BOWIE GOLDEN YEARS

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

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January 1979

In London David Hemmings was recutting Just A Gigolo for a planned UK launch in February.

Saturday January 13

Melody Maker publishes 'Ethnic Bowie' an interview with Bowie:

“I’ve not made any plans for the next couple of years at all, apart from keeping on with my painting. I’m still painting pictures of my favourite area in Berlin, the Turkish area. I started to say yes to an exhibition, but then I backed off. I’m still completely frustrated and scared by the idea of exhibiting that publicly. But it’s certainly one of my more successful art forms over the last couple of years.” [Watts, Michael. Ethnic Bowie (Melody Maker, 13 January 1979)]

February 1979

Bowie in London to promote Hemmings's new cut of Just A Gigolo.

Bowie (1979): Fortunately David managed to get hold of all the bits and pieces and stole it in the night and came back to England and did his own cut in hiding and that’s the one that’s now going out in England, which is David’s cut – the film that he wanted to make. It makes sense – there’s a story there. It’s not just bits of incidents, and all these sort of send-ups of the whole German period are back in again.

Monday February 12

Television: Afternoon Plus (ITV)
Interviewer: Mavis Nicholson

Bowie: Thematically I've always dealt with isolation in everything I've written, I think. So it's something that triggers me off if it always interests me in a new project.

Nicholson: Do you feel isolated though?

Bowie: Not really, but I can quite imagine how it must feel to be isolated so I have often put myself in circumstances and positions where I am isolated just so that I can write about them. It’s that peculiar part of the human mind that fascinates me – about the small universes that can be created inside the mind, some of them fairly schizophrenic and quite off the wall.

Television: Thames At Six (Thames)
Interviewer: Rita Carter

Television: Tonight (BBC1)
Interviewer: Valerie Singleton

Singleton: There is this tremendous tendency to think of rock stars or pop stars as being a bit thick and obviously there's a lot more to you than that. Did it worry you that people had that kind of image?

Bowie: No, I'm very thick.

Singleton: Are you?

Bowie: Yes – I became a rock star!

Tuesday February 13

Press: Dorchester Hotel, Mayfair, London
Interviewer: Jean Rook, The Daily Express

I'm the only journalist who knows his hotel and even I don't know his room number. Our undercover meeting took place in a hired private suite, later cleared of any trace of us, down to the butts of the 60 cigarettes a day on which Mr Bowie is still hooked.

Today he looks 17. His undyed hair is pale brown and short back and sides. The unmade-up face is guileless and spotless. In grey flannel bags, grey shirt and tasteful tie, he looks like a public schoolboy. Or like Edward before he met Mrs Simpson. Has he really been reborn a brand-new Persil-washed man overnight?

“Not overnight – it's been a struggle,” said the one-time glittering, diamante, lipsticked superstar. “I hated the pop lifestyle but it's hard to kick the habits of a lifetime. I'm learning to be happy. To go to bed at night instead of 5am and get up in the morning instead of halfway through the day. I'm painting pictures nobody wants to buy, but I love it. I've grown my hair back to mouse. I'm even practising walking down the street.” [269][Rook, Jean. Bowie Reborn (Daily Express, 14 February 1979)]

Radio: Your Mother Wouldn't Like It
Capital Radio, Euston Tower
Interviewer: Nicky Horne

The cold, wet and windy conditions did not deter the horde of fans at the front door of Capital Radio’s studios. Bowie ran the gauntlet, losing his three bodyguards and five police escorts in the melee. Nicky Horne welcomed him: “Glad you got in without losing too much of your hair!' The two-hour program covered Just A Gigolo, the Stage film and the next album – and then opened the lines for listeners to phone in questions.

Nicky Horne: How much of a bait was [Marlene Dietrich] for you to appear in [Just A Gigolo] and how much did it work the other way around?

Bowie: Well, it made an enormous impression on me that Miss D had said that she would do the film if I would do it. And likewise I said if it’s a promise that she’s doing the film, I’ll do it and let’s sort of leave it at that.

Horne: You must have been terribly flattered that she even knew you.

Bowie: Oh my God, it was incredible! She said very nice things about me and in fact she was playing the side two of the Low album to all her friends, which I thought was just terrific.

Caller: Do you think you’re going to live in London?

Bowie: There’s a stronger and stronger possibility because London is having the same kind of friction feel that I felt in other areas of the world. I’m feeling more and more disorientated every time I come to London so it’s becoming more attractive to me.

A caller talked about the atmospheric quality of tracks like Subterraneans, Warszawa and Sense Of Doubt and his desire to set them to films.

Bowie: Mine’s not coming out, but when I was in Russia, when I took the Trans Siberian Express, I took a lot of footage there and I started putting those particular pieces – Subterraneans and Warszawa – against what I’d taken – just 8mm. It is very effective, I advise you to go ahead! [341][Your Mother Wouldn't Like It (Nicky Horne, Capital Radio, 13 February 1979)]

The interview was interspersed with songs that Bowie chose to talk about:

Shapes Of Things (The Yardbirds) / The Batman Theme (Link Wray) / Warning Sign (Talking Heads) / La Düsseldorf (La Düsseldorf) / White Light/White Heat (The Velvet Underground) / Baby’s On Fire (Brian Eno) / China Girl (Iggy Pop)

• Broadcast live at 9pm

Wednesday February 14

Press conference: Just A Gigolo
Café Royal, Regent Street, London

Bowie arrived at midday for a 15-minute press conference with co-star Sydne Rome on his arm.

