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
FEATURES
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January 1980

Friday January 4

Bowie's performance of Space Oddity on Dick Clark’s Salute To The Seventies / The Sensational, Shocking, Wild and Wacky Seventies broadcast in US (NBC)

Saturday January 5

Saturday Night Live broadcast in US (NBC)
John I’m Only Dancing (Again) peaks at number 10 in UK

Friday February 8

Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) recording sessions
Power Station, 441 West 53rd Street, New York
Producers: David Bowie, Tony Visconti
Engineer: Larry Alexander

Visconti arrived in New York to find Bowie had no finished songs, just some chord changes. But they quickly worked up ‘head arrangements’ for nine or ten songs.

The band was augmented by Jimmy Destri and Springsteen's Roy Bittan, at that time recording The River in the studio next door. Adrian Belew had been booked (and paid) in advance but he was disappointed to hear that Tom Verlaine was working on the album. As it turned out, Verlaine spent a whole day auditioning amplifiers and never recorded a note. Lou Reed’s guitarist Chuck Hammer came to the sessions to demonstrate Guitarchitecture, using a guitar synthesiser to orchestrate parts for live performance as well as studio recordings.

During a break in recording, Bowie met with The Elephant Man director Jack Hofsiss who told him that Philip Anglim, currently in the lead role of John Merrick, would be leaving the production in July.

Bowie (1980): He asked if I would take over the role. I had never met him and I didn’t know he knew anything about me, but he had apparently seen a few of my concerts and felt I’d be able to undertake the role successfully. I said, “If you want to take the risk, I’d love to take the plunge.” [145][Hilburn, Robert. David Bowie: The View From The Top (Los Angeles Times, 9 September 1980)]

Jack Hofsiss (1980): I was familiar with his music, and I had seen him in concert. But the piece of work he did that was most helpful in making the decision was The Man Who Fell To Earth, in which I thought he was wonderful, and in which the character he played had an isolation similar to the Elephant Man's. His perceptions about the part and his interest were all so good that we decided to investigate the possibility of doing it. [182][Loder, Kurt. Scary Monster on Broadway (Rolling Stone 130, 13 November 1980)]

Saturday February 9

Melody Maker reported that Bowie had scrapped plans for a spring tour and was looking at scripts instead.

Friday February 15

Alabama Song (Brecht-Weill) 3:47 Space Oddity 4:49
s
ingle released in UK
(RCA BOW 5) Chart peak 23

The UK picture sleeve folded out to a square colour poster featuring a still from Bowie’s appearance on Dick Clark’s TV special.

Runout groove etched messages:
Ta Kurt* / Sorry Gus**

*Kurt Weill
**Tony Visconti's nod to Gus Dudgeon, who produced the original 1969 single

Alabama Song
recorded July 1978, Good Earth Studios, London
reissued:
(as Moon Of Alabama) Rare (RCA 1982)
Scary Monsters
(Rykodisc/EMI 1992)

Space Oddity
recorded September 1979, Good Earth Studios, London
reissued:
Scary Monsters
(Rykodisc/EMI 1992)
Space Oddity 40th Anniversary EP (iTunes 2009)

 

March 1980

Sunday March 9

Iggy Pop live at Great Gildersleeves, New York

Bowie was in the audience as were Chrissie Hynde and Mick Jagger.

Tuesday March 11

After three weeks of recording backing tracks and overdubs, Tony Visconti prepared a rough mix of the tracks in various stages of completion:

Kingdom Come [Tom Verlaine cover]
I Feel Free [Cream cover]
Is There Life After Marriage
Lazer [recorded with The Astronettes, again for Young Americans, then rewritten as Scream Like A Baby]
It's No Game No. 2 [complete]

Bowie opted to take a two-month break to compose melodies and lyrics for the remaining tracks – rather than improvise as he had done in the past – and finish the album in London.

Thursday March 13

Opening of Reggae, the musical by Michael Butler at Biltmore Theatre

Photo by Vernon Shibla/New York Post

Late March

Crystal Jun Rock television commercial shoot
Kyoto, Japan

With the bulk of the Scary Monsters backing tracks complete, Bowie accepted an invitation to promote Crystal Jun Rock, a brand of shochu (a Japanese distilled spirit similar to vodka) made by Takara Shuzo Co. Ltd.

 

He would appear in two television commercials, speak four words – 'Crystal Jun Rock Japan' – and provide the music.

The shoot took place over two weeks at a temple in Kyoto.

Restored by Nacho's Videos

He was asked why he agreed to do the commercial:

Bowie: Three reasons, the first one being that no one has ever asked me to do it before. And the money is a very useful thing. And I think it's very effective that my music is on television 20 times a day. I think my music isn't for radio. [006][Cann, Kevin. David Bowie: A Chronology (Vermilion, 1983)]

Takara Shuzo was initially disappointed that Bowie didn’t actually sing on the soundtrack he submitted, Fuji Moto San, which he retitled Crystal Japan. But the elegant commercials and the print campaign had the desired effect, increasing demand for Crystal Jun Rock.

