BOWIE GOLDEN YEARS

1970  •  1971  •  1972  •  1973  •  1974  •  1975  •  1976  •  1977  •  1978  •  1979  •  1980

 THE MAN WHO SOLD THE WORLD  •  HUNKY DORY  •  ZIGGY STARDUST
ALADDIN SANE  •  PIN UPS  •  DIAMOND DOGS  •  YOUNG AMERICANS
LOW  •  HEROES  •  LODGER  •  SCARY MONSTERS
THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH  •   THE ELEPHANT MAN
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January 1976

Isolar 1976 World Tour rehearsals

Earl Slick had been announced as playing on the tour but with Lippman gone, so was Slick as Lippman managed him too.

Earl Slick (1999): Somehow David and I ended up having a falling out. I left the band early in ‘76 and that was based on a conversation I had with Pat Gibbons. David had gone to Jamaica and we were supposed to rehearse there but I couldn’t get in touch with David at all. The last time I’d seen him he wasn’t in the best of shape, and I was trying to get details about finances; you know, what we were going to get paid. Pat was very vague with me, and I said, “Look, I need to talk to David.” “Well, David’s busy. I can’t get through to him. He’s not taking calls.” Obviously I’m not going to accuse anybody of anything but it seems awfully suspicious how ready he was to take over at the time. [004]

Earl Slick Photograph © Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images

Saturday January 3

Bowie’s appearance on Soul Train broadcast in US (ABC)

Saturday January 10

Nic Roeg interview published in Street Life

Golden Years entered the US Top 30, charting for 16 weeks.

Sunday January 11

Roy Bittan had returned to Springsteen so Bowie’s tour manager Eric Barrett tracked down ex-Yes keyboard player Tony Kaye, who flew to Jamaica to join the tour band.

Earl Slick's replacement Stacy Heydon was at home in Toronto when he got the call to audition in Jamaica. He was then flown and chauffered to Point Of View, where he found the other musicians already set up.

Stacy Heydon (2010): When I was offered the job I was told that if there was one fuck-up, I was gone. They came in my room with a tape and a cassette player and they wanted me to learn the show for the next day’s rehearsal. And I did.

Carlos Alomar (2010): Bowie’s concept was simple – take the musicians away from the phone, away from their loved ones, away from any kind of distractions, and put them on an island where all they can do is eat, sleep and play music. [252]

Full band rehearsals Dynamic Sound Studios, Kingston

Between playing the setlist, jamming resulted in at least two new songs, Calling Sister Midnight and Jamaica, which later became Sister Midnight and Fashion.

Friday January 23

Station to Station

album released in UK
(RCA APL1 1327)
chart peak UK 5 US 3

Side one
Station To Station 10:14
Golden Years 4:00
Word On A Wing 6:03

Side two
TVC 15 5:33
Stay 6:15
Wild Is The Wind 6:02

 

February 1976

The band, now named Raw Moon, regrouped with Bowie in Vancouver for a final rehearsal, filmed by a local crew hired for the day.

The Isolar 1976 concerts began with piped music from Kraftwerk’s album Radio-Activity, followed by the 1929 film Un Chien Andalou by Salvador Dali and Luis Buñuel. The lighting was devised by Bowie and Eric Barrett and represented a dramatic shift from the 1974 tour – the band was out front, illuminated by stark white light.

Isolar: Bowie 1976

Raw Moon
Carlos Alomar (rhythm guitar)
Dennis Davis (drums)
Stacy Heydon (lead guitar)
Tony Kaye (piano)
George Murray (bass)

Tour manager: Eric Barrett
Tour co-ordinator: Pat Gibbons
Security: Dwain Vaughns
Sound and lights: Eric Barrett and Showco
Program design: Bowie and Steve Schapiro
Graphic co-ordination: Heather Harris

Bowie’s personal assistant: Coco Schwab
Bowie’s driver: Tony Mascia
Worldwide press and publicity: Barbara De Witt
Tour photographer: Andy Kent
Costume designer: Ola Hudson

Songs performed

Station To Station / Suffragette City / Fame / Word On A Wing / Stay / Sister Midnight / TVC 15 / Waiting For The Man / Life On Mars – Five Years medley / Panic In Detroit / Changes / The Jean Genie / Rebel Rebel / Diamond Dogs / Queen Bitch / Golden Years

Bowie based the Isolar program design on New York’s Picture newspaper
Photographs by Geoff MacCormack, Tom Kelley and Steve Schapiro (who later had to sue Bowie for payment)

Monday February 2

Pacific Coliseum, Vancouver

The 17,000-plus Coliseum sold out for the opening date of the Isolar Tour.

RCA Canada reps present Bowie with gold records for sales in Canada

Bowie tunes up the 12-string acoustic guitar, a gift from the concert promoter Pacific Presentations. He then played Wild Is The Wind to those gathered in the dressing room.

Tuesday February 3

Seattle Center Coliseum, Seattle

Wednesday February 4

Memorial Coliseum, Portland

Friday February 6

Good Morning America television interview (ABC)

David and Angela arrive at the studios with bodyguard Dwain Vaughns [behind]

Bowie and Angela interviewed by Rona Barrett

Cow Palace, Daly City

Disappointed by the turnout of 1100 at the Winterland in 1972 Bowie had skipped San Francisco on the 1974 tour. This time round he had a US number one single behind him and was playing to a packed 14,000-seat Cow Palace. Promoter Bill Graham presented Bowie with a silver cape and a radio station rep presented Bowie with a plaque to commemorate Fame reaching the top of the charts.