Film premiere: Just A Gigolo
Prince Charles Cinema, Leicester Square, London

Although the invitation stated that Twenties-style dress (or black tie) was compulsory, Bowie and his date Viv Lynn wore kimonos.

Friday February 16

Social: The Human League
Nashville Room, London

Sheffield's The Human League was one of several UK bands influenced by Bowie and Bowie’s own influences, such as Kraftwerk. Their eclectic cultural literacy that appealed to him. Bowie dropped in to the Nashville Room to watch them play to a capacity crowd (almost-famous Gary Numan was there). Wearing a houndstooth jacket and cuffed jeans, he went backstage to meet the band and their manager Bob Last before the show.

Phil Oakey (1980): Seems a very friendly bloke. Just not what everybody says about him. I thought he’d come in and be moody and hum selections from Low and try and depress you. [137][Hart, Heather. The Plain Person’s Guide To The Human League (The Face, August 1980)]

Before we went on, he asked us how long we were working for. “Huh? Oh, about four years, I suppose,” and he said, “No, how long are you on for?”… “Oh, 43 minutes and 23 seconds.” [210][Morley, Paul. A Career In Electronics Can Be Yours! Novices Welcome, All Letters Answered (NME, March 1979)]

Phil Oakey (1980): For me, his best work is with Iggy Pop. The two LPs he did with Iggy Pop are fantastic – landmarks, especially The Idiot. [137][Hart, Heather. The Plain Person’s Guide To The Human League (The Face, August 1980)]

As an indication of this, the band ended their set with Nightclubbing. Afterwards Bowie swapped phone numbers with the band, saying he’d be in touch. He told NME’s Adrian Thrills, “They were great. I was watching from behind the lighting desk so that I could see the audience as well as the group. It was like watching 1980!”

Adrian Wright (1999): He was very complimentary and very nice. When he saw our visuals he said something like, “Oh bugger, I was going to do something like that on my next tour.” [004][Buckley, David. Strange Fascination (Virgin, 2005)]

Wednesday February 21

Just A Gigolo

soundtrack released in UK (Jamco JAM 1)
Schöner Gigolo, Armer Gigolo in Germany (Ariola 200462)

Bowie contributed to one track:
David Bowie's Revolutionary Song (Bowie-Fishman) 4:41
performed by The Rebels with Bowie (guitar, vocal refrain)

Produced by Tim Hauser and Jacques Morali
Arranged by John Altman and Frank Barber
Original soundtrack recording supervision by Jack Fishman
Revolutionary Song single released in Japan (Overseas Records MA-185-A)

Tuesday February 27

Old Grey Whistle Test included four songs from David Bowie On Stage, the RCA film of the 1978 Dallas concert.

March 1979

Recording/mixing: Lodger
Studio D, Record Plant, New York
Producers: David Bowie, Tony Visconti

Since the Lodger sessions in Montreux the previous September, Bowie had written lyrics. In the space of a week they recorded vocals, further overdubs and completed the mixing.

Visconti (2002): We went to New York to finish this album, and it suffered at the mixing stage because the studios simply were not as versatile or well-equipped as their European counterparts in those days! The heavy New York vibe added more darkness to this album. [423][tonyvisconti.com – Lodger (2002)]

Visconti (2006): We recorded some new jams with Belew on drums, myself on bass and David on guitar, but nothing came of it. Instead we settled for some Belew guitar overdubs and I replaced the bass on Boys Keep Swinging. Dennis Davis, who is left-handed, never played a satisfactory bass part on George Murray’s right-handed bass. I played an over-the-top bass part on the song, in the spirit of The Man Who Sold The World.

During this period in New York Bowie socialised with David Byrne, frequenting clubs like Mudd and Hurrah, an Upper West Side disco refashioned in May 1978 as a rock club and was the first club in New York to install a video system. Resident VJ Merrill Aldighieri played music videos on six 19-inch colour monitors suspended from the ceiling over the bar and near the banquettes at the back of the club.

The Mudd Club was opened in October 1978 by Steve Mass, art curator Diego Cortez and Anya Phillips. Mass was a colleague of Brian Eno, who lived in an apartment upstairs. Located downtown at 77 White Street TriBeCa, Mudd was designed as an underground, yet equally elitist, alternative to Studio 54, but even more elitist. Entry was by exclusive laminated cards that were sent to those approved by Steve Mass.