 

Crystal Japan 3:26 Alabama Song (Brecht-Weill) 3:50
single released in Japan
(RCA SS-3270)

Crystal Japan was slated to close Scary Monsters.
When it was chosen as a single, It’s No Game No. 2 took its place on the album.
Its first UK release was on the B-side of Up The Hill Backwards in 1981.

Reissued:
Rare
(RCA 1982)
Scary Monsters (Rykodisc/EMI 1992)
All Saints - Collected Instrumentals 1977-1999 (EMI/Virgin 2001)

April 1980

Sunday April 27

Iggy Pop live at Metropol Theatre, Schöneberg, Berlin

“Hi Dave, wherever you are,” Iggy said from the stage as he introduced China Girl. Bowie joined him for the encore to play keyboard on a couple of songs. Afterwards Iggy and the band headed to one of their favourite haunts, the Café Exil in Kreuzberg.

Gundula Puntke (fan): Iggy’s drummer and guitarist invited us to join them in their bus and we went to the Exil. 15 minutes later David entered the restaurant ... and Iggy ordered champagne to celebrate his arrival. David smoked one Marlboro after another, only sipping the champagne and nodded to Iggy‘s flow of words like a mother would do when listening to her excited child. They talked about the gig and other musicians and David expressed an interest in glass music by playing with the champagne glasses in front of him. He tried to involve everyone else sitting at the table because the whole situation was very uncommunicative for almost half the people appeared to be stoned. But David finally got everyone rubbing the rims of the different glasses in front of him, counting one, two, three, four, so that everybody everyone would begin at the same time to get a chord together. But after a while, Iggy’s bassist fell asleep and the whole conversation broke down, so Iggy asked David to go into the back rooms to play billiards. [Starzone 5, October 1982]

May 1980

 

Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) recording sessions
Good Earth Studios, 59 Dean Street, Soho, London
Producers: David Bowie, Tony Visconti

Having written lyrics for all the songs, they began work on vocals, overdubs and mixing. Bowie decided to open the album with It’s No Game and close with a reprise; and Visconti introduced the first part with the sound of spooling tape and Dennis Davis’s count-in.

Bowie had his lyrics translated by a professor friend and had intended to sing it, and sought coaching from Japanese actress (and Sparks’ Kimono My House cover model) Michi Hirota from the London production of The King And I. She found that the translation was literal rather than poetic, and was impossible to fit the melody. Instead Bowie asked her to recite the words, counterbalancing with Bowie’s histrionics.

Bowie (1980): [She] says the lyric in such a way as to give the lie to the whole very sexist idea of how Japanese girls are so very prim. She's like a Samurai the way she hammers it out. [189][MacKinnon, Angus. The Future Isn't What It Used To Be (NME, 13 September 1980)]

Fashion took shape with a berserk guitar part from Robert Fripp, who also recorded parts for It's No Game, Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps), Kingdom Come, Up The Hill Backwards and Teenage Wildlife.

Pete Townshend came to play on Because You’re Young. 30 minutes later he was finished and out the door. As he left he told Bowie that Space Oddity, remembering the demo that Bowie gave him in 1969, was ‘sure to be a hit’.

Ashes To Ashes video shoot
Pett Level, East Sussex, Ewart Studios, Wandsworth
Directors: David Mallet and David Bowie

Bowie (1980): This one I storyboarded myself, actually drew it frame for frame. He edited it exactly as I wanted it ... I've always wanted to direct and this is a great chance to start ... It was supposed to be the archetypal 1980s ideal of the futuristic colony that has been founded by the earthling, of what he looks like – and in that particular sequence the idea was for the earthling to be pumping out himself and to be having pumped into him something organic. So there was a very strong Giger influence there: the organic meets hi-tech. [189][MacKinnon, Angus. The Future Isn't What It Used To Be (NME, 13 September 1980)]

Bowie went to the Blitz club to recruit extras for the video. On the door as usual was Steve Strange, who regularly held Bowie Nights at the club.

Steve Strange (2002): I clocked this limo that had been driving around two or three times. [Coco] came to me and said, “I have someone very important in the car and we need a table in an exclusive area upstairs.” The window wound down. And it was Bowie in there. We managed to sneak them into the club the back way and usher him upstairs to a private area. David was charming and asked if I would join him upstairs for a drink when I had finished on the door. He asked me if I would like to appear in the video for his next single, Ashes To Ashes. “I’d like you to pick the clothes you are going to wear, and to choose three other extras for the video. But there is only one snag. We have to meet tomorrow morning at 6am outside the Hilton to leave for the location shoot." I rushed around and found Judith Frankland, Darla Jane Gilroy and another girl [Elise] for the video. [041][Strange, Steve. Blitzed! The Autobiography Of Steve Strange (Orion, 2002)]

Judith Frankland: Steve was resplendent in the wedding outfit that night and was chosen straight away. I was invited, as was Darla Jane Gilroy over to the table where David Bowie and Coco were sitting and offered a glass of champagne. Darla and I were both dressed in a similar ecclesiastic style and were also asked to take part for what at that time was a decent sum of money for penniless, decadent students.

