BOWIE GOLDEN YEARS

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

 SOUND  •  VISION  •  STAGE  •  FEATURES  •  PRESS ARCHIVE

PROLOGUE

 

In 1964 David Jones was one of the many London boys scrounging for gigs, breaks, the right clothes – he scavenged those from Carnaby Street discard bins with Marc Feld (later Bolan).

He fronted a few bands, thinking he could ‘fake it’ in rock ’n’ roll. By 1967 he was David Bowie with a manager (Ken Pitt) and a recording contract. His debut album David Bowie (released the same day as Sgt Pepper) sank without trace and he spent 1968 immersed in Buddhism and mime with Lindsay Kemp and pondering his next move.

In December 1966 Pitt had met with Andy Warhol and Lou Reed at the Factory in New York and was given an acetate advance copy of The Velvet Underground & Nico, which he gave to Bowie on his return.

The Velvets opened Bowie’s eyes to the subversion of rock orthodoxy. Like Reed, Bowie regarded tribalism, movements and fads with suspicion (Join Our Gang, The London Boys and Cygnet Committee).

Bowie had been experimenting with characters and narratives to write from several points of view. Warhol and Kemp showed how the artist could disappear behind a wall of music, light, images and make-up.

Mary Angela ‘Angie’ Barnett, a fast-talking, intelligent, sophisticated and ambitious ex-pat American, was studying at Kingston Polytechnic when she met Bowie in April 1969 at The Speakeasy. Angela was no stranger to controversy and as their relationship began, she schooled Bowie in the art of causing a commotion.

With a new record deal, his fortunes turned around in July 1969 with Space Oddity, released with perfect timing nine days before the Apollo XI moon landing, followed by his eclectic second eponymous album in November. By then, Space Oddity had reached number five in the UK charts.

In December Angela found them a flat in Haddon Hall, a huge rambling mansion in Beckenham. In the next few years, this would become their salon – a Warhol Factory-like crucible for the creation of ‘David Bowie’.

 

Angela at Haddon Hall, 1970 photograph © Tony Visconti

 

JANUARY 1970

Sunday January 4

Beckenham Arts Lab, The Three Tuns, Beckenham

Mary Finnegan

Mary Finnegan  photograph © Ray Stevenson

In 1969 Bowie and landlady (and lover at the time) Mary Finnegan had founded Beckenham Arts Lab, intended to be a collective of local artists working in various media.

Bowie at the Beckenham Arts Lab, June 1969  photograph © Ray Stevenson

Tony Visconti (1976): It never happened because everyone was in awe of David. It turned out as David’s appreciation society. All the local Beckenham kids would come to the Arts Lab every week just to see David’s set and talk to him and be close to him after the set was over, because he’d just had that hit record. But as soon as he saw that, it took him about four months to realise that it was a complete bust and he gave it all up.

Tony Visconti

After Bowie's self-titled debut (on Deram, 1967) sank without trace, his publisher David Platz had introduced him to Tony Visconti, an American producer working in London. Visconti subsequently produced several Bowie recordings including the 1969 David Bowie album (excepting the Space Oddity single, which was Gus Dudgeon).

 

Tony Visconti at Haddon Hall, 1970

Tony Visconti at Haddon Hall, 1970

Thursday January 8
Tuesday January 13
Thursday January 15

The Prettiest Star, London Bye Ta-Ta single
Trident Studios, 17 St. Anne’s Court, Soho, London
Producer: Tony Visconti

The Prettiest Star

David Bowie (vocals, guitar)
Marc Bolan (lead guitar)
Delisle Harper (bass)
Godfrey McLean (drums)

Bowie had recently written The Prettiest Star for Angela, who was spending Christmas 1969 with her parents in Cyprus. She loved the demo he played her over the phone so Bowie decided to record it as the next single.

Visconti brought in Delisle Harper, Godfrey McLean and Marc Bolan to play lead guitar on The Prettiest Star.

Bowie (1976): Marc was just going through the stumbling with learning to play lead guitar and I liked some of the mistakes he was making and asked him if he’d like to come along and play lead guitar on it … and he produced a beautiful solo.

