the Fan/Bass [w/love]
Taylor pays homage to David Bowie
guest editorial article written by John for Arena Homme Plus
[transcription by Salvo. So glad to bring to light such a intimate
testimony of affection and admiration for Bowie]
London 1982 — and the place I most frequently went for after-hours
amusement was the Embassy Club on New Bond Street, owned and run
by an ex-guardsman, Stephen Hayter, with whom my running-mate
Rob Hallett and I got along with well. The Embassy has a place
in London’s club folklore for a number of reasons, among
them the fact that for several years, Motorhead’s
Lemmy was welded to the Space Invaders machine to the left of
the main bar. It was like an art installation; just add amphetamines.
And it was understood that no one should attempt to interrupt
him; he had far too many scary tattoos, and his interest in the
Third Reich was well documented. I never saw him buy a drink or
use the bathroom. He was an ironman on that machine. Less of an
iron man was Limahl, whom Nick Rhodes discovered one night working
at the Embassy, at a fairies — and - princess party, or
something equally daft. Seeing Nick, Limahl, fetchingly dressed
in a white silk bodysuit and wings, ran up and slipped him a cassette
tape. On it Nick heard Too Shy and recognized it for the hit song
would in due course take Limahl and his band Kajagoogoo into the
studio and produce their debut album. One night, Rob and I were
hanging out in the Embassy restaurant when Stephen beckoned for
us to join him in his inner sanctum. "You’re gonna
like this. Follow me." In his office sat David Bowie with
his friend Sabrina Guinness. I was almost struck dumb. In 1973,
Bowie was king, and deservedly so. He had pulled off a remarkable
string of successes. The release of his masterpiece, The Rise
and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars was just
the beginning. He also wrote All the Young Dudes for Mott the
Hoople, one of his favorite bands, who had split up but regrouped
when they heard the song. He produced Transformer for Lou Reed
and helped to give Lou his first—ever Top 30 hit, and then,
most amazingly of all, he muscled his way into Iggy and the Stooges,
gonna like this. Follow me." In his office sat David
Bowie with his friend
I was almost struck dumb.
production work and mixing their new-metal colossus, Raw Power.
In june 1973, DB was on a massive tour of the United Kingdom,
at the end of which he announced his retirement from the stage
of London’s Hammersmith Odeon. It was a ploy, of course,
as we would all learn in time [it was Ziggy retiring, not David],
but I remember hearing it on the 8:30 news, sitting on the back
seat of the school bus. It was as if the Queen was abdicating
her throne, which in a way, I suppose is what it was. [You can
buy the ‘farewell speech’ on iTunes, irony-free, for
Actually, it was more like the beginning. First Diamond Dogs,
then Young Americans, Station to Station and Low. When Roger Taylor
and I began to think and play like a rhythm section it was the
late-soul period Bowie rhythm section of Dennis Davis [drums]
and George Murray [bass] we wanted most to emulate. "Hello,
boys," said David, across Stephen Hayter’s desk, turning
to me, "I’ve heard about you." "Oh, thank
you, yes. .. we, er, we covered Fame," I tell him, trying
to find some common ground with the Thin White Duke. "And
Colin Thurston is our producer." "Ah yes, dear old Colin,”
replies David, "How is Colin?" I hadn’t met many
legends at this point in my career. Jimmy Saville? It would never
get any better than this for a boy with my roots. He was the perfect
gentleman, and Rob and I spent the rest of the evening in his
and Sabrina’s company. When we finally de-clubbed, we were
on cloud nine as we traipsed back home to our Kilburn flat. "I
c-c-c-can’t believe it," Rob kept saying, in his stuttering
south Londonese, "Us and David Bowie." The next time
I met David was when all the members of Duran Duran made the pilgrimage
up the Riviera from the chateau we had rented in the Cannes suburb
of Valbonne, recording our ‘difficult’ third album,
which would be called, Seven and The Ragged Tiger. On the lam,
as it were, from the teen hordes of Britain who were dogging our
every step, and the tax man. David’s Serious Moonlight tour
alighted at the Roman
amphitheatre at Frejus for two nights, and we were all in need of
a night off our own music. Let’s Dance was on the GTi stereo
non-stop that summer, the album that reconnected David with his
already sizeable fan base, but built on it, particularly in the
U.S.A. Nile Rodgers’smart, hip—pop dance production
put DB back at the top of charts, and back into the hearts and minds
of us all, enabling him to take up residency as an ‘elder-statesman’
of rock, and not before time. Duran were granted full backstage
access and guided to our seats, which were positioned like royal
boxes above the stage.