We were told Coco would call us the following day with the details. When the call finally came, I was instructed to be outside The Hilton the next day at some ungodly hour, fully dressed and made up the same way I had been at The Blitz, and to get the coach to a secret location. [419][theswellelife.com – The Blitz, David Bowie And Ashes To Ashes (Judith Frankland, 22 February 2011)]

Steve Strange (2002): He also asked me if I could suggest a make-up artist for him, and I recommended Richard Sharah, the man who did my make-up. [041][Strange, Steve. Blitzed! The Autobiography Of Steve Strange (Orion, 2002)]

Richard Sharah (1981): David came to me and said he wanted a Pierrot look, and he let me design from there. Most of the time I draw up some ideas and then work with the subject around those. The preparation for David's make-up took one and a half hours. [119][The Face, 1981. Richard Sharah profile]

Richard Sharah, Bowie and Natasha Kornilof Photo © Brian Duffy

Bowie in the Pierrot costume Kornilof designed – “the most beautiful clown in the circus"
Photo © Brian Duffy

The Blitz Kids were taken by coach to Pett Level, a beach near Hastings that Mallet had closed off to the public for the filming.

David Mallet (2009): The beach was my idea. It was a location I’d known since I was a little boy. One of the very rare places you can get right down to the water and there’s a cliff towering over you. [040][Spitz, Marc. David Bowie (Aurum, 2009)]

Bowie noticed a bulldozer sitting idle and decided to include it (as a ‘symbol of oncoming violence’) rather than shoot around it. They located the owners and hired someone to drive the machine behind the Blitz kids as they followed Bowie in procession.

Steve Strange (2002): The difficulty was getting us all to move along at the correct speed. If I was too fast, I caught David up; if I was too slow, the bulldozer kept catching the robe I was wearing. Where it looks as if I am bending forward to bow, I was actually moving the hem of my robe. [041][Strange, Steve. Blitzed! The Autobiography Of Steve Strange (Orion, 2002)]

 

Judith Frankland (2011): We had done well, we were told at the end of the day, and asked to come to the studios in Wandsworth to shoot another scene. David Bowie had lunch with us mere mortals in the canteen. The scene we were to do at the studio involved an explosion and I was at the back. In fact if you look at the video you can see my crucifix swing in. We were told to duck out and run after we had mimed our piece or we could be hurt. It took about three takes and we were done and told we could stay to watch the rest of the filming and that we should tell no one about the details of the video. It was all very hush-hush. [419][theswellelife.com – The Blitz, David Bowie And Ashes To Ashes (Judith Frankland, 22 February 2011)]

The Blitz kids were paid £50 each and returned to London.

The clip was later enhanced with solarising and other special effects using the new Quantel Paintbox. This brought the cost of the video to £25,000, at the time the most expensive music video ever made. At MIDEM later in the year it was voted best music video.

Released on Sound + Vision VCD (Rykodisc/EMI 1989), The Video Collection VHS (PMI 1993) and Best of Bowie DVD (EMI 2002)

Scary Monsters album cover shoot

Bowie asked Duffy to photograph him as the Pierrot figure for the cover. Duffy recommended he see an exhibition of designer/photographer/artist Edward Bell. At the show Bowie asked Bell to design the album cover and come to the studio to take the photos. When he arrived at the studio, Bell was surprised to find Duffy already shooting. Bell waited then took his own series of photos, having convinced Bowie to ditch the hat and mess himself up to create "some kind of elegant decadence".

Edward Bell (2013): A couple of days later Duffy came to me with a photograph he had taken of David with the full clown rig and he said, "Right Edward, here's your picture, you colour it in." I said, "Hang on, that's not the way I see it," and he said, "Well, I don't care how you see it, that's what you are going to do." Then he left.

Bell used the Duffy photograph as a background element in the collage painting, along with cut outs of old Bowie album sleeves, whitewashing them – as Bowie said at the time – to symbolise the discarding of his old personae.

Duffy was appalled that his photo was fragmented and obscured. Bell's portrait, based on one of his own shots (and flipped) dominated the cover.

Bowie liked the result and later commissioned Bell for another sleeve – the Fashion single – and another painting based on his photos from the sessions. The artwork, entitled Glamour, appeared on the 1982 Bowie calendar and also sold as a poster.

Saturday May 31

Iggy Pop live at Camden Music Machine, London

 

June 1980

Wednesday June 4

Bowie, Peter Hammill (behind) and Robert Fripp watch The Roches perform at The Venue, London. Fripp had produced and played on the New Jersey group's debut album.
Photo by Justin Thomas

Bowie was also spotted in the Virgin Megastore buying records by The Human League, Q-Tips, The Go-Go's, Throbbing Gristle and Elvis Costello.

July 1980

Wednesday July 9

The New York Times announced that Bowie would be making his American stage debut in the touring company of The Elephant Man, playing a week in Denver followed by a month in Chicago.

