tapes
and soundtrack notes • Photograph by Brad Elterman

Paul Buckmaster (2007): There were a couple of medium tempo rock instrumental pieces, with simple motifs and riffy kind of grooves, with a line-up of David's rhythm section (Carlos Alomar et al) plus J Peter Robinson on Rhodes-Fender piano and me on cello and some synth overdubs, using ARP Odyssey and Solina. There were some more slow and spacey cues with synth, Rhodes and cello; and a couple of weirder, atonal cues using synths and percussion. There was a ballad instrumental by David that appears on Low (Subterraneans). It was performed by David, me and J Peter Robinson on various keyboards.

There was also a piece I wrote and performed using some beautifully made mbiras (African thumb pianos) I had purchased earlier that year, plus cello, all done by multiple overdubbing. And a song David wrote, played and sang, called Wheels, which had a gentle sort of melancholy mood to it. The title referred to the alien train from his character Newton's home world.

Nic Roeg was cutting the film at Shepperton Studios in Surrey, where Mike Flood Page interviewed him for UK music paper Street Life.

[Roeg] has before him a miniature Sony cassette machine and offers an exclusive preview of the Bowie soundtrack just in from LA. It's a simple melodic instrumental based around organ, bass and drums, with atmosphere courtesy of studio wizardry all put together and performed by Bowie himself.

Roeg and executive producer Si Litvinoff thought the recordings were brilliant, but fell short of being a usable soundtrack.

Harry Maslin (1985): David was so burned out by the end of Station To Station, he had a hard time doing movie cues. The movie was complete and we had all the videotapes and that was what we were working with.

We had about about nine cues down – of the sixty that we needed – and David had a big blowup with Michael Lippman.

Paul Buckmaster (2001): I considered the music to be demo-ish and not final, although we were supposed to be making it final. We also didn't have a producer at the time and we were just trying to hammer it out together. All we produced was something substandard and Nic Roeg turned it down on those grounds.

Si Litvinoff (2002): To make matters worse, (British Lion producer) Deeley tried to outsmart David on the music rights. David turned him down. Thus, the great music Bowie wrote for the picture couldn't be used. The [John Phillips] soundtrack is a meaningless last-minute replacement for what was superb.

Bowie (2002): I got angry about it, with no real rational reason. I thought I should be contracted by the film company to do the soundtrack, not just make a presentation of ideas. A stupid juvenile reason but I kind of walked away from it.

Although the sessions stalled in December, it was still assumed that Bowie’s soundtrack would be released along with the film in March 1976.

With Bowie preparing for tour rehearsals, Roeg turned to the Mamas and the Papas founder John Phillips – based in London at that time – to put a soundtrack together. Phillips thought Bowie’s recordings were "haunting and beautiful, with chimes, Japanese bells, and what sounded like electronic winds and waves" and asked Roeg why he wasn’t using them.

John Phillips (1986): Roeg wanted banjos and folk music and Americana for the film. Roeg said, ‘David really can’t do that kind of thing. We asked him who he thought he would like to do it and you were the first name that popped out of his mouth.’

Bowie (1993): I constructed a thing, which never became the soundtrack to the movie, but become the album Low. Some if it went onto Station To Station but another chunk of it went onto Low.

Ricky Gardiner, guitarist on Low: He wasn’t pleased it wasn’t used in the film. He let us hear it and it was excellent, quite unlike anything else he’s done.

Brian Eno (1976): Two of the [Low] pieces are from the soundtrack he made for The Man Who Fell To Earth and he added things and remixed them.

Nic Roeg (1993): Some time later, David sent me the album – he said, ‘This was the music I would have done for The Man Who Fell To Earth.’

The Visitor

In the film Thomas Jerome Newton records and releases an album called The Visitor in the hope that it will be broadcast on the radio and heard by his wife on his home planet, Anthea. Nathan Bryce visits a local record store (where he passes a row of Young Americans promotional posters), where he finds a marked down copy of Newton's record, The Visitor. Taking the record cover as a clue, he tracks down Newton to the restaurant pictured on it – Butterfields in Los Angeles.

Newton: Did you like it?
Bryce: Not much.
Newton: Oh, I didn’t make it for you anyway.

To promote and cash in on the film on its release in March 1976, Pan Books had prepared and distributed a movie tie-in edition of Walter Tevis’ novel with a cover illustration by George Underwood.