June and Marc Bolan in Tony Visconti's flat photograph © Tony Visconti

 

London Bye Ta-Ta

David Bowie (vocals, guitar)
Marc Bolan (lead guitar)
Tony Visconti (bass)
Godfrey McLean (drums and congas)
Rick Wakeman (piano)
Lesley Duncan, Sue and Sunny (backing vocals)

Bowie had first recorded London Bye Ta-Ta with Tony Visconti in March 1968 for Decca and submitted it and In The Heat Of The Morning as a proposed single. Decca rejected both songs so it remained unreleased. As the master tape disappeared, it would be re-recorded as the B-side for The Prettiest Star.

Released:
Sound + Vision (Rykodisc 1989)
David Bowie reissue (EMI 2009)
David Bowie reissue (Deram 2010)

The Speakeasy, London

David Bowie (guitar, vocals)
Tony Visconti (bass)
Tim Renwick (guitar)
John Cambridge (drums)

Tim Hughes was at the club, reporting on Bowie for Jeremy magazine:

This is the Speakeasy, the club for Top Pop People. David is doing the late night spot. Perched precariously on two boxes – a luminous elfin face surrounded by an aureole of blonde curls – he looks very vulnerable. He works hard. Numbers from the LP… Jacques Brel, some bawdy poems by Mason Williams, Buzz The Fuzz. Throughout the act there is a smattering of blasé applause. The reaction is disturbingly muted. It’s all over and David joins us at the bar. The elfin face looks puzzled. “I can’t believe it. The manager says I got a good reception. If that’s what happens when they like you – what happens when they hate you?”

Friday January 9

Tim Hughes and Trevor Richardson visited Haddon Hall with photographer Johnnie Clamp for Jeremy magazine (published in March).

The house is a monstrous folly of a place in deepest Beckenham. Light on. Door open. No sign of David. He’s just popped down to the shops for paraffin and meat for the night’s stew.

David takes us on a conducted tour of his mansion – ramshackle, yet strangely beautiful in its decay. Sweeping staircases, stained-glass windows, moulded ceilings, carved and tiled fireplaces. Liberty print blocks, art deco lamps, William Morris screens. There is an almost child-like excitement about the way he pounces on each new treasure. It’s infectious.

“We have only been here for a month, and we’ve hardly started yet. There is so much to do and it’s the wrong time of the year.” We wonder if he doesn’t get professional help. “No, it’s my first real place and I want to do it by myself.”

Sunday January 11

Beckenham Arts Lab

Wednesday January 14

Old Tiger’s Head, Lewisham

Sunday January 18

Beckenham Arts Lab

Thursday January 22

Beckenham Arts Lab

Thursday January 29

Television: Cairngorm Ski Night
Grampian Television, Aberdeen
Presenter: Jimmy Spankie

London Bye Ta-Ta

Broadcast February 27 (Grampian Television)

The only known picture of Bowie's performance on Cairngorm Ski Night

Friday January 30

Johnston Halls, Aberdeen University

Tony Visconti (bass)
Tex Johnson (congas)

Saturday January 31

Stage: The Looking Glass Murders
Gateway Theatre, Edinburgh

In 1968 Bowie had worked with Lindsay Kemp on a production of Pierrot In Turquoise. Kemp was working on a new adaptation in Edinburgh and, hearing that Bowie was headed his way, had contacted Ken Pitt to ask if Bowie would be available. For the production Bowie reprised the role of Cloud and wrote two new tracks, Harlequin and Columbine as well as a new lyric for London Bye Ta-Ta, which became Threepenny Pierrot. These were recorded as a backing track along with Bowie’s When I Live My Dream. Kemp’s pianist Michael Garrett played organ.

Bowie (1979): Lindsay introduced me to things like Cocteau and the Theatre of the Absurd and Antonin Artaud and the whole idea of restructuring and going against what people generally expect – sometimes for the shock value, sometimes as an educational force. He just gave me the idea that you could experiment with the arts and do things and take dangerous risks that you wouldn't do in real life.

 

February 1970

Sunday February 1

Stage: The Looking Glass Murders
Gateway Theatre, Edinburgh

Brian Mahoney filmed the production for the Scottish Television avant-garde arts series Another World, renamed Gateway after the theatre.