Bowie (1980): The whole thing happened so fast when they finally decided to take me as Merrick. I’d forgotten about the whole thing after Hofsiss had seen me. But I got a call within two weeks of having to go over and start rehearsal. So I couldn’t do very much. So I went to the London Hospital and went to the museum there. Found the plaster casts of the bits of Merrick’s body that were interesting to the medical profession and the little church that he’d made, and his cap and his cloak. Nothing much that you can get from that, just the general atmosphere. [336][David Bowie interview (Andy Peebles, BBC Radio 1, December 1980)]

Bowie flew to San Francisco to watch Philip Anglim’s last performance as John Merrick, then joined the company for two weeks of rehearsals.

Hofsiss allowed Bowie to ease into the part with a weeklong run in Denver.

Tuesday July 29 – Sunday August 3

The Elephant Man
Denver Centre of Performing Arts, Denver
Director: Jack Hofsiss

The play was a sell-out, garnered good reviews and a standing ovation for Bowie. Even so, Bowie had misgivings about this performance.

Bowie (1980): I was furious with myself on the first night that the thing that was preoccupying me during the performance was how people were adjusting or relating to my body movements and that I hadn’t been considering the character at all. It took a good week to shake that feeling off and become interested and involved onstage with Merrick. [189][MacKinnon, Angus. The Future Isn’t What It Used To Be (NME, 13 September 1980)]

August 1980

Friday August 1

Ashes To Ashes 3:36 Move On 3:16

single released in UK
(RCA BOW 6)
UK chart peak 1

Released in three different covers, the first 100,000 copies containing one of a series of four sheets of nine stamps. They were designed by Bowie, partly inspired by the mail-art of Jerry Dreva, the American experimental artist involved with the early 70's imaginary glam-art group Les Petites Bonbons in Hollywood.

All photographs by Duffy with magic marker work by Bowie

Wednesday August 6 – Saturday August 30

The Elephant Man
Blackstone Theatre, Chicago
Director: Jack Hofsiss

31 performances in 25 days, starting with a Wednesday night preview.

During the Chicago run, Bowie was interviewed by Kurt Loder (Rolling Stone), Angus McKinnon (NME) and Gordon Burn (The Sunday Times), RCA had the Brits flown over and installed at the luxurious Whitehall Hotel for five days.

Chris Charlesworth, RCA Press Officer: I was informed in no uncertain terms by ‘Bowie’s people’ that each journalist would be allotted just one hour in which to talk with him. McKinnon wasn’t happy and – unbeknownst to me – had brought along the Dutch photographer Anton Corbijn to take pictures exclusively for NME. This, said Bowie’s people, was out of the question.

I told McKinnon, “If you can engage David in an interesting, stimulating interview and along the way make it clear to him that you need to talk for more than an hour, he might just overrule his minders. But if you bore him you’ll only get an hour. Oh – and mention Anton to him yourself.”

So McKinnon did just that and David granted him not only extra time on the day of the interview but a further two hours the following day. And he agreed to pose for Corbijn, both in his Elephant Man costume backstage at the theatre and in a bar where McKinnon’s interview took place.

Bowie’s ‘people’ were furious with me but I couldn’t care less. Next week’s NME had a Corbijn picture of DB on the cover and five pages of McKinnon’s interview inside, and a month or two later DB in his Elephant Man loincloth graced the front page of the Sunday Times Magazine. The point of the story is that David knew better than his advisors how to achieve maximum coverage. [086][Charlesworth, Chris. Watch That Man (Mojo: Bowie, November 2003)]

Chicago photograph © Anton Corbijn

Saturday August 16

Ashes To Ashes enters the UK chart at number 4, staying for 10 weeks.

Saturday August 23

Ashes To Ashes tops the UK chart

During the Chicago run of The Elephant Man, Bowie watched Roy Orbison at the Park West and invited him to the play the following night. He also attended a party at Scampi’s, a restaurant in the lobby of the Hyatt Regency, where he and Orbison sang Happy Birthday for Orbison’s promoter, Jam Productions’ John Weitekamp.

Saturday August 30

The Elephant Man closes in Chicago, having set a box office record of $172,000.

 

September 1980

Ashes To Ashes 3:35 It's No Game (No. 1) 4:16
single released in US
(RCA PB-12078)
US chart peak 101

Monday September 1

Bowie began three weeks of rehearsals for the Broadway run of The Elephant Man with the New York cast, taking over the role from Jeff Hayenga.

Bowie was also preparing for his upcoming appearance on America’s most popular talk show, The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.

Carlos Alomar cobbled the band together in New York – guitarist GE Smith, bass player John Kumnick, drummer Steve Goulding and keyboard player Gordon Grody. They spent four days in RCA Studio D rehearsing, some of which (a snippet of Ashes To Ashes) was filmed by the news program 20/20.

John Kumnick and Bowie in rehearsals at RCA Studio D

Wednesday September 3

Good Morning America television appearance
Times Square Studios, New York

Broadcast live on ABC at 7am


Friday September 5

The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson television appearance
NBC Studios, Burbank, California

Life On Mars
Ashes To Ashes

Bowie and band flew to Los Angeles for the taping at NBC Studios. On Thursday night, a large contingent of fans camped outside NBC for tickets to see Bowie's first US performance in nine months. By the morning the crowd had swelled to 200.