Sunday February 8

The Forum, Inglewood

The silver cape was a gift from promoter Bill Graham

David and Angela with Britt Ekland at the post-concert party for 350 at the Forum lounge. Four-year-old Zowie was allowed to stay up late to join in • photograph Andrew Kent

With President Ford’s 19-year-old son Steven • photograph Andrew Kent

Monday February 9

Dinah! television appearance
CBS Television City, Fairfax
Presenter: Dinah Shore

Broadcast: March 3

Stay
Five Years

While in Los Angeles Bowie featured on Dinah’s afternoon chat show. He performed Stay live with the tour band, joined Dinah for an interview, which continued after the break with the other guests Nancy Walker, Henry Winkler, Natalie Cole and Candy Clark.

Dwain Vaughns demonstrates karate on the show Photograph © Andrew Kent

Bowie explained, “A number of my friends in rock, before going on tour, have taken up karate as a form of exercise and I thought I might as well join in with what everybody else is doing and learn some. I’d been studying mime when I was younger, so… the two kinds of movement are very similar.”

Also on the show was Natalie Cole, who was in California for concerts and the Grammy Awards on February 28. Bowie presented her with a gold record for her album Inseparable.

Candy Clark, Bowie’s co-star in The Man Who Fell To Earth, joined them to promote the film which was to open March 18 in England and May in America, where the distributors Cinema 5 had cut the film down by 20 minutes to two hours, against the wishes of Roeg and Litvinoff.

Candy Clark (2005): You really couldn’t make head or tail of the cut version. They hired some people who edited commercials to do it. And this after Nic Roeg and editor Graeme Clifford had spent nine months cutting it. I was due to go on the road for Cinema 5 to promote it, but I bailed out after a day. It was making me sick. [154]

The Forum, Inglewood

Rolling Stone later reported, "The civilised panache of it all was absent the next night when an obviously awed Patti Smith stopped backstage to say hello and managed to spill beer over Angela Bowie’s mink."

Wednesday February 11

The Forum, Inglewood

Christopher Isherwood and David Hockney backstage Photo © Andrew Kent

Bowie (1979): I think it was Christopher’s idea of contradictions, that he always put himself in a position that was fairly dangerous – it was the same kind of thing. He went to Germany because he thought it was the political melting pot of Europe, that everything that was going to happen would show itself in Berlin. That applied then and I feel it has been applying over the last two or three years as well in Berlin, that all the unrest and the political unrest that’s happening there – the breaking down of ethnic groups into different areas and the lack of liaison between them is starting to show itself all over Europe. But I think it started in Berlin a few years ago and I wanted to be there. I would like to think I was some kind of Isherwood inasmuch that I’d like to say that I could have observed what was happening in Europe, being sort of on the outside looking in.

Thursday February 12

Ground Control to Davy Jones published in Rolling Stone

Friday February 13

Sports Arena, San Diego

Bowie was told that he would face a crippling tax bill if he remained in America or returned to England. Angela suggested a Switzerland tax haven and arranged the move there. Bowie returned to Bel Air to pack up his belongings to be freighted to Switzerland.

Bowie (1977): I was cocooned in America, getting involved in the trappings of rock'n'roll and dealing with all these precious people… And I found I was being manipulated subconsciously, through my own choice. So I went back to Europe and lived in Berlin for a bit, then went to Thailand and Hong Kong and finally Japan. [338]

Sunday February 15

Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Phoenix

Iggy Pop arrived in Phoenix having heard via his dealer Freddy Sessler that Bowie was interested in working with him.

Iggy Pop (1997): Finally I called [David] up and basically he had a song, a single he’d written, and he said, “Look, you’re not doing anything else. Come on, do you want to do this single?” I said, “Sure, I’ll do it.” [023]

The song – Sister Midnight – was already in the set list, and Bowie had recorded a demo in Kingston in the January rehearsals. Iggy joined the tour as a travel companion.

Iggy (2004): I had never seen anybody work that hard! [David] was getting up at eight in the morning to travel by car to the gig. Gets to the town, does a couple of interviews, catches a half hour of sleep and he’s onstage doing a show. Then after the show, the guy won’t stop! He’s out checking out whatever band is in town. I was exhausted just watching him. He really knows what it is to work hard. No wonder he was doing so well and I was not. [001]

Monday February 16

Tingley Coliseum, Albuquerque

Tuesday February 17

McNichols Sports Arena, Denver

Friday February 20

Mecca Arena, Milwaukee

Saturday February 21

Wings Stadium, Kalamazoo

Sunday February 22

Roberts Municipal Stadium, Evansville

Monday February 23

Riverfront Coliseum, Cincinnati

Wednesday February 25

Forum, Montreal, Quebec

Thursday February 26

Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto

Friday February 27

Cleveland Public Hall, Cleveland

The trunks of Bowie’s regular stage clothing were left behind at the airport so he performed the first night in Cleveland wearing a pair of light blue slacks and a plain white shirt.

Saturday February 28

Cleveland Public Hall, Cleveland (two shows)

Sunday February 29

Cobo Arena, Detroit

Photograph © Bob Gruen

Madonna (1996): It was the first rock concert that I ever saw and it was a major event in my life. I was wearing my highest platform shoes and a long black silk cape. We arrived at Cobo Hall and the place was packed and the show began. And I don’t think that I breathed for two hours. I came home a changed woman. [412]

March 1976

Monday March 1

Cobo Arena, Detroit

Chris Charlesworth interviewed Bowie in suite 1604 at the Pontchartrain Hotel. Bowie told him about his recently announced casting in The Eagle Has Landed, playing Max Radl, a German officer who organises a plot to kidnap Winston Churchill during WWII.