Bowie and Lindsay Kemp

Broadcast: July 8 on Gateway (Scottish TV)
Released: Love You Till Tuesday DVD (Universal 2004)

Tuesday February 3

Marquee Club, 90 Wardour Street, Soho, London

David Bowie (vocals, guitar)
Tim Renwick (guitar)
Tony Visconti (bass)
John Cambridge (drums)

John Cambridge had been raving about Mick Ronson, who he’d played with in The Rats in Hull. Bowie asked Cambridge to bring him to London. Cambridge found Ronson and persuaded him to come down to check out Bowie’s act. At the Marquee Cambridge introduced them, and they all went back to Haddon Hall.

Mick Ronson (1984): I picked up a guitar and jammed with him, Bowie said, "Hey, do you wanna come down to this radio show (John Peel's Sunday Show) and play with me?"

Bowie (1995): When I first heard him play, I thought ‘Ooh, that’s my Jeff Beck. He is fantastic, this kid is great’ and so I sort of hoodwinked him into working with me.

Wednesday February 4

There was no time to rehearse for the radio show as Bowie had an interview with Penny Valentine. She asked Bowie about his recent success and the upcoming award for Brightest Hope at the upcoming Disc Awards.

I suppose I want success, but not for the reason that people would think. I want to establish myself so that I can fulfil other desires by using success as a springboard and then swiftly disestablish myself . I suppose people think I am an escapist, but I get drunk with the things I want to do – and my own ambitions come before any career as such.

Thursday February 5

The Sunday Show radio session introduced by John Peel
BBC Paris Studio, London

David Bowie (vocals, guitar, keyboards)
Mick Ronson (guitar)
Tony Visconti (bass)
John Cambridge (drums)

Bowie solo acoustic:
Amsterdam (Brel-Shuman) / God Knows I’m Good / Buzz The Fuzz (Biff Rose) / Karma Man

With Visconti and Cambridge:
London Bye Ta-Ta / An Occasional Dream

Full band:
The Width Of A Circle / Janine / Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud / Unwashed And Somewhat Slightly Dazed / Fill Your Heart (Rose-Williams) / Waiting For The Man (Reed) / The Prettiest Star/ Cygnet Committee / Memory Of A Free Festival

The group had a quick morning rehearsal at Haddon Hall for Ronson’s debut with Bowie, then an afternoon soundcheck at the BBC.

Tony Visconti (2006): We were very under-rehearsed which was plain for all to hear.

Mick Ronson (1984): I didn't know anything, none of the material. I just sat and watched his fingers. After that he said, "Well, how about coming along and playing with me all the time?” So I agreed.

Broadcast February 8 (Radio One)
Waiting For The Man was cut as the radio session overran.

Amsterdam, God Knows I’m Good, The Width Of A Circle, Unwashed And Somewhat Slightly Dazed, Cygnet Committee and Memory Of A Free Festival released on Bowie At The Beeb (Virgin 2000). The BBC master tape of this show was missing presumed wiped so Bowie provided a copy from his archive.

Sunday February 8

Beckenham Arts Lab

Thursday February 12

Beckenham Arts Lab

Friday February 13

Disc & Music Echo Poll Awards
Café Royal, London
Presenter: Tony Blackburn

Bowie (1993): I was getting a prize for Brightest New Hope from Disc magazine.
Wasn’t particularly pleased to meet Cliff, I was never a great fan of his.

• Ronson's plans announced in Hull Daily Mail: Ex-Rat gets his chance in big time

Saturday February 14

Bowie, Angela, Visconti and Liz Hartley took a quick trip to Hull to see Ronson, who introduced Bowie to Stuart George. He had been working for The Rats, and would become Bowie’s bodyguard for the next decade.

Monday February 16

Ronson moved into Haddon Hall, sleeping upstairs on the gallery overlooking the entrance hall staircase.

Thursday February 19

Beckenham Arts Lab

Sunday February 22

Implosion, The Round House, Chalk Farm Road, London

David Bowie and Hype (billed as David Bowie) supported Caravan, The Groundhogs and Bachdenkel on the regular Sunday night event, Implosion.

Bowie had told Ken Pitt he wanted to introduce an element of hype into the launch of the new band, so Pitt suggested they name it Hype.

Bowie and Angela had suggested to the band that some sort of stage wear was needed to spice up the act. Angela browsed the Charing Cross Road shops with neighbour and friend Mark Pritchett, devising costumes for the band based on different characters.