Further reading: The Mudd Club by Richard Boch (who worked the door)

During this period Bowie saw one of the early B-52s shows at Mudd. The Melody Maker New York correspondent described them as “just about the most rated young band in town.” Bowie hung out with Blondie’s Debbie Harry and Chris Stein, danced behind the stage to the B-52s’ second set, and, looking around, said to Lisa Robinson, “I don’t want to tour again. It got really boring the last time. But this kind of club would be fun to do, wouldn’t it?” [Robinson, Lisa. Bowie (Spin, August 1990)]

Keith Strickland, drummer (2008): It was pretty amazing. I remember we had just finished our set at The Mudd Club, and someone came and told us, ‘David Bowie’s here.’ And Cindy screamed, ‘DAVID BOWIEEE!!!’ She had her back to the door and, as she screamed, he was walking in. She was like, ‘Oh No!’ But he was great. He just laughed. [211][Mulholland, Garry. The Interview: B-52’s (The Stool Pigeon, 5 March 2008)]

Friday March 9

Social: Nico at CBGB, Ramones party at Mudd Club

Ramones party at Mudd Club, following their Palladium show.
(L-R) Joey Ramone, co-manager Linda Stein, David Bowie, Dee Dee Ramone, Vera Ramone and co-manager Danny Fields (behind, right)

Thursday March 29

Social: Roxy Music at New York Palladium

Bowie and John Cale socialised with Bryan Ferry and Lisa Robinson after the show. Later that night Bowie was back at Mudd Club.

April 1979

Sunday April 1

Live (guest appearance): The First Concert of the Eighties
(WKCR-FM benefit concert)
Carnegie Hall, New York

John Cale
David Bowie (viola)
Gregor Kitzis (1st violin)

Taylor Storer, Mark Schuyler and Tim Page organised a benefit concert for WKCR designed to showcase new American music, featuring Steve Reich and Philip Glass. John Cale was scheduled to perform with Nico, but she decided to stay home instead of performing.

Bowie joined Cale onstage, wearing a black kimono and playing viola on Cale’s song Sabotage.

John Cale (2008): That was a lot of fun. That was when we were hanging out, so I asked David if he’d like to come and play Sabotage with me. I ended up teaching him the viola part, which he had a whack at and then ended up playing on the stage for the first time. [298][Uncut, June 2008. 30 Greatest David Bowie Songs’]

Bowie (1979): I had never played viola in my life before but I learned four notes on it and it sounded great. I may learn another four and play it on my next album. [310][Watts, Michael. Bowie’s Lodger: Where New Muzik Meets Errol Flynn (Melody Maker, 19 May 1979)]

Philip Glass (1996): I was very pleased to find people working in a contemporary way in the field of popular music but who were really interested in experimental music. And this is what made David interesting to me. [346][A Part Ca (Canal +, 1997)]

Saturday April 7

Social: Siouxsie And The Banshees, The Human League
Rainbow Theatre, London
(fundraiser for mentally handicapped children)

Tuesday April 10

Social: Lou Reed at Hammersmith Odeon, London

The Human League was scheduled to support until shortly before the show, when Reed decided he didn’t want a support band after all. Bowie watched the concert from the wings, sitting on a flight case.

Reed finished his set and greeted Bowie with open arms. They headed off to the Chelsea Rendezvous in Sydney Street to have dinner. Writers Allan Jones (Melody Maker) and Giovanni Dadomo (Sounds) turned up and after some friendly conversation, left Bowie, Reed and their companions to their Irish Whiskeys.

From their table they watched them laughing and talking about old times and toasting “to friends”. Then Reed asked Bowie to produce his next album. Bowie said, “Yes, if you clean up your act.” Reed turned on Bowie, slapping him twice and shouting “Don't you EVER say that to me!” After a few minutes Reed again exploded with rage. “I told you NEVER to say that!” he yelled as minders struggled to restrain him and eventually escort him blank-faced from the restaurant. [165][Jones, Allan. Fight Of The Week: Lou Bops Bowie (Melody Maker, 21 April 1979)]

Allan Jones asked Bowie what had upset Reed. Bowie stormed out, trashing the pot plants as he went. The next day he sent £60 to the restaurant for the demolished plants; Reed flew off to Dublin, cancelling all engagements and offering no explanation to anyone.

Lou Reed (1979): Yes, I hit him – more than once. It was a private dispute … It had nothing to do with sex, politics or rock and roll. I have a New York code of ethics. Speak unto others as you would have them speak unto you. In other words, watch your mouth. [011][Doggett, Peter. Lou Reed: Growing Up In Public (Omnibus Press, 1991)]

Sunday April 15

Radio: An Hour With David Bowie broadcast in US (KLOS-FM)

Wednesday April 18

Radio: Bowie The Traveller / Conversations With Bowie
Good Earth Studios, 59 Dean Street, Soho, London

Tony McGrogan, RCA London: David suggested a contest for Capital Radio. The listeners were asked to write about Bowie the Traveller and the 12 best would join David in Tony Visconti’s studio for an advance listen to the Lodger album.

Bowie greeted the winners at the studio. “Hello, how lovely to meet you. Do please grab some food and something to drink,” he said, pointing them to the smoked salmon, prawns, spare ribs and champagne laid on by RCA.

The show began with an hour of Bowie answering general questions, followed by a playback of Lodger with Bowie’s track by track commentary.

