BOWIE GOLDEN YEARS

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1980

JANUARY

1 New Year's celebrations spent with Mick Jagger, Jerry Hall and friends at Jagger's manager's apartment near Central Park in New York.

Uncut version of The Man Who Fell to Earth given general release in the US, previous release having twenty minutes censored from the UK version.

Bowie went to see Iggy's last show at the Irving Plaza. Also there were Tom Verlaine and most of the Patti Smith Group. After the show, Bowie and Iggy went to see James Chance and The Contortions who were playing a benefit show at Hurrahs with Debbie Harry and Chris Stein.

Melody Maker special on the 80s published and included a short message from Bowie about his thoughts on the new decade.

David Bowie:

All clear 1980

Personal - eyes only

Tragedy converted into comedy

Indifference

Complete lack of task

To be 67 by 1990

To win a revolution by ignoring everything else out of existence

To own personal copy of Eraserhead.

5 Saturday Night Live broadcast in New York including three songs from Bowie:

The Man Who Sold the World: Bowie was encased in a solid mould body, carried up to the microphone, with only his arms and head being mobile.

TVC 15: performed in a dress with a toy poodle at his feet with a television screen in its mouth.

Boys Keep Swinging: Bowie adopted a puppet's body using a split-screen technique.

His backing band for the show included Blondie's Jimmy Destri and German singer/ performer Klaus Nomi.

1980 All Clear promo LP issued (DJL13345) featuring ten tracks - one from each album.

FEBRUARY

8 Bowie and Angie's divorce becomes final, Bowie gaining custody of Joe (as Joey had wanted to become known). Angie received a settlement of 130,000.

Bowie was approached by director, Jack Hofsiss with the offer of the part of John Merrick, the leading role in the touring version of The Elephant Man.

Scary Monsters sessions

Bowie returns to New York to start work on Scary Monsters album at New York's Power Station. After two and a half weeks only It's No Game No.2 was entirely complete. The rest of the tracks were left as instrumental and shelved until Bowie had a chance to revisit them with fresh ideas for lyrics. Also recorded during the sessions was Crystal Japan, intended to close the album before the It's No Game No.2 reprise took its place. It was released a single in Japan in March.

The album was completed in April in London at Visconti's Good Earth Studios. The LP marked the return to a more conventional style of writing as Tony Visconti had witnessed. 'He actually sat down and wrote the songs for a change, for David, this is good form.'

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The 20-20 Show, a US news magazine program, film a short special about Bowie and include footage of Scary Monsters recording sessions. The show was broadcast on US TV in 1981.

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15 Alabama Song / Space Oddity single released. Space Oddity anticipated Ashes to Ashes, revisiting Major Tom in a stark new arrangement. Both songs recorded at Visconti's Good Earth Studios, London. (Alabama Song July 1978, Space Oddity September 1979). The initial release of the single by RCA came with a foldout colour poster. Alabama Song written by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill for The Threepenny Opera. Both tracks reissued on Ryko Scary Monsters.

16 Bowie tells fans at Hurrah nightclub in New York about the new album and that he had just sold his ticket for the Winter Olympics. He wasn't able to go because of recording commitments.

MARCH

APRIL

Having completed the main part of the recording for Scary Monsters, Bowie went to Japan to make two television commercials for Crystal Jun Rock, a Saki drink exclusive to Japan marketed by the Takar Shuzo Co. Ltd. Filming, which lasted for two weeks, was centred in a temple in Kyoto. The only lines Bowie uttered during the commercial were, 'Crystal Jun Rock in Japan'. He made only one short interview just before he left:

Q. Why did you agree to do the commercial?

DB: There are 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 [spoken in Japanese]. And the third, I think it's very effective that my music is on television twenty times a day. I think my music isn't for radio.

Q. So did you write the music for the commercial?

DB: Yes, this is the important point and the reason I agreed to do the commercial. It's a very slow one. I didn't use bass or drums so it's very different from anything I have done before. It will be included in my next album. I don't drink while I work so I didn't drink while I wrote this one, of course.

Crystal Japan / Alabama Song single released in Japan, the A-side taken from Bowie's television advert. Produced by Bowie and Tony Visconti (RCA).