Hype at the Round House photographs © Ray Stevenson

Bowie (1989): Bolan was there, and he was open-mouthed that we had the balls to camp it up so much. I think that was the first glam-rock performance. It was all jeans and long hair at that time, and we got booed all the way through the show. People hated it. They absolutely loathed what we were doing. It was great!

Friday February 27

Cairngorm Ski Night broadcast on Grampian Television

Saturday February 28

Basildon Arts Lab, Basildon, Essex

Hype shared top billing with High Tide, which included collaborators from Bowie's past – Tony Hill from Turquoise (1968), and the future – Simon House, who later joined Hawkwind and played violin on Bowie’s 1978 tour.

 

March 1970

Sunday March 1

Beckenham Arts Lab [David Bowie & Hype]

Tuesday March 3

White Bear, Hounslow [David Bowie & Hype]

Thursday March 5

Beckenham Arts Lab [David Bowie & Hype]

Friday March 6

University of Hull West Refectory, Hull [David Bowie & Hype]
Supports: The Round • Phase Two

Another ex-Rat, Benny Marshall joined them on Unwashed And Somewhat Slightly Dazed, reprising his harmonica part on the David Bowie album.

The Prettiest Star 3:11 Conversation Piece 3:05

single released in UK
(Mercury 1135)

The Prettiest Star
Mono version reissued on
Sound + Vision (Rykodisc 1989)
Stereo version reissued on
The Best Of David Bowie 1969/1974
(EMI 1997)
and David Bowie (EMI 2009)

Conversation Piece
Recorded 1969 during the David Bowie sessions
David Bowie (vocals, guitar) Mick Wayne (guitar)
John Lodge (bass) John Cambridge (drums)
Produced by Tony Visconti
Mono version reissued on Space Oddity (Rykodisc 1990)
Stereo version reissued on David Bowie (EMI 2009)

 

 

The World Of David Bowie

compilation album released in UK
(Decca SPA 58)

Side one
Uncle Arthur 2:05
Love You Till Tuesday 3:08
There Is A Happy Land 3:05
Little Bombardier 3:22
Sell Me A Coat 2:57
Silly Boy Blue 3:47
The London Boys 3:19

Side two
Karma Man 3:02
Rubber Band 2:16
Let Me Sleep Beside You 3:23
Come And Buy My Toys 2:07
She's Got Medals 2:23
In The Heat Of The Morning 2:57
When I Live My Dream 3:22

Cover photograph © Ted Bebbington

Ken Pitt and Bowie curated this collection of Bowie’s earlier recordings for Decca, drawing mainly from the 1967 debut album David Bowie (produced by Mike Vernon) with four tracks dropped to make way for The London Boys, a 1966 B-side and three previously unreleased tracks – Let Me Sleep Beside You, Karma Man and In The Heat Of The Morning. Recorded in 1967 and 1968, they were Tony Visconti’s first productions for Bowie.

Reissued in 1973 with a new Ziggy era cover photo, this was the first of many reissues of Bowie's recordings for Decca, PYE and Parlophone.

Saturday March 7

Regent Street Polytechnic, London [David Bowie & Hype]

Gavin Petrie, Disc & Music Echo: David Bowie, in ten-league boots and groovy gear, presented his new backing group line up Hype, at London’s Regent Street Polytechnic on Saturday. He needs an expert on sound balance who should effectively solve the teething problems of the new line up. This show was a disaster. The volume on Mick Ronson’s lead guitar was so high that not only did he block out David’s singing but also completely overpowered John Cambridge’s drums. The volume also cleared the seats in a direct line with his speaker. That magic that makes for greatness is there but suppressed, sometimes even hidden. If my ears ever recover I expect to see David plus Hype in a few months’ time ... shining through.

Wednesday March 11

Atomic Sunrise festival, The Round House, London [David Bowie & Hype]

Angela further developed his stage attire, on this occasion a silver jacket, a metallic belt, sparkly silver tights (seen in the 1969 Love You Till Tuesday film), a satin cape and thigh-length leather boots. The set included covers of Waiting For The Man and Instant Karma.

Stills from the Atomic Sunrise film, screened at The Round House, March 11 & 12, 2013

Thursday March 12

Royal Albert Hall, London

A fundraiser for Mencap with a mixed bill including The Faces. Bowie and Angela tell Pitt of their intention to marry the following week.