Bowie (1976): I’m getting into my Nazi bit for this one. I have an inert left hand and a patch over my left eye for the part. Michael Caine and Donald Sutherland are in it, too, so it’ll be one hell of a film. Sutherland is the reason that I chose to do it. If it wasn’t for Sutherland and the money, I wouldn’t be interested. I’m more interested in a Bergman film called The Serpent’s Egg which is coming up, and I’d do that for nothing, just to work with Bergman.” [085]

In the end the film's production schedule clashed with the tour and the role went to Robert Duvall.

Wednesday March 3

International Amphitheatre, Chicago

Friday March 5

Kiel Auditorium, St Louis

Saturday March 6

Mid-South Coliseum, Memphis

Sunday March 7

Municipal Auditorium, Nashville

Monday March 8

Omni Coliseum, Atlanta

Thursday March 11

Civic Arena, Pittsburgh

Friday March 12

Scope Convention Center, Norfolk

Saturday March 13
Sunday March 14

Capital Center, Landover

Monday March 15
Tuesday March 16

The Spectrum, Philadelphia

Wednesday March 17

Boston Garden, Boston

Thursday March 18

The Man Who Fell To Earth UK premiere
Leicester Square Theatre, London

Candy Clark and Angela Bowie at the premiere

Friday March 19

Buffalo Memorial Auditorium, Buffalo

Bowie struggled through the show, suffering from influenza.

Saturday March 20

Community War Memorial, Rochester

After the concert, Bowie threw a party in his three-room suite at the Flagship Americana hotel in State Street and invited a couple of ladies he met in the hotel bar. In the early hours of Sunday morning, two women revealed themselves as narcotics officers. At 2.25am four vice squad detectives and a State Police investigator charged Iggy Pop, Dwain Vaughns and a 20-year-old Rochester woman, Chiwah Soo, on suspicion of possession of eight ounces of marijuana. This was a Class C felony, carrying a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.

The four were held in the Monroe County jail for a few hours before being released on bond – at Bowie’s expense. Bowie later said he bore the police no grudge: “They were just doing their job.”

Bowie (1976): Rest assured the stuff was not mine. I can’t say much more, but it did belong to the others in the room that we were busted in. Bloody potheads. What a dreadful irony – me popped for grass. The stuff sickens me. I haven’t touched it in a decade. [101]

Sunday March 21

Springfield Civic Center, Springfield

Monday March 22

New Haven Coliseum, New Haven

Tuesday March 23

Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale

The concert was broadcast live to air by DIR on the King Biscuit Flower Hour FM radio show. As a result it was soon bootlegged as Resurrection On 84th Street and The Thin White Duke. Harry Maslin recorded the concert using the Record Plant Mobile Studio.

Stay and Word On A Wing released on Station To Station (Rykodisc/EMI 1990)
Entire concert released on Station To Station deluxe editions (EMI 2010)

Thursday March 25

Fans mobbed Bowie as he arrived at the Rochester courthouse, pleading not guilty to charges of fifth-degree criminal possession of marijuana, as did Iggy Pop and Dwain Vaughns. The case was adjourned until April 20 and Bowie was allowed bail of $2,000. He also put up the bail of $2,000 each for the other three. Bowie’s LA attorney Stan Diamond told the press, “He’s not a user of marijuana and it is my opinion that he is not guilty of any illegal possession.”

Leaving the court Bowie was besieged by reporters. He appeared on Channel 5 news later in the day, saying he had been treated well by the police.

The mug shot was taken when Bowie appeared at the city court for arraignment. In 2007 the photo was rescued from the rubbish during an estate sale of a retired Rochester police officer.

Friday March 26

Madison Square Garden, New York
End of US tour party, Penn Plaza Club

After the last concert of the US leg of the tour, a small party was held at the Bowie and the crew. Guests included Cyrinda Foxe, Mark Volman, Danny Fields, John Cale, Lisa Robinson. Ronnie Spector was also there with May Pang, who had introduced her to Bowie.

Ronnie Spector (2016): She called me and said, "David is having a concert and he wants you to come." And I was like, "David who?", haha! So I went and when he was done, I was asked to go to his dressing room. He couldn't get enough of me, haha! We went out to dinner a few times; he came over to my apartment a few times. He was so nice. [Kory Gow - Ronnie Spector on Keith Richards, David Bowie and Life After Phil (Rolling Stone, 14 April 2016)

At the party Bowie spent much of the evening in a corner booth with Iggy. He told Lisa Robinson that he and Iggy would finish the album they had begun on the tour. “It’ll be a Bewlay Bros production and then we’ll give it to whoever offers the best deal.”

Bowie leaves the club with Dwain Vaughns, Ronnie Spector, Coco and May Pang

Saturday March 27

New York – Cannes – Genoa

Aboard SS Leonardo da Vinci • Photograph © Andrew Kent

Bowie and Coco boarded sailed to Cannes then on to Genoa for the European dates. Iggy stayed in New York to catch up with friends while Andrew Kent flew back to Los Angeles for a break before the rest of the tour.

April 1976

Monday April 5

Bowie arrives at the Hotel Columbia, Genoa, en route to the European dates of the Isolar tour.

