Wednesday January 8
Lajeski Gallery, 801 Madison Avenue, New York
Photograph © Robin Platzer
Bowie spent his birthday night with Ava Cherry, Coco Schwab at the opening of the gallery’s first show. Sixty artists exhibited their interpretation of ‘The condition of the tie today.’ Also there, Andy Warhol, Larry Rivers, Yoko Ono, Roman Polanski, Karl Lagerfeld, Lance Loud and artist Richard Bernstein.
Friday January 10
Paul and Linda McCartney met with John Lennon in New York to discuss the dissolution of The Beatles' partnership. Lennon and May Pang took them 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)]
By January 1975 MainMan’s debts totalled $350,000 and were increasing every week. Bowie had run up around $20,000 of room service in a month in his two-bedroom suite at The Pierre so 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 with 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 (pictured above) and 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.
Young Americans recording session
Studio A, Electric Lady Studios, New York
Producers: David Bowie and Harry Maslin
Engineer: Eddie Kramer
Tape operator: David Whitman
Across The Universe
Bowie (guitar, vocal)
John Lennon (guitar, vocal)
Carlos Alomar (rhythm guitar)
Dennis Davis (drums)
Emir Ksasan (bass)
Sunday January 26
Alan Yentob's 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.
Charles Shaar Murray was less impressed in his NME review that week:
English director Nicolas Roeg was casting the lead role for The Man Who Fell To Earth. He 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 obtained a copy to show them.
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.
Abbott took the script to Bowie who agreed to meet with Roeg at his house on West 20th Street. Bowie would be in a recording studio till 10pm so Roeg arrived at 9.30, followed later by Litvinoff.
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 January 29
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.”
Wednesday February 12
Led Zeppelin at Madison Square Garden, New York
Bowie watched the concert with Ava Cherry, Mick and Bianca Jagger, and was particularly impressed with their lighting design.
Thursday February 13
Ron Wood and Jimmy Page 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.
Sunday February 16
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 February 21
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 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 February 24
Diane Kelly from Hi! magazine visited Bowie at home. "Well, I've written some films. If nothing else happens, at least I'll have all these portfolios of artwork to show," he told her. The folio was full of storyboards for several films he planned to direct. "I don't think I want to be a film star."
Read: Diane Kelly's ‘The All New Adventures of David Bowie’ (Hi! 7 June 1975)
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 Ron Wood
• Photograph © Leee Black Childers
Backstage with Rod Stewart
• Photograph © Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Tuesday February 25
Young Americans single enters the UK Top 30 at number 18
Saturday March 1
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…"
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 – 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. 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 March 6
Top Of The Pops shows Bowie’s performance of Young Americans on The Dick Cavett Show
Record Mirror: 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 March 7
album released in UK
RCA RS 1006
US release (RCA APL1-0998) delayed by legal issues
Young Americans 5:10
Fascination (Bowie-Vandross) 5:43
Somebody Up There Likes Me 6:30
Across The Universe (Lennon-McCartney) 4:30
Can You Hear Me 5:04
Fame (Bowie-Alomar-Lennon) 4:12
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 on touring.
Six months earlier Hughes and Ron Wood had pitched an idea – an extended interview feature by 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. But a week later he called me at my parents' house and invited me to meet him. “I’ve left my manager, I’m here in L.A. staying at Glenn Hughes' home. Nobody knows I’m here. I’m not sure what’s coming next. But if you want to talk... we’ll talk.”
Ava Cherry (2006): By the time he was hanging out with Glenn Hughes in LA in the hills things were quite negative. He was staying up for two or three days. After he’d been up for so long, he’d be tired and irritable, and intolerant of stupidity. I remember him putting on Fritz Lang films, and was like, “can’t you stop fidgeting? You could learn something here!"
Glenn Hughes (2006): He would read anything, from numerology to fascism. He would do this painting. He would paint a lot on the windows of my house. At first it bothered me. But it just became part and parcel of what we were into. I was concerned for him: his main consumption was milk and cocaine.
Geoff MacCormack joined Bowie later and Michael Lippman’s wife Nancy lent them her yellow convertible VW.
Young Americans television advertisement
Director: Chuck Braverman
West Hollywood • photograph by Ulvis Alberts
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 April 19
Young Americans enters the US Top 30, charting for four weeks
Sunday April 27
American Film Institute cocktail party
Greystone Mansion, Los Angeles
Bowie, Angie and producer Si Litvinoff attended the cocktail party in honour of Michelangelo Antonioni.