Waiting for the Carson taping to begin, he chatted with friends and signed a few autographs for those lucky enough to get in.

Carson introduced Bowie by plugging the new LP and Bowie’s upcoming New York run in The Elephant Man. Over the loud cheering, Carson joked, "He'd better be good after this!"

John Kumnick, bass (2016): We flew back to New York that night… it was one of those red eye flights out of L.A. Since we were just going out there for the one thing, we had all our guitars in gig bags … we just took them on the plane with us. But on the way back, the flight was full and the airline people are saying, "No, you can't carry those on, you are going to have to put them down in cargo and check them as baggage etc". We had someone acting as a road manager trying to deal with that. The guitars would have got all smashed up in baggage because they weren't in heavy duty cases or anything. So he's trying to deal with that and it's not going anywhere and we're all standing around the airport. Bowie hears about it and says, "I'll take care of it" and he goes up to the gate agent, and he says, 'Hi, I'm David Bowie… and Elvis gave me those guitars and so I couldn't possibly have them checked as baggage down in the hold.' He came up with that in 10 seconds. I think he viewed it as just something fun he could do – use the star power for the good. And he took care of it… that was easy – they crumbled in a second – "Sure, okay, we’ll find a closet…"

Friday September 12

Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)

album released in UK
(RCA BOW LP2)
UK chart peak 1

Side one
It’s No Game (No. 1) 4:17
Up The Hill Backwards 3:13
Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) 5:10
Ashes To Ashes 4:24
Fashion 4:48

Side two
Teenage Wildlife 6:55
Scream Like A Baby 3:35
Kingdom Come (Verlaine) 3:42
Because You’re Young 4:51
It’s No Game (No. 2) 4:20

Saturday September 13

Cover photograph by Anton Corbijn

Wednesday September 17

The Elephant Man press conference
Booth Theatre, 222 West 45th Street, New York

Bowie: “It’s the most terrifying position I’ve ever put myself in. There isn’t any room for spontaneity – very different from rock and roll.”

Saturday September 20

Radio interview on WHFS-FM, New York

Tuesday September 23 – Sunday January 4, 1981

The Elephant Man
Booth Theatre, New York

Evenings: Tuesday – Saturday 8pm
Matinees: Wednesday 2pm, Saturday 2pm, Sunday 3pm

Attendees included Christopher Isherwood, David Hockney, Andy Warhol, Lee Radziwill, John Belushi, May Pang, Tom Hoving, Diana Vreeland and Oona Chaplin, who flew over from Switzerland for the occasion.

With Patricia Elliott on opening night Photos Ron Galella

Wednesday September 24

Uncut version of The Man Who Fell To Earth on general release in America. (A new regime at Cinema 5 restored the picture to its original length. In Cinema 5 had cut the picture when it was first distributed in America in 1976. Prints ran at 117, 120 or 125 minutes, according to different sources. )

Thursday September 25

Psychedelic Furs at Hurrah, New York

After his performance at the Booth, Bowie went to Hurrah to see a new group that Iggy Pop liked – The Psychedelic Furs. The Sister Europe single (released in February) won them a support spot on Iggy’s UK tour. Their debut album (released in March) was a commercial and critical success. Hurrah’s booker Ruth Polsky heard about them and invited them to play at the club.

Sara Salir (Hurrah DJ): When the Psychedelic Furs came, everyone was really anxious to see them. And at Hurrah there was no VIP lounge and the DJ booth was the VIP lounge. The DJ booth was really, really small, so it was me and David Byrne, David Bowie, Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall. But of course I was so nervous and insecure. David Bowie was looking through the records and I practically slapped his hands – I might have slapped his hands – and said, “Nobody touches my records.” [372][The VJ Diaries (Merrill Aldighieri, 2012)]

Bowie chats with Richard Butler after the Furs' set

Hurrah pinback badge

Saturday September 27

Scary Monsters enters the UK chart, staying for 32 weeks.

 

October 1980

Thursday October 2

Scary Monsters, The Elephant Man press call
RCA, 6th Ave, New York

Barbara De Witt organised a media blitz to eclipse the publicity for David Lynch’s new film The Elephant Man. Crews from RAI Uno, Musik Szene, 13 Heures, De De Music Now Young Oh! Oh! and Apropos Music had 15 minutes of interview time and given a choice of different coloured backdrops.

The last interviews – Tim Rice (BBC) and Gordon Burn (Sunday Times Magazine) – were conducted after lunch at the Carlyle Hotel.

Tim Rice: Are you getting people saying, ‘I enjoyed your performance but I’ve never heard of you before’?

Bowie: That element has crept into it, yes. There have been some regular theatregoers who’ve come … well, they had heard of me, but in some sort of perverse fashion or some kind of really corrupted idea of what I was about, and I suppose they’ve got a different impression of me now.

Rice: Would you like to go back on stage in due course?