Photograph © Bruno Maccarini

With Pat Gibbons and Angela at the Hotel Columbia, Genoa. On the stairs: RCA executives Carlo Basile (tanned with moustache), James Fisher, Juventus Claudio Bonivento and Frank Marcini

Wednesday April 7

Olympiahalle, Munich

Thursday April 8

Philipshalle, Düsseldorf

Saturday April 10

Deutschlandhalle, West Berlin

In the audience that evening – flamboyant transgender cabaret star Romy Haag and her entourage, who danced and disrobed in the front rows to attract Bowie’s attention. Also there, 13-year-old Christiane Felscherinow, who later described the concert in the autobiographical Christiane F.

Bowie's entourage spent their downtime sightseeing.

Andrew Kent (2001): We went through Checkpoint Charlie and drove around East Berlin in David’s big limousine. It was the President of Sierra Leone’s old Mercedes 600 and it had one of those windows where you could stand up and wave to the crowd. He had a great driver, Tony Mascia, and we went out a couple of times at night and drove round Berlin real fast. David and Iggy loved it. They were out all the time. [105]

Sunday April 11
Monday April 12

Congress Centrum, Hamburg

Tuesday April 13

Festhalle, Frankfurt

The concert was far from sold out but well received, being Bowie’s first tour of Europe. Following technical issues with the Dali-Buñuel film, the band took the stage 40 minutes late. As Station To Station reached its climax a fan was stretchered out after a drug overdose. The 1981 film Christiane F referenced the incident in the concert scene.

Wednesday April 14

Friedrich Ebert Halle, Ludwigshafen

Saturday April 17

Hallenstadion, Zurich

Sunday April 18

With a week off before the next date in Helsinki, Bowie asked Andrew Kent and Iggy if they fancied a side trip to Moscow. Kent organised the tickets and transit visas and they set off with Pat Gibbons and Coco for Moscow via Warsaw.

Photograph by Andrew Kent

Wednesday April 21

Basel

Iggy celebrated his 29th birthday at Basel railway station where Bowie gave him a Polaroid camera to document their travels.

Photograph Andrew Kent

At Brest on the Polish-Russian border, they were detained by the KGB after embassy contacts had failed to put their names on a transit list.

Andrew Kent (2001): The train stops and an albino KGB man comes in! He takes us off the train, we go into this huge Russian inspection place and an interpreter comes up and says, “We weren’t expecting you.” We were all separated. Iggy and David got strip-searched. I think they took some books away, that was all. I don’t know what they took from David, but they took a Playboy away from me. [105]

The KGB found books on Josef Goebbels and Albert Speer, which Bowie explained were ‘research’ materials for a film he was planning to make about Hitler’s minister for propaganda. When they finally reached Moscow, there was more drama when their assigned contact in Moscow failed to appear.

Andrew Kent: We got into two separate taxis, they had all the passports in one taxi and I was in another with the baggage. It was the most alone I ever felt in my life. But eventually we got to our hotel, and then spent the rest of the day seeing Moscow. [413]

After a quick stop at the Aeroflot head office for assistance, the group arrived at the Metropol hotel.

Andrew Kent: He was a confident, experienced traveller. We were on our own but David knew how to make his way around. When he gave me the thumbs up, I knew that everything was going to be fine. [413]

We went to Red Square and the GUM department store, then back to the Metropol for caviar, then we met the next train in a different train station and left. We were in Moscow for seven hours. [105]

Saturday April 24

Nya Masshallen, Helsinki

Bowie arrived in Helsinki for a press conference in time for the concert, but a day later than expected.

Andrew Kent: Barbara De Witt had invited all the members of the Scandinavian press to meet David at the train station when we arrived from Moscow. She thought the trip took two days – actually, it took three. So all the press was there but not David. People started to worry. [413]

The newspaper headline the next day was “Bowie Lost in Russia!”

Marc Bolan and Gloria Jones joined the tour in Helsinki and stayed until the 28th. Bowie had secured a print of The Man Who Fell To Earth and was keen to show it to Bolan.

Gloria Jones (2012): David had been calling Marc telling him that he’d been doing the film and it’s going to be released. So we flew to Stockholm and then we got on the boat to go to Helsinki, Finland. He was doing a concert there, so when we arrived David rented the cinema so there it was, just the three of us. David was very humble because it was the first time seeing the actual film and Marc was, “Yeah well, that scene’s OK there but I would’ve shot it like this and I would’ve had you coming in here and…” so it was slowly building up. Suddenly, I see Marc’s arms flying and you could tell David was just like, ‘Man, just let me look at the film!’ They were such good friends and when we left the cinema Marc told me that he was really proud of him. [427]

Monday April 26

Kungliga Tennishallen, Stockholm

Following the concert, a rep from the company that licensed RCA Records in Sweden presented Bowie with gold records for Pin Ups, Diamond Dogs and Young Americans. At the press conference Bowie was asked about the incident on the train in Russia.

I’m working on a film based on the life of young Goebbels – when he was a young man – and they found all my reference, [laughs] which didn’t go down very well at all. They found books of the young SA uniforms, Goebbels’ history and Albert Speer’s Spandau diary and a lot of basic histories of German Romantics – that was the pre-National Socialists, the whole of the 18th, 19th century German history.

Why do you travel around with that?

Well, I travel – generally – with about four or five hundred books and I cut down to a hundred books for Russia but I didn’t – and I’ve been to Russia before; I should have known better – I didn’t realise I had quite so many reactionary books on me.

Inevitably Bowie was asked about the political ambitions he expressed in February’s Rolling Stone. (“Maybe I should be prime minister of England. I wouldn’t mind being the first English president of the United States either. I’m certainly right wing enough.”)