“Every time I finish an album I think, ‘Oh God, I can’t stand this any more, I’ve got absolutely nothing to contribute, it’s no good,’ all hell has broken loose in my mind, you know completely ... illogical about the whole thing, I just curl up and die for a couple of weeks after making it.” [330][Bowie The Traveller / Conversations With Bowie (Capital Radio, 14 May 1979)]

Broadcast May 14 (Capital Radio)

Monday April 23

Television: The Kenny Everett Video Show (ITV)
Director: David Mallet

Boys Keep Swinging (live vocal to backing track)

Having performed recently with a viola, he decided to mime Adrian Belew’s guitar solo playing a violin theatrically on a rooftop set. Kenny Everett entered (in character as Angry of Mayfair), leering and taunting Bowie: “You know, I was in the war – but I didn’t see you there. I fought for people like you – and I never got one!"

Friday April 27

Boys Keep Swinging 3:17 Fantastic Voyage 2:55

single released in UK (RCA BOW2) Chart peak 7

Runout groove etched messages:
Your Bicameral Mind / Mind Your Bicameral

Spanish promo picture disc (RCA PL-13254)

May 1979

Saturday May 5

Melody Maker report: “Bowie was recently seen buying up copies of Eno albums in a Virgin Records shop. The Dook expressed agitation when told that After The Heat, the import LP his other musical accomplice made with Messrs Roedelius and Moebius, was out of stock but exited proudly showing the wax to his obviously impressed female companion.” [204][Melody Maker, 5 May 1979]

Boys Keep Swinging enters the UK chart, staying for 10 weeks.

Saturday May 12

Radio: Star Special (Radio One)

Bowie appeared on the two-hour show to play DJ again, talking about some of his favourite records.

“Hello, this is David Bowie. It’s a bit grey out today and I’ve got some Perrier water and I’ve got a bunch of records. I think if I was walking outside at the moment, I would like to be walking on this street…”

Love Street (The Doors) / TV Eye (Iggy Pop) / Remember (John Lennon) / 96 Tears (? and The Mysterians) / A Wagon – The Nursery Suite (Edward Elgar) / Inchworm (Danny Kaye) / Trial Prison (Phillip Glass) / Sweet Jane (The Velvet Underground) / Helen Fordsdale (Mars) / He's A Star (Little Richard) / 21st-Century Schizoid Man (King Crimson) / Warning Sign (Talking Heads) / Beck's Bolero (Jeff Beck) / Try Some, Buy Some (Ronnie Spector) / 20th Century Boy (Marc Bolan) / Where Were You (The Mekons) / Big City Cat (Steve Forbert) / We Love You (The Rolling Stones) / 2 HB (Roxy Music) / It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City (Bruce Springsteen) / Fingertips (Stevie Wonder) / Rip Her To Shreds (Blondie) / Beautiful Loser (Bob Seger) / Boys Keep Swinging / Yassassin / The Books I Read (Talking Heads) / For Your Pleasure (Roxy Music) / Something On Your Mind (King Curtis) / Lies (The Staple Singers)

Broadcast Sunday May 20
On Spotify: David Bowie's 1979 BBC DJ Set

Radio: Rock On (Radio One)
Interviewer: Stuart Grundy

Discussion of Fantastic Voyage, Boys Keep Swinging and Yassassin.

Friday May 18

Lodger

album released in UK (RCA BOW LP1)
Chart peak UK 4 US 20

Side one
Fantastic Voyage (Bowie-Eno) 2:55
African Night Flight (Bowie-Eno) 2:54
Move On (Bowie) 3:16
Yassassin (Turkish for Long Live) (Bowie) 4:10
Red Sails (Bowie-Eno) 3:43

Side two
DJ (Bowie-Eno-Alomar) 3:59
Look Back In Anger (Bowie-Eno) 3:08
Boys Keep Swinging (Bowie-Eno) 3:17
Repetition (Bowie) 2:59
Red Money (Bowie-Alomar) 4:17

David Bowie (vocals, piano, synthesiser, Chamberlin, guitar)
Adrian Belew (guitar, mandolin, rhythm guitar)
Carlos Alomar (guitar, rhythm guitar, drums, vocals)
Brian Eno (ambient drone, prepared piano, cricket menace, synthesisers, guitar treatments, horse trumpets, eroica horns, piano)
George Murray (bass, vocals)
Dennis Davis (drums, percussion, bass, vocals)
Sean Mayes (piano)
Roger Powell (synthesisers)
Simon House (violin, mandolins)
Tony Visconti (bass, mandolins, rhythm guitar, vocals)
Stan (saxophone)

Produced by David Bowie and Tony Visconti

Bowie (1979): Lodger is really a hodgepodge of styles that create a lovely sort of mix. The areas we’ve been working in are so undefined at the moment that I find them hard to analyse, but I think probably a classification you can give the album is that it incorporates just about every style that I’ve ever got involved in, apart from rock. There are three or four narrative songs, though, which is something I haven’t done in a long time, and two or three of what you might call Dada pop as opposed to rock. Now whether that’s the kind of pop that people expect, I don’t know. But it’s definitely Bowie pop. [311][Watts, Michael. David Bowie Introduces Lodger To An Awestruck World (RAM, 15 June 1979)]

Filming: Boys Keep Swinging, DJ, Look Back In Anger videos

Ewart Studios, Wandsworth and Earl's Court Road, London
Director: David Mallet
Set designer: Michael Minas

Bowie was so impressed with the Boys Keep Swinging segment on Everett’s show, he asked Mallet to direct the promo video for the three singles to be released. The three videos were shot over a single weekend.