Photograph © Frank Edwards
Tom Kelley photo session
West Hollywood, California
Tom Kelley: 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.
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 posed nude on red velvet for a 1949 calendar, then sold it in 1953 to Hefner for the centrefold of the first Playboy magazine.
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.
Photograph © Tom Kelley
Iggy Pop demos
Oz Studios, Hollywood
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”.
• Ground Control to Davy Jones by Cameron Crowe (Rolling Stone, 12 February 1976)
"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.
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.
"Me and rock 'n' roll have parted company," Bowie told journalist Tina Brown. "Now I'm going to be a film director. I've always been a screenwriter. My songs have just been practice for scripts."
• The Bowie Odyssey by Tina Brown (Sunday Times Magazine, 20 July 1975)
Eventually Angie found a house at 637 North Doheny Drive in Beverly Hills.
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.
Steve Schapiro photo session
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 was a costume designer who, in 1965 had a son 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 Saul later joined her in Laurel Canyon, where he designed covers for Asylum Records.
By 1974 she was single again with two sons. Saul, 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 [tour] as well.
Monday June 2
Fame 3:30 • Right 4:13
single released in US
US chart peak 1 (for two weeks)
Monday June 2 – Sunday August 24
The Man Who Fell To Earth production
New Mexico, California and New York
Director: Nicolas Roeg
Executive Producer: Si Litvinoff
Bowie and MacCormack rode the Amtrak Santa Fe Super Chief train from Los Angeles to Albuquerque, arriving on the set in a Lincoln Continental limo similar to that seen in Cracked Actor. Roeg cast both the car and Bowie’s driver Tony Mascia as Newton’s chauffeur Arthur.
Photograph © David James
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.
Photo Coco Schwab
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.
Her resemblance to Bowie was convincing enough for members of the public watching 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.
Photograph © Steve Schapiro
Friday July 18
Fame 3:30 • Right 4:13
single released in UK
RCA 2579 chart peak 17
Sunday July 20
The Bowie Odyssey by Tina Brown
published in The Sunday Times Magazine
Photograph from the Steve Schapiro session
Fame 4:12 • Space Oddity 5:15
single released in Italy
Saturday August 9
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. 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 August 24
Photograph © Terry O'Neill
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.
The Frank Sinatra biopic rumour
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 told him he didn't have time.
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)
Keith Moon recording session
Clover Studios, Los Angeles
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 [on Real Emotion]. 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
Saturday September 6
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 September 8
Peter Sellers’s 50th birthday party, Beverley Hills
Wood, Bowie and Sellers • Photograph © Terry O'Neill
Sellers had planned to throw a party for "a few friends" including Peter Cook, Marty Feldman, Henry Mancini and Tony Curtis, but word got out and he ended up with a who's who of rock planning to attend, including Bowie and MacCormack.
With Ron Wood and air guitar • Photograph © Bill Wyman
For the entertainment Sellers settled on a simple solution for entertaining the guests. He hired guitars, amplifiers, microphones and drums and let the musicians get on with it, forming an impromptu supergroup someone named Trading Faces:
Bowie (sax), Bill Wyman (bass), Ron Wood (guitar), Peter Cook (vocals), Joe Cocker (vocals), Jesse Ed Davis (guitar), Danny Kortchmar (guitar), Bobby Keys (sax), Nigel Olsson (drums), Keith Moon (organ, vocal, drums), Steve Madaio (trumpet)
Bowie (2002): 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.
Wyman, Wood and Bowie • Photograph © 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.
Bill Wyman: It was hopeless, we couldn’t get one song together between us.
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.
By this time - 3am - the band packed it in and the party adjourned to the swimming pool.
Thursday 18 September
Cher television performance
Series 2 Episode 11
CBS Television City, Los Angeles
• Fame • Can Hear Me (with Cher)
• Young Americans / Song Sung Blue / One / Da Doo Ron Ron / Wedding Bell Blues / Maybe / Day Tripper / Temptation / Ain’t No Sunshine / Youngblood medley (with Cher)
Fame • Photograph © Steve Schapiro
Can You Hear Me
Young Americans medley
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.