Bowie: I think that maybe by the time I’m willing to throw myself into that kind of position, which would be a good 10, 15 years from now, I think I might be able to cope with it as well as everybody else.

You said England needed a fascist leader, do you still think that?

Oh yes, not a Nazi leader, a fascist leader. Fascism is an extension of nationalism; a radical conception of what Lenin was going for. It’s an intense form of Communism. And for a few years – until I get killed, [laughs] – as Prime Minister, one would need that kind of leadership just to tighten up reins and to pull people into perspective, into definition, so that they can really see what their country’s made of and what they really want. But they won’t know what they really want until they are ruled. When they are ruled then they decide what they really want.

You want to be Prime Minister of England. Why not King of Sweden?

Because I have great respect for Swedes themselves and they have every right to have their own king! Have I met him? No, I saw somebody who looked like him in the third row, but I don’t think it was him.

James Johnson (2013): That’s me in the photograph in the top left hand corner. I was working for the London Evening Standard at the time. Briefly – after the show I was told by Bowie’s American PR that I’d be able to talk to Bowie without a tape recorder for five minutes. She suggested I talk to him about right wing ideas and fascist leaders. He did say Britain might benefit from a fascist leader. My story the next day made a large splash in the Standard. But when other daily papers got in touch with him, he denied saying what I had reported. It was quite a big story at the time. Frankly, I think I was the victim of a PR stunt, but an RCA employee at the time agreed with me.

Tuesday April 27

Kungliga Tennishallen, Stockholm
(replaced cancelled show at Ekebergshallen, Oslo)

Wednesday April 28

Scandinavium, Gothenburg

Thursday April 29

Falkoner Teatret, Copenhagen

Friday April 30

Falkoner Teatret, Copenhagen

TVC 15 3:29 / We Are The Dead 4:53
single released in UK (RCA 2682)
Chart peak UK 33

Skivspegeln Radio broadcasted Bowie’s controversial interview made in Sweden three days earlier. The comments went unremarked in the Swedish media, but were quickly picked up by the British papers.

 

May 1976

US teaser poster

Saturday May 1

Departing Copenhagen for England Photograph © Jan Persson

Sunday May 2

In the afternoon Bowie took the Boulogne hovercraft to Dover where he boarded a specially chartered train to Victoria Station. During the trip he fielded questions from Maggie Norden (Capital Radio) and cognisant of the media furore surely awaiting him, his replies were guarded. Asked if he liked Russia, Bowie replied, “Yes, it’s er … no Penge but it’s quite good, quite fun. I didn’t stay there for long – eight hours.”

For Bowie’s homecoming, RCA had set up a PA system on Platform 28 so Bowie could address the adoring crowd of 2000 that included teenage fans ‘Boy' George O’Dowd and Gary Webb (Gary Numan).

Photograph © Joe Stevens

The sound system failed so Bowie chose instead to stand in the back of the Mercedes 600 to wave to the fans. Chalkie Davies snapped him mid-wave and got a shot of what appeared to be a Nazi salute. The tabloids, looking to capitalise on his recent comments, seized on the symbolism of the gesture.

Photograph © Chalkie Davies

Bowie (1993): I didn’t give a Nazi salute. I don’t think I’d have done anything as daft as that. It’s a bit like the shot of me ‘kissing’ Lou Reed. They were waiting for me to do something like a Nazi salute and a wave did it for them. [111]

Monday May 3

Empire Pool, Wembley

The Wembley shows were photographed by Philippe Auliac.

Tuesday May 4

Empire Pool, Wembley

Domestic bliss at the Bowie's Maida Vale house

After the controversy of Stockholm and Victoria Station, Barbara de Witt organised interviews to clear the air with Kenelm Jenour (Daily Mirror), Jean Rook (Daily Express):

Yesterday, they were together at his secret London hideout – Angie glamorous, thinner even than he is, with ginger eye make-up to match his hair, and looking incestuously like his twin sister.

Physically, Bowie is not disappointing. He looks terribly ill. Thin as a stick insect. And corpse pale as if his lifeblood had all run up into his flaming hair. Did Bowie say that Britain needs a fascist Prime Minister and that, at 28, he is the man to fit the goose-stepping boots? Bowie would blush if he could spare the blood.

“If I said it – and I’ve a terrible feeling I did say something like it to a Stockholm journalist who kept asking me political questions – I’m astounded anyone could believe it. I have to keep reading it to believe it myself. I’m not sinister. I’m not a great force. Well, not that sort of force. I don’t stand up in cars waving to people because I think I’m Hitler. I stand up in my car waving to fans – I don’t write the captions under the picture. “I’m Pierrot. I’m Everyman. What I’m doing is theatre, and only theatre. All this business about me being able to raise 7000 of my troops at the Empire Pool by raising one hand is a load of rubbish. In the first place the audience is British, and since when will the Brits stand for that? What you see on stage isn’t sinister. It’s pure clown. I’m using myself as a canvas and trying to paint the truth of our time on it. The white face, the baggy pants – they’re Pierrot, the eternal clown putting over the great sadness of 1976.” [268]

Wednesday May 5

Empire Pool, Wembley

Thursday May 6

Empire Pool, Wembley

Cracked Actor (Omnibus in Hollywood) repeated in UK (BBC1)

Friday May 7

Empire Pool, Wembley

Brian Eno and Bowie had been in contact since Bowie publicly expressed his admiration for Eno and Robert Fripp’s albums. After Eno sent him a copy of Another Green World they agreed to meet.