Friday March 13

Locarno Ballroom, Sunderland [David Bowie & Hype]

Saturday March 14

University of Surrey, Guildford

Thursday March 19

The Three Tuns, Beckenham

Artist friend Clare Shenstone also played a solo acoustic set. Bowie and Angela spent the afternoon at Kensington Antique Market, choosing Angela’s wedding dress for the following day.

Friday March 20

David and Angela Bowie's marriage ceremony
Bromley Registry Office, Beckenham Lane, Bromley

Peggy Jones attended, along with Liz Hartley, John Cambridge, Roger Fry and artist Clare Shenstone. The press greeted them outside, as Peggy had alerted the local papers. The group repaired to the Swan & Mitre pub across the street, where Bowie told The Bromley Times that there would be no honeymoon. “Unfortunately, I’m far too busy working.”

Saturday March 21
Sunday March 22
Monday March 23

Memory Of A Free Festival recording session
Trident Studios, London

The band also began work on a new song The Supermen, which traced back to 1965 when Bowie was in The Manish Boys, recording their single I Pity The Fool with session guitarist Jimmy Page.

Bowie (1997): He just got a fuzz box and he used that for the solo, he was wildly excited about it and he was quite generous that day and he said, "Look, I've got this riff but I'm not using it for anything so why don’t you learn it and see if you can do anything with it".

The session was marred by John Cambridge’s difficulties with the rhythm. Ronson suggested Bowie replace him with his Hull friend and ex-Rat Mick ‘Woody’ Woodmansey.

Wednesday March 25

Sounds of the 70s: Andy Ferris radio session

Waiting for the Man
The Width of a Circle
The Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud
The Supermen

All songs except The Supermen broadcast April 6
Waiting For The Man released BBC Sessions 1969-1972 Sampler (NMC 1996)
The Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud released Bowie At The Beeb: The Best Of The BBC Radio Sessions 68-72 (Virgin 2000)

Saturday March 28

'Hype and David Bowie's Future' published in Melody Maker

Monday March 30

Croydon Star Hotel, Croydon [David Bowie & Hype]

John Cambridge’s final appearance with Bowie and Hype.

April 1970

Thursday April 2
Friday April 3

Memory Of A Free Festival recording session
Advision Sound Studios

Visconti hired a Moog synthesiser from George Martin’s Air Studios. It was installed by engineer Chris Thomas, who had worked on The Beatles. Ralph Mace saw Ronson having difficulty with the Moog and told him “I can save you a lot of time if you let me do that.”

Saturday April 4

Memory Of A Free Festival mixing session
Trident Studios

Tuesday April 7

Woody Woodmansey left Hull as John Cambridge returned there. Woody met Bowie and Angela at Haddon Hall. Bowie played him all his songs on guitar and his two albums. Woodmansey passed the audition and, like Ronson, threw in his Hull job and moved in.

Ronson, Woodmansey and Visconti then signed a new separate record contract for Hype with Philips. Hype was paid an advance of £4000, which they put toward a new PA system and tyres for the van.

Photographer Pete Sanders took some publicity pictures of Ronson, Woodmansey and Visconti:

Visconti, who had begun soundproofing the basement at Haddon Hall to create an inhouse rehearsal space photographs © Pete Sanders

Tony Visconti (1982): We'd just go into the basement and make a lot of noise, and David would drift down every now and then for 15 minutes and say, "Hey! What's going on?" when we could get him away from Angie, so we had a lot of sketchy songs that we'd written in the basement.

Sunday April 12

Harrogate Theatre, Harrogate

Trevor Bolder came down from Hull on Ronson’s recommendation, to see Bowie perform.

Tuesday April 14
Wednesday April 15

Memory Of A Free Festival session
Advision Sound Studios

Friday April 17

The Man Who Sold The World session
Advision Sound Studios
Producer: Tony Visconti

All The Madmen

Still concerned about Ken Pitt’s management, Bowie met with Olav Wyper, who suggested three lawyers. He chose the first on the list – Tony Defries, who had worked with producer Mickie Most. Defries told Bowie he would get him out of Pitt’s management contract.

Bowie (1976): He said "I’m going to make you a star", haha!

Tuesday April 21
Wednesday April 22

The Man Who Sold The World sessions
Trident Studios

Friday April 24

Bowie and Angela fired Ken Pitt as personal manager by letter.