Starting with a straight performance (similar to the Everett version), Boys Keep Swinging had three drag acts paying wry homage to Coronation Street siren Bet Lynch, Lauren Bacall (throwing in Romy Haag’s lipstick smear) and his recent co-star Marlene Dietrich.

Bowie played out the melodrama of DJ, trashing the radio studio and spraying his own initials (in case anyone missed the joke) and on the street in Earl's Court, unannounced, unstaged and seemingly without a security cordon. He was soon surrounded by fans hugging and kissing him.

Released on The Video Collection (PMI 1993) and Best Of Bowie (EMI 2002)

Journalists were invited to RCA London for a preview of Lodger and the new promotional videos.

Chris Charlesworth, RCA Press Officer (2011): For Lodger I helped organise a listening session in the RCA boardroom and invited writers to come and hear it played very loud. The previous week David had introduced us to the album by coming into the offices for a buffet lunch in the boardroom attended by the senior staff.

Allan Jones, Melody Maker: The playback of the record was virtually drowned out by a chorus of inebriated bickering, gossip and giggling. The tottering pen-pushers were only silenced when we were treated to a series of videos of the Thin White One. The first tapes, projected onto a massive screen in the far corner of RCA’s plush fifth-floor banqueting suite, were from the Stage tour in Dallas. More striking were the recently completed promo flicks for the new album, certainly the most impressive video sales pitch since the original Devo epics.

“See those girls?” asked the chap from RCA. “Absolute goddess, the one in the middle,” we replied, pointing out the Lauren Bacall-meets-Jerry Hall lookalike. “They’re all Bowie,” explained the chap from RCA. Mouths dropped open. [167][Jones, Allan. Absence Makes The Heart Grow Fonder? (Melody Maker, 26 May 1979)]

Jon Savage, Melody Maker: So Bowie returns to RCA, rewarded by a personalized catalogue number, with what – playing the significance game – he likes to see as the final part of the Low / Heroes trilogy. Mmmm. The new album appears as a piece of self-plagiarism unmatched since The Seeds: his last eight or so albums are cut up, played backwards and then reassembled. It's a credit to his craft that the end result is still fresh. [277][Savage, Jon. Avant-AOR (Melody Maker, 26 May 1979)]

June 1979

Saturday June 2

Boys Keep Swinging peaks at number 7 in UK

Friday June 8

Lodger certified gold in UK

Save the Children Charity Auction

Sotheby's held an auction of ‘Lipograms’ contributed by celebrities including Bette Davis, Jack Nicholson, Audrey Hepburn, Peter Ustinov and others. The idea came from a card that Bowie had sent to Charles of the Ritz to thank him for a gift of make-up. The card had Bowie’s lip-print and an inscription “The lips part like silence set for alarm - Bo. '79.”

Friday June 29

DJ 3:20 Repetition 2:58
single released in UK (RCA BOW3)
Chart peak 29

DJ 3:20 Fantastic Voyage 2:53
single released in US (RCA PB-11661)
Chart peak 106

July 1979

Yassassin 3:06 Repetition 2:58
single released in Holland (RCA PB-9417)

Yassassin 4:13 Red Money 2:58
single released in Turkey (RCA 79.014)

Thursday July 5

Radio: WNEW-FM, New York
Interviewer: Dave Herman

Saturday July 21

DJ entered the UK chart and stayed for 5 weeks, peaking at 29.

 

August 1979

Monday August 20

Look Back In Anger 3:08 Repetition 2:58
single released in US (RCA PB-11724)

Friday August 31

DA Pennebaker showed his 1973 Ziggy Stardust film – then titled Bowie – at the Edinburgh Film Festival. Festival director Lynda Myles had cabled Bowie in Berlin to invite him but there was no response.

DA Pennebaker (2003): I made a 35mm Dolby print which I had to make by hand in my own studio and I got a mag striped print and I put the tracks on and I took it to Edinburgh to show it and I thought, “This will just be a little film festival showing”. Instead this whole goddamn audience showed up. Everybody that was at the concert was in Edinburgh. You couldn’t get in the theatre, and of course they went crazy in the film. It was one of the best screenings I’ve ever had of any film. And part of it even got out of sync because they didn’t know how to handle Dolby very well in the theatre. But nobody seemed to mind. [373][Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars - Visconti and Pennebaker commentary (EMI, 2003)]

Allan Jones did, describing the film as an ‘erratic mess’ with poor photography, ‘appalling sound’ and absence of direction.

At that stage the film still included Jeff Beck's two appearances – Round And Round and Love Me Do - The Jean Genie. They were edited out for the December 1983 cinema release.