Eno (1999): So I went backstage and we then drove back to where he was living in Maida Vale. He said that he’d been listening to Discreet Music which was very interesting because at the time that was a very out-there record, which was universally despised by the English pop press. He said he’d been playing it non-stop on his American tour, and naturally flattery always endears you to someone. I thought, ‘God, he must be smart!’ [104]

Bowie (1977): I picked on Brian because he got out of a band that in the beginning had been one of the most inspirational bands in England and as far as New Wave went because it was a juxtaposition of fine arts against rock'n'roll, which is what I’d been trying to do, when I started mime back in the early Seventies. [335]

Bowie and Eno made plans to collaborate with Fripp on an Iggy Pop album in Canada, followed by a separate Eno/Bowie/Fripp project.

Saturday May 8

Empire Pool, Wembley

NME review by Max Bell:

Bowie ambles upfront like Sinatra in his Songs For Swinging Lovers days. He smiles a lot but the nerve ends show up as taut as wires. He chews the inside of his mouth, though when he swings into action. His voice is excellent, immediately negating rumours that he’d lost it after the season.

They do Diamond Dogs superbly. Elegant he is on all the SF monster kinks, trailing his fingers over the stage and bolstering the last lines with some fine improvised singing. He takes his bows and waves to Mick Jagger and Ron Wood at the side. They wave back.

Bowie is moved at the response. “Thank you. I’ll see you all very soon”. It is very soon. They return for the encores, Rebel Rebel and Jean Genie, both of which are entirely relaxed, timeless interpretations and not the rather effete little numbers they once were. He turns on a sharp heel to every side of the auditorium, combining the peace sign with the Nazi salute, then leaps for joy and splits.

Carlos Alomar was interviewed by Melody Maker:

I’m working for this band to stay together for as long as possible. As far as David is concerned, I know he loves this band and wants to keep it. He knows it’s a good band. After this tour we have to consider what he wants to do. We’ll be there if he wants us. We’ll be keeping ourselves together in New York. And we’re also working on the possibility of recording together. [163]

The Rochester drug charge was reduced from a felony to misdemeanour, meaning the maximum punishment can be no more than a year in jail.

Tuesday May 11

Vorst Nationaal, Brussels

Thursday May 13
Friday May 14

Sportspalais Ahoy, Rotterdam

Monday May 17

Pavillon de Paris, Paris

Bowie chose the L’Ange Bleu nightclub on the Champs-Elysées for his aftershow party and invited members of Kraftwerk.

Maxime Schmitt (1993): When Ralf and Florian walked in they received a five-minute standing ovation. Iggy Pop was gazing devotedly at them, he completely adored them. Both he and Bowie were transfixed, Bowie was saying to Iggy Pop, ‘Look how they are, they are fantastic!’ [005]

Iggy Pop (2003): David Bowie turned me on to Radio-Activity when I was hanging out with him on his Station to Station tour, trying to get him to produce The Idiot. I heard this and thought, ‘Aha – the world has changed. [208]

Tuesday May 18

Pavillon de Paris, Paris

The second Paris show was the last of the world tour (as the third show was cancelled). Bowie celebrated at L’Alcazar club with Romy Haag whom he’d met in Berlin.

Spécial David Bowie (TF1) television appearance

Presented by Yves Mourousi, the 11-minute news segment included a short interview with Bowie, live footage of Life on Mars?, Suffragette City and TVC 15 from the Paris concert and a profile of French Bowie fan club founder Natacha Smolianoff.

Wednesday May 19

Bowie, Iggy and Schwab had intended to stay on in Paris but were constantly besieged by fans outside the hotel. Pierre Calamel, the studio manager of the Château d’Hérouville, invited them out to the Château for a couple of days of peace and quiet. They checked out and arrived at the Château that evening.

Thursday May 20

Bowie met with chief engineer Laurent Thibault, played some records and talked about the music. He decided to book Thibault and the studio for June and July to work on Iggy’s album. The Château was a residential studio, so they wouldn’t have to worry about living expenses – RCA would pick up the tab. Money was still tight as the split with MainMan had choked Bowie’s royalties.

After a couple of days Bowie left with Zowie and nanny Marion Skene to join Angela in Switzerland to look at Clos des Mésanges – the ‘cuckoo-clock house’ she had organised to rent in Blonay, near Montreux in Corsier-sur-Vevey.

Bowie spent the next week planning his next album, recording rough ideas on a small cassette machine. Iggy arrived and they began some rough sketches of songs for The Idiot on keyboard and guitar.

Bowie (1995): I spent a lot of time writing for him as well as producing. For me, Iggy’s strength was as a lyricist – I thought he was the funniest, darkest lyricist of the time. I really wanted to give him some musical support that would get him a wider audience. It just seemed so unfair that he was virtually neglected. I was going through a very experimental stage when I first started working with Iggy on The Idiot. I had some ideas on that which reached their fruition when I started working with Brian on Low. The Idiot, for me, was a kind of format for devising a new kind of musical scenario. [242]

Iggy Pop (1996): He has a work pattern that recurs again and again – if he has an idea about an area of work he wants to enter, he’ll use side projects or work for other people to gain experience and get a little taste of the water before he goes in and does his, and I think he used working with me that way. [346]

Friday May 21

ChangesOneBowie

album released in UK
(RCA RS 1005)
Chart peak UK 2 US 10

Side one
Space Oddity 5:14
John, I’m Only Dancing 2:43
Changes 3:34
Ziggy Stardust 3:13
Suffragette City 3:25
The Jean Genie 4:07

Side two
Diamond Dogs 6:03
Rebel Rebel 4:28
Young Americans 5:10
Fame 4:12
Golden Years 4:03

Cover photograph © Tom Kelley

Bowie curated this first compilation (outside of Japan) of his RCA recordings. It is the first album appearance of both the recorded versions of John, I’m Only Dancing. Due to a mastering error, the first 1000 copies of the UK pressing included the ‘sax version’ (from the 1973 Aladdin Sane sessions). Subsequent pressings play the original 1972 version.