Bowie: Not particularly. I’ve learned an awful lot just in the few weeks that I’ve been doing this. I hope I can explore the part even further. If I don’t then I’ll be wasting a lot of time. I would like to be more adventurous with the part. I’ve been sticking very tightly to the way I first wanted to interpret the thing. Whilst all this palaver has gone on about press and opening nights and whatever, now things are relaxing more, I would like to stretch out into it more. There are certain avenues that I would like to follow that I haven’t had the courage to do so, yet. But now I will probably take advantage.

Friday Night Saturday Morning (BBC) broadcast October 10
'Bowie Holds Court' (Sunday Times Magazine) published November 30

Television: 20/20 (ABC)
Arts correspondent: Tom Hoving
Producer: Donovan Moore

The US news program filmed Bowie rehearsing Ashes To Ashes for the Carson appearance and painting in his Chelsea loft. Tom Hoving interviewed Bowie in a Soho art gallery in Soho, surrounded by some of Bowie’s paintings he had shipped over from Germany.

The special included clips from the Ziggy Stardust film, The Man Who Fell To Earth, The Elephant Man, Ashes To Ashes, the Peter And The Wolf narration and Heroes from Bing Crosby. Interviewees included Allan Jones, Charles Shaar Murray and Cherry Vanilla.

Broadcast November 13 (ABC)

Friday October 3

David Lynch’s The Elephant Man opens at New York’s Coronet Theatre.

Friday October 10

Friday Night Saturday Morning broadcast (BBC2)

Wednesday October 22

13 Heures - Special David Bowie broadcast (Télévision Française 1)

A 15-minute special presented by Yves Mourousi, based around Patrice Drevet's interview filmed at RCA Studios; included clips from the 1978 Dallas concert, The Elephant Man and the Boys Keep Swinging, DJ and Ashes To Ashes videos.

Thursday October 23

Countdown (ABC Australia)
Interviewed by Ian Meldrum

Meldrum caught up with Bowie having dinner in a Japanese restaurant near the Booth Theatre. Towards the end of the interview Bowie mischievously grabbed Meldrum's interview notes and pretended to tear them up.

Meldrum presented Bowie with a platinum record for Scary Monsters, which had sold 250,000 copies in its first three weeks of release in Australia and topped the chart for five weeks.

Broadcast November 16

Friday October 24

Fashion 3:23 / Scream Like A Baby 3:33
7 inch single released in UK
picture sleeve (RCA BOW 7)

Fashion 4:45 / Scream Like A Baby 3:33
12 inch single released in UK
picture sleeve (RCA BOW T7)

Chart peak 5

Runout groove etchings: “So there” “So there”

Sleeve by Edward Bell

It's No Game (Part 1) 4:16 Fashion 4:48
single released in Japan (RCA RPS-10)

Monday October 27 - Wednesday October 29

Fashion video shoot
Hurrah and various Manhattan locations
Director: David Mallet

Merrill Aldighieri, Hurrah video jockey (2009): David Bowie was a friend of the club owner, Robert Boykin, which was how he came to choose Hurrah for a location. The shoot was in the afternoon while the club was closed to the public. We see the club draped in a khaki grey canvas fabric, which must have been rented because normally the decor was black. [378][artclips.free.fr/David-Bowie-Fashion.htm]

The band was a variation of the Tonight Show lineup – Carlos Alomar and GE Smith (guitars), John Kumnick (bass), and Steve Love (drums) who was actually a guitarist. Perhaps that explains why he shakes head in puzzlement as he kicks off the song after the intro.

The clip included May Pang's ‘beep beep’ to camera and a Marcel Marceau-like street mime – in white face and striped top and suspenders. This actor (and soon to be MTV host) Alan Hunter got to see firsthand how this new video medium worked.

Alan Hunter, (2011): Great gig – three days, three square meals and $50 per day and I got to meet the Thin White Duke. Only three months later, I got the MTV gig… how prophetic. [408][liketotally80s.com – Alan Hunter (8 June 2011)]

Fashion and Ashes To Ashes voted best music videos of 1980 (Record Mirror)
Released on The Video Collection (PMI 1993) and Best Of Bowie (EMI 2002)

November 1980

Saturday November 8

Fashion entered the UK chart at No.8 and stayed for 12 weeks.

Monday November 10

Fashion 3:23 / Scream Like A Baby 3:33
7 inch single released in US
picture sleeve
(RCA PB-12134)

Fashion 4:45 / Scream Like A Baby 3:33
12 inch single released in US
(RCA PD-12145)

Thursday November 13

'Scary Monster on Broadway' by Kurt Loder published in Rolling Stone

20/20 television special broadcast in US (ABC)

Sunday November 16

Ian Meldrum’s interview with Bowie broadcast on Countdown in Australia (ABC)
The segment included clips from The Elephant Man and the Ashes To Ashes and Fashion videos.

Tuesday November 25

'Bowie's Achievement on the Legitimate Stage' by Patricia Barnes published in The London Times

Interviewed in the same Japanese restaurant as the Countdown interview, Bowie Barnes impressed her when he addressed the waiters in fluent Japanese.

Barnes: After several weeks in New York as an actor, is it now possible to walk down the street without being set upon by innumerable fans?