September 1979

Recording (guest appearance): Rockfield Studios, Monmouth

Iggy Pop album Soldier
Play It Safe (Bowie-Pop)

Iggy Pop was having problems recording his new album at Dave Edmunds’ Rockfield Studios in Wales. Bowie and Coco dropped in for a couple of days to give some moral support. Simple Minds were recording Real To Real Cacophony in the studio next door and wanted Bowie to play sax on their album.

Bowie asked if they could sing, gave them lyric sheets, and they ended up singing backing vocals with him on Play It Safe. The song began life as an outrageous story Bowie recounted concerning bodyguard John Bindon, which Iggy turned into verse to Bowie’s music.

Recording: Good Earth Studios, 59 Dean Street, Soho, London

Space Oddity [new version]
Panic In Detroit [new version]
Rebel Rebel [new version]

Bowie (vocals, 12-string guitar)
Zaine Griff (bass)
Hans Zimmer (piano)
Andy Duncan (drums)

Tony Visconti (2000): The acoustic version of Space Oddity was recorded for the Kenny Everett Show and was never meant to be a single. [383][bowiewonderworld.com – Ground Control To Major Tom (Paul Kinder, 11 July 2001)]

Bowie (1980): That came about because Mallet wanted me to do something for his show and he wanted Space Oddity. I agreed as long as I could do it again without all its trappings and do it strictly with three instruments. Having played it with just an acoustic guitar onstage early on, I was always surprised as how powerful it was just as a song, without all the strings and synthesisers. In fact the video side of it was secondary; I really wanted to do it as a three-piece song. [189][MacKinnon, Angus. The Future Isn’t What It Used To Be (NME, 13 September 1980]

With this in mind Bowie asked Tony Visconti to put together a band to re-record some of his songs. At the time Visconti was producing an album by New Zealand-born Zaine Griff (Glenn Mikkelsson). When Visconti arranged for them to meet at Good Earth Studios, Bowie was initially disconcerted by Griff’s Bowiesque appearance.

Space Oddity released:
B side of Alabama Song; Scary Monsters (Rykodisc/EMI CD 1992)
Panic In Detroit released:
Scary Monsters (Rykodisc/EMI CD 1992); Heathen bonus CD (2002)
Rebel Rebel unreleased

Tuesday September 18

Television: The Will Kenny Everett Ever Make It To 1980? Show (ITV)

Ewart Studios, Wandsworth
Director: David Mallet

Space Oddity [new version]

The special, also known as The Kenny Everett New Year’s Eve Show, was envisaged as a look back at the Seventies and forward to the Eighties. Gary Numan was originally going to be on the show and recorded his segment (his single I Die You Die) the previous week.

Numan (1997): It was an excellent and very important show to be on as the ratings were massive. After I’d recorded my bit for the show, Mallet told me that Bowie was going to be there the following Thursday and did I want to come along and watch?

I turned up a week later, very excited and a little nervous, to watch the great man in action. There was a little side room, which I stood at the back of, well out of the way, behind Bob Geldof and Paula Yates, and a reasonable group of other people whom I didn’t recognise. I was very intimidated by the whole thing. I’d only been famous myself for a short time so I was still completely in awe of famous people.

Bowie started performing his track and then suddenly everything stopped. A whispered discussion with Mallet followed and then Mallet came over, took me to one side, and said that Bowie had seen me, and it would be better if I left. So I was thrown out – which, apart from being extremely embarrassing, was really quite sad because I was a huge Bowie fan. Then, a few days after that, I was taken off the Christmas Special [sic] as well and I ended up on a normal Kenny Everett show a couple of months later. [024][Numan, Gary and Malins, Steve. Praying To The Aliens: An Autobiography (André Deutsch Limited, 1997)]

Thursday September 27

Social: Talking Heads at the Greek Theatre, Los Angeles

 

October 1979

Bad Boys in Berlin by Chris Hodenfield published in Rolling Stone

Friday October 5

Recording: Ciarbis Studios, New York

David Bowie (vocals)
John Cale (piano)

Piano-La
Velvet Couch

Cale (2008): When we did that bootleg, it was like the good old bad old days. We were partying very hard. It was exciting working with him, as there were a lot of possibilities and everything, but we were our own worst enemies at that point. He could improvise songs very well, which was what that bootleg was all about. [298][Uncut, June 2008. 30 Greatest David Bowie Songs’]

Unoffficial release: Two Gentlemen In New York

Thursday October 25

The first US screening of the uncut version of The Man Who Fell To Earth at a nine-film Nicolas Roeg retrospective at Carnegie Hall cinema in New York. The censored version originally released in US was 20 minutes shorter than the UK version.

November 1979

Saturday November 10

Melody Maker writers vote The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars the most significant, influential album of the decade.