Reissued on CD 1984 (RCA)
Reissued on clear vinyl LP 2016 (Parlophone)

Saturday May 22

TVC 15 entered the UK Top 30, charting for four weeks.

Friday May 26

The Man Who Fell To Earth closed at Leicester Square Cinema.

Friday May 28

The Man Who Fell To Earth premiere in New York

Sunday May 30

The Bowies hired a room at the Montreux Casino (recently rebuilt since the 1971 fire) to celebrate Zowie’s fifth birthday with his friends.

Angela Bowie (1985): We went and got all these instruments and put them there for the kids. David was fabulous. He’s so good at that. He loves that street theatre and improvisation with kids. We have a wonderful video of them doing a ‘thematic’ representation of Jack and the Beanstalk with David narrating and the kids acting all the parts. [019]

Soon after the party, Bowie left for the Château d’Hérouville with Iggy and Coco to begin work on Iggy’s new album.

 

June / july 1976

Photo by Claude Gassian

The Idiot album sessions
Château d’Hérouville, Pontoise, France

Sessions began with a few days of Bowie recording rough backing tracks on his Baldwin electric piano, while Iggy scribbled out lyrics.

Iggy (1977): It was done very much in the manner that I’ve always worked. We sat in the basement, me on the drums and him on piano. [307]

Iggy (1984): The basic idea was to do it without anybody. Just the two of us – although we started fudging, bringing in a bass player here, a drummer there. [183]

When Bowie asked for a “very solid, very rough” drummer, Laurent Thibault called Michel Santangeli. When he arrived the next day from Brittany he was shocked to find it really was Bowie in the studio, not one of Thibault’s jokes. Bowie ran through the songs on keyboard with Santangeli learning the drum parts as they went. Later Santangeli realised the tape was on the whole time – they were the finished takes. Bowie moved onto his guitar overdubs.

Iggy (1986): David plays better Angry Young Guitar than any Angry Young Guitar player I’ve ever heard, including James Williamson. When David plays guitar he gets nuts. You know that little part on Dum Dum Boys, that “bowwwwaaah”? That’s his part, that’s David doing that. He struggles with that thing when he plays. His fingers start cramping and we have to stop halfway through and he’s yelling “I don’t know why the fuck I’m doing this for you, you jerk!” We have a very abrasive relationship, it’s a clash. [043]

Bowie left Thibault to write and record bass parts, all of which were retained except one. Bowie gave him a new bass line for Borderline and continued to experiment in the studio while Iggy roamed the grounds with sheaves of lyrics.

One source of inspiration arrived one afternoon in the form of Kuelan Nguyen, the Vietnamese girlfriend of musician Jacques Higelin. They were staying at the Château as guests of owner Michel Magne.

Despite the language barrier, Iggy began an affair with Nguyen, rewriting Borderline as China Girl in which he warned the affair was doomed: ‘you shouldn’t mess with me – I’ll ruin everything you are.’

Bowie (1993): An extraordinary lyric, and it was really sort of thrown out as he was writing it, almost verbatim. He changed maybe three or four lines. But it was an extraordinary talent that he has for spontaneous free thought. [049]

Thursday June 17

Circus reported ongoing legal complications arising from his split with manager Michael Lippman in January – Cherokee Studios was demanding $30,000 in studio fees from Bowie’s soundtrack sessions in December, Steve Schapiro had sued him for $85,000 for using his promotional photos without permission and New York’s Picture newspaper claimed Bowie had defaulted on a payment of a $4000 consultant’s fee for the Isolar tour program.

Bowie’s financial difficulties worsened as his royalties were frozen, pending resolution with Lippman.

Friday July 9

Suffragette City 3:25 / Stay 3:21
single released in UK (RCA 2726)

Sessions continued until the end of July when George Murray and Dennis Davis arrived to overdub bass and drums on some of the songs including 'Sister Midnight' and 'Mass Production'.

Bad Company had booked the Château for August, so Bowie booked the Château for September. Bowie and Iggy borrowed engineer Thibault and moved the sessions to Munich.

 

August 1976

The Idiot album overdubs and mixing
Musicland, Munich, Germany

Sessions resumed at Musicland, a basement studio beneath the Sheraton, where they stayed on the 22nd floor. Bowie, Iggy and Thibault recorded vocals and overdubs, working at night as Thin Lizzy had the studio by day.

Iggy Pop (1996): To work with as a producer, Bowie was a pain in the ass. Megalomaniacal loco… but who had good ideas. I was working on a lyric for Funtime and I had a good idea for the song and he’s the kind of guy who would stop you and say, “Okay, the words are good but don’t sing it like a rock guy, sing it like Mae West,” which is informed of another genre, informed of cinema, it’s also a little bit gay, that suggestion. And that suggestion worked and the vocal got more menacing ‘cos of that. And that was very good. [346]

Bowie wanted some of his guitar parts redone and called Visconti.