Bowie: Oh yes, I have worked out a very coherent New York lifestyle and there are two ways of walking down the street – I really buy that one. You can walk down the street wanting to be recognised and you can walk down the street not wanting to be recognised. This is especially true of New York and to a certain extent, most of America. The most you get is, “Hi Dave, how's it going?” It's very neighbourly. They don't get as excited at meeting you as they do in London, which is still a bit star conscious. Here you see Al Pacino walking around or Joel Grey jogging. It's quite easy to do that, it's great. [053][Barnes, Patricia. Bowie's Achievement on the Legitimate Stage (The London Times, 25 November 1980)]

Wednesday November 26

Following Bowie’s popularity surge in America, United Artists announced its intention to resurrect Just A Gigolo, despite it being panned two years before. Since then, David Hemmings had re-edited and shortened the film, to test in Atlanta on December 19, for a potential New York opening in January.

Sunday November 30

'Bowie Holds Court' published in Sunday Times Magazine

December 1980

Friday December 5

Christiane F. film shoot
Beacon Theatre, New York
Writer-Director: Herman Weigel

Bowie had agreed to appear in the film on the condition his scene would be filmed in New York. Simulating a 1976 Berlin concert, Bowie and the band mimed to Station To Station (an edit of the 1978 Stage version).

The band comprised Carlos Alomar and GE Smith (guitars), John Kumnick (bass), Gordon Grody (keyboards) and Steve Love (drums).

Natja Brunckhorst (left) as Christiane Felscherinow

Friday December 5

Radio One announcer Andy Peebles and his producer Paul Williams arrived in New York, having secured an interview with Bowie and tickets for The Elephant Man, which they attended that night.

Saturday December 6

Andy Peebles interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono at the Hit Factory, where they were recording the follow up to Double Fantasy. They discussed Lennon’s friendship with Bowie and The Elephant Man.

Lennon: Amazing guy, isn’t he? I must say I admire him for his vast repertoire of talent the guy has, you know. I was never around when the Ziggy Stardust thing came, because I’d already left England while all that was going on, so I never really knew what he was. And meeting him doesn’t give you much more of a clue, you know, because you don’t know which one you’re talking to. But... and, you know, we all have our little personality traits, so between him and me I don’t know what was going down but we seemed to have some kind of communication together, and I think he’s great. The fact that he could just walk into that and do that. I could never do that. [031][Peebles, Andy. The Lennon Tapes - John Lennon And Yoko Ono In Conversation With Andy Peebles, 6 December 1980 (BBC, 1981)]

Sunday December 7

Andy Peebles interviewed Bowie before his matinee performance at the Booth Theatre.

Peebles: Could I get your views on [David Lynch’s Elephant Man] film and how you felt John Hurt’s performance was?

Bowie: Unfortunately, I can’t give them to you because I’ve not seen it and I probably won’t see it until I finish my run at the moment on Broadway. I like John Hurt very much indeed; I think I would not want to see it, mainly because I wouldn’t want to be influenced by anything he’s doing. And I also like David Lynch’s films very much indeed; I like his expressionist thing, very cult film.

Peebles: What about the diversification of interests? Have you found that easy to control? I mean, the fact that you were involved in a stage production here and yet you still have the inevitable pressure of keeping up the output of music. How do you manage to mix the two, or indeed how do you at all?

Bowie: I think so, in terms of it, I don’t have managers, I just have a couple of people who work with me. It’s much more on a real basis. I don’t feel like an organisation or something like that. Some of my contemporaries have got into that position. It’s an unhappy one to be in. I’m not saying things are perfect but it feels a lot more real. Yeah, I think there’s not that much happening that I can’t really look after. And the play’s in the evenings, I do my writing in the day and I can paint when I come from the theatre. So it’s all fairly logical.

Peebles: You’re here on a regular basis now… you’re not in Britain as much as you were.

Bowie: Firstly, America isn’t a place that I come to very often; I’m not that fond of this place either!

Peebles: Oh really? I hope they’re not listening next door!

Bowie: No, no, it’s OK… it’s OK… they know that as well. They have to live here. I don’t mind working here, again, but it’s a great stimuli as a place to work but again, as a living place, I don’t know. I’m not at all sure about habitat and all that anyway. Never have been.

Peebles: Naturally nomadic?

Bowie: Mm.

Peebles: What do you see yourself doing stage-wise in the future – is there anything in the pipeline?

Bowie: Probably … coming back to Europe at some point to do the minimal tour situation. I would do maybe one south of England thing, and one north of England thing. And do that from country to country over a two-week period, and do the same thing in America. As a commitment that I would still perform but under my own regulations about how I’m going to perform, in a restricted kind of area. [336][David Bowie interview (Andy Peebles, BBC Radio 1, December 1980)]

Broadcast Radio One, January 5, 1981

Musik Szene broadcast in Germany (WDR/HR)

The program included the October interview (dubbed German translation), a clip from The Elephant Man, Ziggy Stardust from the Convention Centre in Dallas, Ashes To Ashes video, Bowie’s paintings and excerpts from Heroes and Sense Of Doubt videos.