Saturday November 24

Melody Maker publishes a number of pieces concerning the coming decade from various writers and musicians. Bowie’s contribution:

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

December 1979

1980 All Clear

promotional album released in US (RCA DJL1-3545)
includes a track from each of Bowie's ten albums

Side one:
The Man Who Sold The World 3:58
Space Oddity 5:15
Ziggy Stardust 3:13
Panic In Detroit 4:25
Always Crashing In The Same Car 3:26

Side two:
1984 3:24
Golden Years 4:03
Fascination 5:43
"Heroes" 6:07
Boys Keep Swinging 3:17

Television: The Sensational, Shocking, Wild and Wacky Seventies

Space Oddity

Dressed in a Willie Brown jumpsuit, Bowie revisited his first hit Space Oddity (the original version) for Dick Clark's two-hour musical comedy tribute to the Seventies for NBC, featuring stars such as Leif Garrett, Ted Knight, Sonny Bono and Bill Bixby.

Saturday December 1

Television: Countdown End Of The Decade Special (ABC, Australia)
Presenter: Ian Meldrum
Location: Kew Gardens, London

“We’ll be talking about music in the Seventies, so I suppose I've got to be in it”

Ian Meldrum spoke with Bowie and other musicians about the last ten years of music. Doing the interview in historic Kew Gardens was Bowie’s idea.

Ian Meldrum: Getting in there is like trying to get an exclusive with the Queen on the lawns of Buckingham Palace. We managed it though, after telling the attendants that we were filming a special on beautiful English gardens. David posed as an expert on plants as we paid our penny to get in the gate. [Cann, Kevin. David Bowie: A Chronology (Vermilion, 1983)]

Meldrum: Do you think that [music video] is going play a lot of importance in the Eighties?

Bowie: Undoubtedly, I thought it would have happened a bit sooner, really. But they didn’t get their hardware out, everybody kept arguing about what sort of system they’re going to have for video – video disc and whatever – and it took ages to get the stuff out. But now that it is out I think it will probably make a big cut into record sales generally as is probably being seen anyway.

I think at the beginning of the Seventies when it was a bit dull, there was the idea of creating a flash of some kind and the flash was created but no one was seen holding the smoking pistol so it went off at tangents after that. There was no real definite thing said at the beginning of the Seventies, but it did open everything up for investigation, and sub avenues of different kinds of music. People started working in all different areas of music. [351][Countdown (ABC, 16 December 1979)]

On the importance of punk and The Sex Pistols.

Bowie: A very important enema. The only thing is that it was a shame that it all got manufactured so quickly, in a way. It would have been nice if they had come out on a hardy independent label. It’s a shame that they jumped for those great giant idiots, because that’s the perfect step not to take.

Broadcast on Countdown, December 16, 1979

Television: The Will Kenny Everett Make It To 1980? Show
Location: Brixton
Director: David Mallet

Panic In Detroit

Bowie spent a day with Mallet and a Thames TV crew shooting a video of the remade Panic In Detroit for Kenny Everett's New Year's Eve show. Bowie chatted with the locals about squatters and German silent films. The clip was left incomplete and never broadcast.

Friday December 7

John I'm Only Dancing (Again) 1975 3:25
John I'm Only Dancing 1972 2:47
7-inch single released in UK (RCA BOW 4)
Chart peak 12 (8 weeks in chart)

John I'm Only Dancing (Again) 1975 6:59
John I'm Only Dancing 1972 2:46
12-inch single released in UK on RCA (BOW12 4)

Runout groove etched messages: “At last…”/ “Shape of things…”
Both issued in limited edition of 50,000 picture sleeves

John I’m Only Dancing 1972 2:43 Joe The Lion 3:05
7-inch single released in US (RCA PD-11887)

John I'm Only Dancing (Again) 1975 6:59 Golden Years 4:03
12-inch single released in US (RCA PD-11886)

7-inch version reissued on:
Rare
(RCA 1982)

12-inch version reissued on:
Changes Two Bowie (RCA 1981)
Young Americans (Rykodisc/EMI 1991)
The Best Of David Bowie 1974/1979 (EMI 1997)
Young Americans CD/DVD (EMI 2007)

1972 alternate mix reissued on Ziggy Stardust (Rykodisc/EMI 1990)

Bowie (1980): They’re sort of out of the vault; it’s an 'old new' record. It came out first in the early Seventies with one particular mix and I dug it up again a few weeks ago and it was another mix. And it was a very loud, straight off the faders kind of mix and I thought that would be nice to put it out.

And then RCA found this disco version that I’d shelved, that I’d done at the time of Young Americans and so they decided to put the two out at the same time. The disco one I think is particularly interesting, outrageously funny, looking back at it now. It's an outtake - we thought it was too dancey! [333][David Bowie: A Look At The Seventies (King Biscuit Flower Hour, KMET-FM, January 1980)]

Bowie (1980): It seemed so right at the time and RCA wanted to put it out, and I agreed to it fully. It was just some more material that was held back there. I've still got lots of things canned like that, which I'd like to release, things like White Light/White Heat with the Spiders. [189][MacKinnon, Angus. The Future Isn't What It Used To Be (NME, 13 September 1980)]

Sunday December 9

Back in New York, Bowie watched Iggy Pop’s set at Hurrah, the last stop on the New Values tour. Another night Bowie was at Mudd with Blondie’s Jimmy Destri when they spotted German singer/performer Klaus Nomi and Warhol scenester/Fiorucci store attendant Joey Arias.