The back cover on the first edition read ‘Music by David Bowie. Album available on RCA.' When it was apparent this would not be the case, the second printing was amended to ‘Musical Director John Phillips’ with no mention of an album by Bowie. As a result the album of Bowie's unreleased soundtrack music became the stuff of legend.

In the discography of their 1981 book, Bowie: The Illustrated Record, Roy Carr and Charles Shaar Murray listed a bootleg, David Bowie Is 'The Visitor'. They described it thus: "Supposedly Bowie's original soundtrack for The Man Who Fell To Earth, it contains an early version of Weeping Wall, plus other instrumentals and some dialogue from the film." This was a hoax.

Charles Shaar Murray: Roy and I made that one up. It was an old trick of Roy's, designed to let him know whether anybody else was nicking his research rather than doing their own.

In September 1992 Vox magazine reported that Netherlands-based Farnsworth label was to release a limited edition CD soundtrack of The Man Who Fell To Earth. Housed in a steel box, the set would include a copy of the script, a set of 12 production stills, a cinema lobby card and a replica of Newton’s gold wedding band. The CD would include all of the music from the original soundtrack (this too had never been released), intercut with dialogue from the movie. The main attraction was the inclusion of a “10-minute segment of instrumental ambient music, composed by Bowie, but never used in the final cut.” This too was a hoax.

Mid December

As Station To Station was being prepared for release, Earl Slick spoke to Circus magazine about the upcoming world tour:

It's the smallest band of David's that I've ever been in. The first was with two saxes, two keyboards, guitar, bass, drums, and percussion. It's interesting. David's writing is going back in a rock direction, which suits me better than the R&B does, because I like to play a lot. And the tour's perfect for that because there are lots of nice things that the band gets to do. Another reason I'm happy I'm doing this tour is that this time I have much more freedom, obviously because there's less people, plus the rock and roll. I just can't help feeling good about this tour.

Having said six months ago, “touring… kills my art. I will never, ever tour again,” Bowie explained his decision to tour again to Cameron Crowe:

Because it’s going to make an obscenely large amount of money, which I desperately need to set up my media production company, Bewlay Bros… I’m actually anxious to try something I’ve never done in the past – work with a small band, perform with no set whatsoever and use no production gimmickry. No sets. I’m just going to go out and sing. It’s exciting to me. I want to see if I can cut it. My main consideration at this point is just to present an upbeat musical show. That will keep me amused. None of the depressive starkness of the Ziggy and Diamond Dogs tours. I’m sorry I lied. Really, what can I say? Every time I’ve said I wouldn’t tour again, I’ve meant it. Nothing matters except whatever it is I’m doing at the moment. That’s what keeps me excited.

Bowie meanwhile had changed his mind about the Station To Station cover design after Roy Young sent him a copy of Dr Feelgood's album Down By The Jetty.

Impressed by the stark minimalism, Bowie cropped Steve Schapiro’s production still from The Man Who Fell To Earth from a colour full bleed to a black and white 35mm frame, emphasising the typography in the process.

Saturday 20 December

Record Mirror reported that “David Bowie will be spending Christmas on a train with his wife and son. He is travelling from Los Angeles to Jamaica for a 10-day holiday.”

When the Bowies reached New Orleans, there were no arrangements for their accommodation and no representative to meet them. For Bowie, it was the last straw after a month of strained relations and miscommunication. He called Lippman to terminate his role as manager.

Michael Lippman (1978): I spent most of my time working with him during the middle of the night. Most of these exchanges went well. But the week before Christmas I was totally unable to communicate with him. I do recall dramatically erratic behaviour, when I was cut off from seeing him. He would not come out of his house – a house he rented in Bel Air. From my personal observations he was overworked and under a lot of pressure... and unable to accept the realities of certain facts. It would manifest itself by him remaining incommunicable. Our falling out came as a complete surprise. David can be very charming and friendly, and at the same time he can be very cold and self-centred.

The Bowie party travelled on to Florida, where they took a boat to Jamaica. They saw in the New Year at Point Of View, Keith Richards’ estate overlooking Ocho Rios.

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Bowie Golden Years v1.0 created and designed by Roger Griffin 2000
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Photographs and texts have been credited wherever possible

this page updated December 9, 2019