Crystal Japan reissued on Ryko release of Scary Monsters and All Saints - Collected Instrumentals 1977-1999.

27 Iggy Pop appears at the Metropol, Nollendorf, Berlin. During the set Iggy dedicated China Girl to Bowie who was in the audience saying, 'Hi Dave, wherever you are.' Bowie later joined Iggy on stage for a couple of numbers on keyboards and then watched the rest of the show from the side of the stage.

After the performance, Bowie joined Iggy at the Exile restaurant in Kreuzberg, a favourite place of theirs since 1977. Eventually, the large party of diners broke up and Bowie and Iggy played billiards.

MAY

JUNE

JULY

Final production of Scary Monsters in London.

Ashes to Ashes video shot in Hastings. Production starting at 6am, featuring Steve Strange and friends from Blitz club.

Bowie's London stay was low key with no interviews conducted.

In London, Bowie visited the museum dedicated to Joseph Merrick (his real name) at the London Hospital to absorb Merrick's character for the part.

Also buys records by The Human League, Q-Tips, The Go-Go's, Throbbing Gristle and Elvis Costello at Virgin Megastore.

Bowie went with Robert Fripp and Richard Thompson to to see New Jersey group The Roches at the Venue.

Also sees Iggy's Music Machine show, supported by Hazel O'Connor.

Ashes to Ashes / It's No Game single released in the US (RCA).

Having seen the play a couple of times and studied the script for a few months, rehearsals for the role began in early July, the part being notoriously difficult because of Merrick's physical disabilities needing to be expressed by the actor. Rehearsals went well and Bowie's training in mime proved useful.

29 The Elephant Man opens at the Denver Centre of Performing Arts for a week's run with Bowie in the role of John Merrick.

Bowie went to San Francisco to see a performance of The Elephant Man with Phillip Anglim in the role he was soon to take over.

AUGUST

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1 Ashes to Ashes / Move On single released. (RCA).

Released in three different covers, the first 100,000 copies containing one of a series of four sheets of nine stamps, designed by Bowie.

The idea came from American mail-art specialist, Jerry Dreva, once of the Bon Bons Hollywood glam-art group. Bowie acknowledged this by marking Bon Bon on each one of the stamps on the covers.

Helped by packaging and promotion, Ashes to Ashes went gold soon after release and gave Bowie his second UK No. 1. The video of Ashes to Ashes directed by Bowie and David Mallet also achieved first place at the MIDEM festival later in the year.

The Continuing Story of Major Tom 12-inch promo single issued by RCA in US:

Space Oddity (original version segued into Ashes to Ashes - edited version) / Ashes to Ashes (LP version)

     

David Bowie - RCA Radio Series promo LP issued in the US (RCA DJLI-3829A)

19 Ashes to Ashes reaches No. 1. Bowie telephoned in Chicago by BBC Radio One's Newsbeat reporter, Andrew Turner.

AT: How do you feel - No. 1 after five years?

DB: I see that as very exciting, what can I say? I'm very surprised. God bless the English public is what I say!

AT: You seem at the moment to have two successful careers. Which is the most important?

DB: Um, they're both intoxicating. They're both thoroughly enjoyable. I find completely different elements in both of them. It's hard to say which one I prefer, in fact.

3 The Elephant Man closes in Denver.

5 The Elephant Man opens at the Blackstone Theatre, Chicago for three weeks.

During the Chicago run, Bowie sees a Roy Orbison concert. Orbison later attends the play.

31 The Elephant Man closes in Chicago.

SEPTEMBER

1 Rehearsals for the Broadway run of The Elephant Man with a new cast.

3 Good Morning America ABC TV interview with Bowie broadcast live at 7.30am, discussing the play and the new LP, Scary Monsters.

Bowie featured on the show singing Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes. Introducing him, Carson quipped "after this, he'd better be good!"

Interviewed pre-show by Robert Hilburn.

5 The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson appearance broadcast on NBC.

       

6 New York Times interview by Robert Hilburn published

12 Scary Monsters album released

Angie Bowie's account of life with Bowie, Free Spirit is serialised in The Sun for a week.