Saturday April 25
Sunday April 26

The Man Who Sold The World sessions
Trident Studios

Monday April 27

Poco-a-Poco Club, Stockport

Bowie took the stage alone as Woodmansey had injured his finger.

Wednesday April 29

Pitt’s response to Bowie’s letter rejected claims of mismanagement and suggested they discuss ways of ending their professional relationship.

Thursday April 30

The Man Who Sold The World session
Trident Studios

She Shook Me Cold

May 1970

Demos
Haddon Hall, Beckenham

Tired Of My Life

Made as a demo for the album but dropped without being recorded. Bowie later used the melody and some lyrics in the middle eight for It’s No Game in 1980.

released unofficially

Friday May 1

The Man Who Sold The World session
Trident Studios

Running Gun Blues
Saviour Machine

Ralph Mace, who had worked on Memory Of A Free Festival, again played Moog on Saviour Machine.

Upstairs at Trident, Swedish journalist Bosse Hansson interviewed Bowie, telling him “You are going to be the Bob Dylan of the Seventies.” Bowie dismissed the comparison, and later expressed his disappointment with Dylan’s semi-retirement on Song For Bob Dylan.

 

Visconti and Bowie at Trident • Photographs © Rolf Adlercreutz

Tuesday May 5
Wednesday May 6
Thursday May 7

The Man Who Sold The World sessions
Trident Studios

Sunday May 10

Ivor Novello Awards
Talk of the Town, Leicester Square

Space Oddity

Equal winner with Peter Sarstedt, Bowie picked up the award for Most Original Song for Space Oddity, which he performed solo with guitar, accompanied by an orchestra conducted by Les Reed.

Telecast live to Australia, US and Europe; broadcast on BBC Radio One

Tuesday May 12
Wednesday May 13
Sunday May 17

The Man Who Sold The World sessions
Advision Sound Studios

Thursday May 21

The Penthouse, Scarborough, Yorkshire

Mark Pritchett guested on guitar for Woodmansey’s first gig with Bowie.

Friday May 22

The Man Who Sold The World sessions
Advision Sound Studios

The Man Who Sold The World

The last song recorded for the album, with Bowie writing the lyrics on the spot at the last minute. With the vocals recorded and the mixes done, the album was complete. Later, outside Defries’ office on Regent Street, Visconti expressed his frustration – as producer – with Bowie's lazy attitude during the sessions, and his blind faith in Tony Defries.

Tony Visconti (1986): I said to David, ‘If you go with Tony Defries, I’m not going to go with you.’ (2006): I felt terrible but Marc [Bolan] was about to become almost a full-time job for the next two years of my life.

Tired also of communal living at Haddon Hall, Visconti and Liz Hartley moved out.

Tony Visconti (2006): Haddon Hall had also become overcrowded with not just us, Angie and David, Mick Ronson, Woody Woodmansey, and Roger the Lodger, but also a constant stream of visitors staying late into the night.

Saturday May 23

The Bowies leave for a belated honeymoon in Scotland.

June 1970

Tuesday June 16

Cambridge University May Ball, Jesus College, Cambridge

Coming on after Deep Purple at 4am, Bowie and Hype played an acoustic set with Woodmansey on bongos and Mark Pritchett, who later described their performance as haphazard.

Friday June 26

Memory Of A Free Festival Part 1 3:59 Memory Of A Free Festival Part 2 3:31

single released in UK
(Mercury 6052 026)

July 1970

Saturday July 4

Queens Mead Recreation Ground, Bromley

The all-day outdoor concert was organised by Fleetwood Mac’s Peter Green and included Mark Pritchett’s band Rungk, who would form the basis of Arnold Corns the following year.

Sunday July 5

Implosion, Round House, Chalk Farm, London

Bowie’s last performance with Visconti and Hype Photographs © Byron Newman

Saturday July 18

Fickle Pickle Club, Cricketers Inn, Southend-on-Sea

Advertised as the 'debut of David Bowie with Harry The Butcher', sharing the bill with Aquila.

Bowie's solo performance of Memory Of A Free Festival on Dutch TV show Ready Eddy Go! broadcast in the Netherlands • Photograph by Nico van der Stam

 

August 1970

Saturday August 1

Rock With Shelter fundraiser festival, Southend-on-Sea
[Bowie and Ronson]

As live work dried up so did the wages, so Ronson and Woodmansey moved home.