Tony Visconti (1986): He was always changing guitarists like we change socks and I got this guy called Ricky Gardiner who I’d been making some demos with and he was one of the best guitarists I’ve ever worked with. [019]

Gardiner was called and invited to join, but uninvited shortly after.

Ricky Gardiner (1986): I had this last minute telephone call saying it was no longer necessary for me to go and that Mr Bowie sent his apologies. [043]

Mr Bowie had found his guitarist, another name from Visconti – British guitarist Phil Palmer, so green that he still lived with his parents.

Phil Palmer (2005): At 2 o’clock in the morning the phone rang, and my mum answered it and came upstairs and said, “There’s a Mr Bowie on the phone for you,” and I thought it was someone messing around, as you do. Yeah “get over here as soon as you can and it will all be taken care of” and it was. I just threw a few things in a bag, and a guitar, and off I went. [045]

Palmer arrived with his Telecaster to join them on the sessions, which he described as ‘vampiric’ – working through the nights on bizarre soundscapes, playing guitar parts to their cryptic instructions. Nightclubbing, for example: “You’re walking down Wardour Street. Now play the music you hear coming out of each club.”

Friday August 20

The Idiot mixing sessions
Hansa Tonstudio 1, West Berlin

After Thibault returned to Paris, Iggy and Bowie moved to Berlin to finish the mix with Tony Visconti at Hansa Tonstudio on the Kurfürstendamm, which Edgar Fröese recommended at the Château.

Coco soon found them accommodation within walking distance of Hansa – a seven-room flat above a car spares shop at Hauptstrasse 155, Schöneberg. Visconti stayed at the Schlosshotel Gerhus in Grunewald.

Initially Visconti was brought in to work on The Man Who Fell To Earth soundtrack tapes from Cherokee Studios but they hadn’t arrived. Instead they finished mixing Iggy’s album, working in the afternoons and nightclubbing afterwards, often at Romy Haag’s cabaret.

 

In the relative anonymity of Schöneberg, away from the pressures of fame, Bowie and Iggy maintained a simple lifestyle. They had a vague plan to clean up, partly driven by Zowie living there, having started school in Berlin.

Bowie (1989): The whole reason for going there was because it was so low-key. Jim and I – we were both having the same problems – knew it was the kind of place where you walk around and really are left alone and not stopped by people. They’re very blasé, there. Cynical, irony-based people and it’s a great place if you really want to try and do some soul-searching and find out what it is that your really want. [110]

With a potentially expensive lawsuit with Lippman coming up, they were each on a strict budget of 10 Deutschmarks a day, which they spent at cafés and galleries. They fixated on Neo Expressionist painters hanging in the Brücke museum. Eventually Bowie went out and bought art materials so they could paint their own.

He also bought the reproduction rights for Heckel’s Roquairol to use on the cover of The Idiot. Instead Andrew Kent shot Iggy in the same pose, wearing his girlfriend Esther’s jacket.

Bowie (2001): Since my teenage years I had obsessed on the angst ridden, emotional work of the expressionists, both artists and film makers, and Berlin had been their spiritual home. This was the nub of Die Brücke movement, Max Reinhardt, Brecht and where Metropolis and Caligari had originated. It was an art form that mirrored life not by event but by mood. This was where I felt my work was going. My attention had been swung back to Europe with the release of Kraftwerk’s Autobahn in 1974. The preponderance of electronic instruments convinced me that this was an area that I had to investigate a little further. [105]

Stay 3:21 / Word On A Wing 3:10
single released in US (RCA PB-10736)

September 1976

 

Low recording sessions
Château d’Hérouville, Pontoise
Hansa Tonstudio 2, West Berlin
Producers: David Bowie, Tony Visconti

The story of Low

October 1976

With Iggy and Coco Schwab in Berlin

Tony Visconti (2002): We loved Berlin. David was pleased that he could go out in public unmolested. During Low I gave David and Iggy very close-cropped haircuts, and the moustache David sported during this period made him hardly recognizable. There were great clubs to go to, fabulous restaurants, and plenty of German friends to share these days of stability and upbeat moods. [421]

At the Lutzower Lampe with Clare Shenstone (in red) and Coco Schwab (right)

November 1976

Saturday November 20

Melody Maker report:

A new David Bowie album New Music: Night and Day is scheduled by RCA in January. It is currently being mixed in Berlin, and Bowie is designing the cover himself. A spokesman for RCA told MM that one half of the record represents “a new departure” for Bowie. It is understood there are several instrumental tracks.

“Bowie usually does his final mix,” quipped an RCA operative, “after the first 10,000 albums are shipped. He’s never satisfied.” [289][Strick, Wesley. ‘Bowie Now: New Music For Day And Night’ (Circus, 28 February 1977)]

December 1976

Bowie sent the masters of the new album (still carrying its working title New Music: Night and Day) to RCA in time for its January release. The company told him the album contained nothing resembling a hit and was not marketable in its present state and asked how it might be fixed.

Bowie maintained there was nothing to fix and the fact that it had no commercial potential did not concern him. In that case, RCA said, they would not be releasing the album. Bowie correctly pointed out that they were contractually obliged to do so.

1970  •  1971  •  1972  •  1973  •  1974  •  1975  •  1976  •  1977  •  1978  •  1979  •  1980

 

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Bowie Golden Years v1.0 created and designed by Roger Griffin 2000
Bowie Golden Years v2.0 2017-2020

Photographs and texts have been credited wherever possible

this page updated October 13, 2020