13 The Future Isn't What It Used To Be - an interview conducted with Bowie during the Chicago run of The Elephant Man in August by Angus Mackinnon is published in the NME.

23 The Elephant Man opens on Broadway at the Booth Theatre to excellent notices.

27 Yves Mourousi radio interview with Bowie broadcast on French radio.

OCTOBER

Interview with Bowie's Elephant Man co-star, Patricia Elliot run, in the New York press, revealing her reaction to playing with Bowie.

'He's real dynamite. Heavens, and so good in the role. I missed David's rock music trip though I have recently bought Scary Monsters and what an album. I thought, I'm in the show with a household name.'

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10 Friday Night - Saturday Morning BBC 2 TV show broadcast featuring an interview with Bowie recorded in New York's Plaza Hotel by Tim Rice. It included extracts from the play onstage at the Booth Theatre.

23 Interviewed in a New York Japanese restaurant by Ian Meldrum for Countdown on Australian TV. Towards the end of the interview Bowie playfully takes away Meldrum's interview notes.

IM: In 1969 I interviewed you at the time of Space Oddity. No one would have envisaged at that stage what David Bowie was going to do in the seventies. Did you know at that stage?

DB: Yes, I had a good idea because at that particular time I'd already been doing mixed-media events using poetry and mime, visual shows and whatever along with rock music. That was an attempt at just being a straightforward singer/songwriter at the time.

Later in the interview Meldrum handed Bowie a platinum record of Scary Monsters which had sold 250,000 copies in about three weeks of its release in Australia and was No. 1 for five weeks.

     

24 Fashion / Scream Like a Baby single released by RCA. Initial release in a picture sleeve and also 12-inch (highest chart position No. 5). Sleeve design by Edward Bell.

Bowie approached by writer/director Herman Weigel around this time with a request to appear in Christiane F, under production in Berlin. Bowie was impressed and agreed to appear briefly.

In New York's Hurrah club, a set was made up to represent a Berlin performance from the 1978 tour, with Bowie miming to playback of the Stage LP version of Station to Station. (The concert scene in the finished production was a composite of this footage and a Berlin AC/DC concert.)

Once the shoot was over, Bowie made the most of the set and his group being already there to shoot the Fashion video, again co-directing with David Mallet.

   

NOVEMBER

DECEMBER

13 Scary Monster On Broadway feature by Kurt Loder published in Rolling Stone.

5 Bowie interviewed for Radio One by Andy Peebles, the main topic of conversation being the recording of Scary Monsters and Bowie's work with John Lennon. (Bowie's interview broadcast 5 January 1981.)

25 The London Times publish an interview with Bowie and general feature on Bowie's Broadway run entitled Bowie's Achievement on the Legitimate Stage by Patricia Barnes.

The interview was conducted near the Booth Theatre, at the same Japanese restaurant as the Countdown interview. Bowie astounded the reporter by deftly addressing the waiters in fluent Japanese.

PB: 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?

DB: 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.

30 The Sunday Times magazine features an interview with Bowie entitled Bowie Holds Court.

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7 Muzikzene broadcast on German TV (RB), including a feature on Bowie in The Elephant Man.

8 John Lennon murdered in New York.

It is said that Mark Chapman attended one of the Broadway shows as a program was later found among his belongings and that Bowie was on his hitlist. When told of this Bowie decided to make himself less accessible in the future, ironic since his comments to Patricia Barnes in the November interview.

15 The Best of Bowie compilation album released by K-Tel.

The sixteen tracks included the original single edits of the hits in order of their release, with the exception of the live Breaking Glass.

The record was the first of Bowie's LPs to be advertised on TV since David Live. The LP reached No. 2 in the album charts, thwarted by Double Fantasy by John Lennon.

 
 
 
 

1974  1975  1976  1977  1978  1979  1980 

DAVID LIVE  |  YOUNG AMERICANS  |  STATION TO STATION  |  LOW  |  HEROES  |  LODGER  |  SCARY MONSTERS

CRACKED ACTOR  |  THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH  |  JUST A GIGOLO  |  THE ELEPHANT MAN

ARTICLES  |  TV APPEARANCES