Madeline Bocaro (1997): A strange, brilliant fellow from Germany had been living quietly in New York City for a few years, developing an act and a persona to compliment his extraordinary singing talents. That persona became Klaus Nomi. [064][Bocaro, Madeline. Klaus Nomi - Riding The New Wave (Roctober 19, 1997)]

Tony Frere, Nomi performer (2004): Klaus had created a lot of attention in the downtown scene and thankfully it got to Bowie. You know Bowie, always has his feelers out for what's next, for what's going on, for what's happening. [366][The Nomi Song (Palm Pictures, 2005)]

Jimmy Destri (2009): All the people who graduated from CBGBs would take over the Mudd Club. That was just the period when it was hopping. I was David's ambassador to these little bands. He was really, really interested in new wave. [040][Spitz, Marc. David Bowie (Aurum, 2009)]

Joey Arias (2009): The Nomi thing was happening really strongly at that moment that we first met Bowie. We were at the Mudd Club one night, and we were upstairs on the top floor. We were about to leave when someone said, “There's David Bowie, sitting there”. We just froze. [040][Spitz, Marc. David Bowie (Aurum, 2009)]

Bowie called them over to his table and introduced himself. In fact they had briefly met before in 1973 at Berlin train station. Bowie was changing trains en route to England and Nomi – at that time still Klaus Sperber, a longhaired bearded hippie – carried his bags for him.

At Mudd they exchanged phone numbers, and met at Bowie’s Chelsea loft days later to discuss ideas for an end of the decade New Year’s Eve concert, to be choreographed by Toni Basil. When that proved unfeasible they adapted the ideas for Bowie’s appearance on Saturday Night Live.

Bowie devised three set pieces based on Tristan Tzara’s Cabaret Voltaire skits and John Heartfield’s photomontages with help from SNL set designer Mark Ravitz, who had worked on the Diamond Dogs set in 1974. Bowie’s costume, a solid moulded plastic body painted in Thirties evening dress with a large bow tie, was made by SNL’s theatrical suppliers Brooks Van Horn.

Page Wood, Nomi art director (2004): So we look at this thing and it's beautiful, and Pat Gibbons comes up and says, “Well, you're going to have to have something, you're going to need some costumes”. And he whips out a big wad of cash and says, “How much do you need?” and starts peeling off bills, and Joey and Klaus look at him and their eyes widened and they look at each other and say, “We're going to need shoes, too”. [366][The Nomi Song (Palm Pictures, 2005)]

A few days later in a RCA rehearsal studio, Nomi and Arias watched as Bowie ran through the songs with the band – Carlos Alomar, George Murray and Dennis Davis plus SNL guitarist George Wadenius and Jimmy Destri on keyboards.

Saturday December 15

Television: Saturday Night Live (NBC)
NBC Studios, 30 Rockefeller Plaza, New York

Producer: Lorne Michaels
Director: Dave Wilson
Presenter: Martin Sheen

The Man Who Sold The World
Boys Keep Swinging
TVC 15

After a brief introduction from Martin Sheen, Klaus Nomi and Joey Arias carried Bowie – encased in his solid body costume – to the front of the stage for The Man Who Sold The World.

Bowie then donned a blue Natasha Kornilof dress for TVC 15. He described the idea as “a pipe-smoking Chinese airline stewardess, dragging a huge fake pink poodle on a leash. The dog had a TV monitor inside its mouth on which the real-time performance was playing.” [065][Bowie, David. Hedi Slimane interview (Vogue, May 2003)]

For Boys Keep Swinging Bowie used a trick he had seen at a German fair. He changed into a green costume and attached a small puppet's torso and limbs just beneath his head. With the aid of chroma key in front of a green screen, Bowie became a marionette with a huge human head.

After the show Bowie and the cast partied at One Fifth Avenue in Greenwich Village.

Page Wood, Nomi art director (2004): I said, “So, what are your plans? Are you going to be in New York, are you staying here?” and he said, “Yeah I've got a loft, I'm going to be around for a while, I have a couple of things I have to tie up, and then I'm free”. And I said, “Well, we've got some ideas”. And he goes, “Well great, you'll be hearing from me.” And Iggy Pop, who was smoking a big cigar, gave us the thumbs-up and we thought, “Great, we're in!” But we never really heard from him again. [366][The Nomi Song (Palm Pictures, 2005)]

Sunday December 16

Radio interview: Good Afternoon (WXRK-FM)
Presenters: Flo and Eddie

Bowie went to see The Elephant Man at the Booth Theatre with friend and Hurrah co-owner Robert Boykin, who introduced him to director Jack Hofsiss afterwards.

Countdown End Of The Decade Special broadcast in Australia (ABC)

Tuesday December 25

Bowie spent Christmas in New York with Joey.

Monday December 31

The Will Kenny Everett Make It To 1980? Show broadcast in UK, featuring David Mallet’s video of Bowie's new version of Space Oddity.

Bowie spent New Year’s Eve at Stones manager Peter Rudge’s apartment on Central Park with Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall.

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this page updated December 9, 2019