Woody Woodmansey (2016): That August we had a gig at Leeds University. David was going up there in his car, a Riley – we had demoed a song about it, actually, called Rupert the Riley – and Mick and I were in another car with the gear. On the way up there we came to a crossroads with signs pointing to Hull or Leeds, and we just looked at each other. "What are you thinking, mate?" We both started laughing and said to the driver take us to Hull! So that was it, we went back to Hull and left Bowie to his own devices. He the show that night solo, on an acoustic guitar.

September 1970

 

Four months after its completion, The Man Who Sold The World was in limbo since the departure of Philips general manager Olav Wyper. With him went Bowie’s support at the label, and postproduction of the album stalled, then Robin McBride came over from Mercury in Chicago to push album production forward. Bowie had renamed the record Metrobolist and asked local artist Mike Weller to illustrate the front and back cover.

For the inside gatefold Bowie asked Philips art director Mike Stanford for a series of photographs showing him in a ‘domestic environment’. Eminent photographer Keith ‘Keef’ MacMillan got the job.

The Man Who Sold The World / Metrobolist cover shoot

Bowie had recently purchased two medieval style velvet gowns from the Mr Fish boutique where his old friend Geoff MacCormack worked. Bowie chose one of these gowns and reclined on a couch in the style of Pre-Raphaelite painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

An alternate frame to the eventual UK cover Photographs by Keith MacMillan

With the artwork completed Robin McBride packed it up with the master tapes and Bowie’s specific instructions and returned to Mercury Records in Chicago.

 

October 1970

Bowie’s publishing contract with Essex Music had expired and Defries was looking for a new deal. They talked to Bob Grace of Chrysalis Music.

Bob Grace (1986): David came up to interview me with his wife, and he really did have some idea of where he was going. Played me what was then his latest single, Holy Holy, which I thought was great; of course I’d loved Space Oddity, and I took him on simply because I thought he was great and his songs were great. Everyone was telling me not to, that he was a has-been.

Friday October 23

Bob Grace booked studio time for Bowie to record demos.

Bob Grace (1987): All of a sudden, all these great songs suddenly started appearing. We used to do all the demos at the Radio Luxembourg studios. We could never have more than a couple of inches of lead on the guitars, otherwise it acted as an aerial and picked up the mini-cab rank down the road. That was why the place was so cheap. But it suited us, simply because David was writing so much stuff.

November 1970

 

Wednesday November 4

The Man Who Sold The World

album released in US
(Mercury 61325)

Side one
The Width Of A Circle 8:07
All The Madmen
5:38
Black Country Rock
3:33
After All
3:52

Side two
Running Gun Blues 3:12
Saviour Machine
4:27
She Shook Me Cold
4:13
The Man Who Sold The World
3:58
The Supermen
3:39

Bowie was horrified to find that Mercury had ignored most of his artwork instructions. The gatefold was gone and with it the photography, the lettering was tacky and the speech bubble (which should read “roll up your sleeves and show us your arms”) was empty.

Monday November 9
Friday November 13
Monday November 16

Holy Holy single recording sessions
Island Studios, Basing Street, Notting Hill
Producer: Herbie Flowers

David Bowie (vocal, guitar), Herbie Flowers (bass), Alan Parker (guitar), Barry Morgan (drums)

Herbie Flowers had worked with Bowie on Space Oddity. He enlisted Parker and Morgan from his band Blue Mink.

Herbie Flowers • Photograph by David Redfern

Letter to Bob Grace

 

December 1970

Bowie and Brian Eno both attended a performance by Philip Glass and his ensemble at the Royal College of Art. The concert would significantly influence their later work.

Brian Eno (2008): This was one of the most extraordinary musical experiences of my life - sound made completely physical and as dense as concrete by sheer volume and repetition. For me it was like a viscous bath of pure, thick energy. Though he was at that time described as a minimalist, this was actually one of the most detailed musics I'd ever heard. It was all intricacy and exotic harmonics.

 

 

 

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

 SOUND  •  VISION  •  STAGE  •  FEATURES  •  PRESS ARCHIVE

ABOUT THE SITE    THE BOOK

Bowie Golden Years v2.0 is being rolled out page by page throughout 2020

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

Photographs and texts have been credited wherever possible

this page updated September 18, 2020