Following the taping, Harvey Kubernik interviewed Bowie for Melody Maker. He asked whether Bowie might consider appearing on Soul Train, since Elton John’s recent performance on the show had helped Philadelphia Freedom up the charts. At this stage, Fascination was slated for the next single release and the next album will be The Golden Years.
• Broadcast November 23 in US (CBS)
Read: Fame At Last For Soulful Bowie (Harvey Kubernik, Melody Maker, October 25 1975)
Saturday September 20
Fame reaches no.1 on the US chart, Young Americans no.15
Sunday September 21 – late December
Station To Station rehearsals, recording sessions
Sound Instrumental Rentals Studios, Los Angeles
Cherokee Studios, 751 North Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles
Producer: Harry Maslin
Harry Maslin was an obvious choice having worked on much of Young Americans. Bowie and the band worked up songs from fragments he’d written in New Mexico, before moving to Cherokee on North Fairfax Avenue. Cherokee boasted a 24-track desk, so Bowie and Maslin had the luxury of experimentation. Ron Wood and Bobby Womack dropped in for a jam with Murray, Davis, Bittan and Bowie on sax, which Harry Maslin recorded and MacCormack photographed.
Photographs © Geoff MacCormack
Cameron Crowe resumed his reportage 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.
• Ground Control to Davy Jones (Cameron Crowe, Rolling Stone, February 12, 1976)
Friday September 26
Space Oddity 5:15 • Changes 3:33 • Velvet Goldmine 3:09
maxi single released in UK
RCA 2593 Chart peak 1
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 [Velvet Goldmine] mix ; somebody else had mixed it – an extraordinary move.
Saturday October 11
Space Oddity maxi single enters the UK Top 30, charts for 10 weeks
Saturday October 25
Fame At Last For Soulful Bowie by Harvey Kubernik in Melody Maker
Monday November 3
Soul Train television performance
KTTV Studios, 5746 Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood, California
Presenter: Don Cornelius
Series 5 Episode 20 broadcast: January 3, 1976 (ABC)
Q&A with Don Cornelius and audience
Photograph © 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 unobtrusive nature and invited him to join the 1976 tour as photographer.
Photograph © Andrew Kent
Monday November 17
Golden Years 3:22 • Can You Hear Me 5:04
US RCA PB-10441 • Chart peak 10
UK RCA 2640 • Chart peak 8
Sunday November 23
Bowie’s appearance on Cher broadcast in US (CBS)
Thursday November 27
Russell Harty television interview
NBC Studios, Burbank, California
Broadcast live via satellite on London Weekend Television
Bowie appeared exclusively on the 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 he 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 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, thinking the event was General Franco's funeral.
Saturday November 29
Golden Years enters the UK Top 30, charts for 10 weeks
Spaced Out In The Desert published in Creem
Bowie and Buckmaster leave Cherokee
with film reels, tapes
and soundtrack notes • Photograph © Brad Elterman
The Man Who Fell To Earth soundtrack sessions
Cherokee Studios, 751 North Fairfax Ave, Hollywood
Producer: Harry Maslin
Engineer: David Hines
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 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.
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.
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.
Photograph © Brad Elterman
Brad Elterman: Back in 1975 I wanted to take photos of David Bowie while he was in L.A. and I was turned down by the publicist. Bowie was such a provocative figure back then and every move he made was controlled by his management and PR. That was really something back then, because there was very little control between the media and the talent back then. I got word that he was recording at Cherokee Studio on Fairfax and I thought to myself that it would be fun to try and make a photo of him as he left the studio.
I waited all night for him and around 6am he emerged with producer Paul Buckmaster holding the tapes for Man Who Fell To Earth. He left in a unwashed Mercedes and that photograph made a full page in Creem magazine’s section “Stars In Their Cars”. I was a bit concerned if my first paparazzi gig would ruin me in the industry, but I was all of about 19 back then and all of the PR adored me and got a great laugh out of it.
Bowie and Buckmaster leaving Cherokee Studio
Photograph © Brad Elterman
As Station To Station was being prepared for release, Circus magazine interviewed Earl Slick about the upcoming world tour:
Earl Slick (1975): 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.
Bowie (1975): [The tour] is 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.
Los Angeles to Jamaica via New Orleans
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 Bowies proceeded to Florida, where they took a boat to Jamaica. They saw in the New Year at Point Of View, Keith Richard’s estate overlooking Ocho Rios.