Monday December 8

John Lennon’s day began with a photo shoot with Annie Liebovitz for Rolling Stone. After the photo shoot, Lennon gave his last interview to San Francisco DJ Dave Sholin for the RKO Radio Network. Lennon told Sholin, “I always consider my work one piece, whether it be with Beatles, David Bowie, Elton John, Yoko Ono and I consider that my work won’t be finished until I’m dead and buried and I hope that’s a long, long time.”

Lennon and Ono spent the evening finishing Walking on Thin Ice at the Hit Factory, before returning home just before 11pm. Outside the Dakota building Lennon was shot dead by Mark Chapman, six hours after Lennon had autographed his copy of Double Fantasy.

May Pang was having dinner at a girlfriend’s house when she heard the news. She fled to her apartment where the phone kept ringing with everyone asking her for information. Thinking about the time she’d recently spent with Bowie talking about Lennon and his return to recording, she got back on the phone and called Bowie.

Coco answered as Bowie was out on a date. “Are you alone?” she asked Pang, “Get here immediately!”

Shortly after she arrived to the loft, Bowie returned, deeply distraught, numb and incredulous, as they watched the news reports on television, consoling each other as the crowds gathered outside the Dakota. [029][Pang, May. Loving John (Warner Books, 1983)]

Tuesday December 9

Bowie was horrified to discover that Mark Chapman had been to one of the performances at the Booth and had photographed him outside the theatre. Chapman had later bragged that he could have killed either of them; police searched his hotel room and found a Booth Theatre program with Bowie’s name circled in black.

Bowie (2010): I was second on his list. Chapman had a front-row ticket to The Elephant Man the next night. John and Yoko were supposed to sit front-row for that show, too. So the night after John was killed there were three empty seats in the front row. I can’t tell you how difficult that was to go on. I almost didn’t make it through the performance. [407][inthestudio.net – In The Studio With Redbeard (30 August 2010)]

Jack Hofsiss, director (1985): We asked David if he wanted to miss performances but he insisted not, because it was very important for all aspects of the experience to keep playing the role and to appear. It must have been very frightening for him. [019][Juby, Kerry. In Other Words: David Bowie (Omnibus Press, 1986)]

Both Lennon and Bowie had thought they had succeeded in leading relatively normal lives in New York. Two weeks earlier, Lennon had told Andy Peebles: “I can go out this door right now and go in a restaurant. Do you want to know how great that is?”

Bowie scrapped plans for a Scary Monsters tour and told the producers of The Elephant Man that he would leave the play following the final performance of the season on January 3.

Monday December 15

The Best Of Bowie

compilation album released internationally (except US)
(K-Tel NE 1111, CE 2111)
UK chart peak 2

Side one
Space Oddity 5:07
Life On Mars? (K-Tel edit) 3:34
Starman 4:07
Rock 'N' Roll Suicide 2:56
John, I'm Only Dancing (sax version) 2:37
The Jean Genie 4:03
Breaking Glass (live version) (Bowie-Davis-Murray) 3:27
Sorrow (Feldman-Goldstein-Gottehrer) 2:51

Side two
Diamond Dogs (K-Tel edit) 4:36
Young Americans 5:05
Fame (edit) (Bowie-Lennon-Alomar) 3:25
Golden Years (edit) 3:20
TVC 15 (edit) 3:28
Sound And Vision 3:00
Heroes (edit) (Bowie-Eno) 3:26
Boys Keep Swinging (Bowie-Eno) 3:15

16 singles were edited to fit on one record and ordered chronologically except for Breaking Glass. For the completists, the (then) rare sax version of John, I’m Only Dancing and several unique edits. The Best Of Bowie was a hit everywhere it was released, reaching number 2 in UK, held off the top spot by Lennon’s Double Fantasy.

EPILOGUE 1981-1982

Bowie had become increasingly disenchanted with RCA, particularly in America. Having delivered Scary Monsters, the last album he owed them, he decided to wait out both the RCA and Tony Defries contracts, which would expire at the end of 1982.

He left New York and settled back in Switzerland, recording very little (Under Pressure with Queen and Cat People (Putting Out Fire) with Giorgio Moroder), concentrating instead on his acting career. In August 1981 he played the lead in Baal for BBC TV and spent much of 1982 filming Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence and The Hunger.

With no new material from Bowie, apart from the 1982 Baal EP, Defries encouraged RCA to exploit Bowie’s back catalogue with LP reissues, repackages (Fashions, Portrait Of A Star), compilations (Christiane F. soundtrack, Changes Two Bowie) to plunder the vaults (Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy, Rare) before the expiry of their contracts with Bowie.

Bowie’s two-year withdrawal increased demand for his records and ensured that the radio-friendly Let’s Dance, the first album under his lucrative EMI contract of January 1983, brought him worldwide mainstream success.

Bowie (2013): I allowed myself to be pushed into the commercial arena because I’d never been there, and it was sort of “Ooh, what’s it like?”. But there it was and I jumped in with my future in my hands. [359][Five Years In The Making Of An Icon (BBC2, May 2013)]

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 21, 2020