venue was almost in the round, and our seats were up and to the
side of the stage. I wasn’t comfortable being in view of the
audience but we had no choice, and besides, no one else seemed to
have a problem with it. Down on the floor, in front of the stage,
the fans were working themselves into a froth. It was festival seating,
that curious term for ‘standing or sitting on yer arse’,
which always has the tendency to get the blood flowing of those
in the midst of it, whether waiting on a performance from Green
Day or Leonard Cohen. Of course it happened. One member of the Bowie
fan club spotted us, then another, and in a few moments the entire
crowd [it seemed] was pointing up at us. It wasn’t much longer
before some young swine took up a chant, ‘Wankers, wankers,
wankers...’ I was happy when the stage lights dimmed and the
show began, thankfully on time. It was a killer band. Tony Thompson
from Chic and soon to be Power Station on drums. Carmine Rojas on
bass, Carlos Alomar and Earl Slick on guitars. Full horn section
and backing vocal chorus. Many members of the crack New York session
players Nile had used on the record. David did not cheat on the
band for the Serious Moonlight. It wasn’t quite as slippery-funky
as the Murray/Davis Station to Station band, nor as rock-melodic
precise as the Spiders from Mars, but it was contemporary and it
had character, and did the songs from all periods justice.
"I remember hearing it on the 8:30 news, sitting
on the back seat of the school bus.
It was as if the Queen was abdicating her throne,
which in a way,
I suppose is what it was."
what could you say to the man who changed everything,
and made anything possible?
Raised the artistic bar for our generation of writers
and artists by an almost indecent degree?"
told a friend how on a recent visit to New York
I found myself in David’s neighbourhood, looking upward
at his apartment building. "You were stalking him," said
"No, not at all," I replied, "But you know, if he
to step into the street as I walked past, that would have been great.
"You were stalking!" my friend insisted.
I continue to deny it, but you know what they say, "Once a
the interval we were taken backstage to say hello. David looked
happy, tanned and fitter than ever, hair blond, suit cool and
casual. "He was delving into the realm of the eighties metrosexual
world of high fashion, the precursor to what’s called ‘Executive
Realness,"’ as Nile Rodgers put it in Le Freak. And
he sure looked to be enjoying himself, maybe because there was
nothing paranoid or neurotic about this incarnation, and he could
just be himself. This role seemed to say, ‘This is the real
DB’. "You’re all so tall," he said, as we
lined up for a portrait together for friend and Serious Moonlight
tour photographer, Denis O’Regan. A strange thing to say,
I reflected later, as only Simon and are I are taller than the
Thin White One. The epitome of graciousness once again, he said
goodbye and ran off to the stage for part two of the show.
A few years later in the New York office of RZO. Bill Zysblatt
is both David’s business manager and ours. Duran have a
new album, Notorious, due out, and David is about
to release Never Let Me Down. Neither of us have
been on tour in the US since each of our relative blockbuster
tours - his Serious Moonlight, ours the Seven and The Ragged Tiger
Tour immortalized in the Sing Blue Silver documentary.
Bill Zysblatt’s plan is to put us out on the road together
for shows across the US — that the potential for big business
is obvious. He sells us the idea as equal billing, "Although
David will go on last, obviously.” "Of course Bill,”
we say, “we’re fine with that." Sadly, neither
album would do the hoped—for business. Au contraire.
At least we have one bona fide hit single on Notorious. David is
back in the boondocks with his album. Hindsight seems to suggest
it was the lowest artistic point in his career. But the show must
go on. The joint tour kicks off in Denver, Colorado, at the Mile
High Stadium, and moves north from there across the border into
His stage set is enormous, though not terribly cool. It’s
a giant glass spider, hence the tour’s title, The
Glass Spider Tour. David had written the song Glass Spider
about Black Widow spiders, whose webs, he felt, reminded him of
council estates. The damn set dwarfs all the equipment we have brought
with us. Our gear has to jam onto the few feet left available, practically
on the lip of the stage, not leaving us much room to strut our stuff.
night we noticed how the entire centre-floor section in front of
the stage would be empty during our set.
Turned out David would be having his Pepsi-sponsored meet and greet
with his keenest fans at that time. It wasn’t personal, happens
all the time, but it was a rude awakening and not fun for us. It
was a lesson in an industry truism, that ‘If you ain’t
closing, you’re opening? Sharing drinks in the Gents with
David post-show at some lumberjack beer-hall in Edmonton, I have
no idea what is in his glass. On a Lennon kick myself I’m
interested in talking to him about the Nowhere Man. Would Lennon
have hung out and shot the shit with us if he was here now? "Absolutely,"
David was convinced, "He was one of the boys."
Spring 1990 — My first wife Amanda
DeCadenet and I fly to Rome to see David’s
Sound and Vision tour at the Palaeur. After the
show David and his girlfriend are back in our room at the Hotel
Hassler. Noting the Moroccan scarves I have draped over the bedside
lights to give the room some atmosphere, David chuckles to himself,
"Ah, there’s a little bit of Keith in all of us...”
We decide to go shopping the following day in the Spanish steps
shopping district. The paparazzi go crazy and soon there is a large
crowd of ragazzi following us down the Via Della Carozze. It becomes
clear we aren’t going to be doing any clothes shopping today.
on the thumbnail
says, "Maybe we should write a song called Does It Come in
Black?" That’s a bloody good song title I still think,
and would still like to write, although it’s unlikely now
it will be a joint- composition.
Lennon have hung out and shot the shit with us if he was
here now? "Absolutely," David was convinced, "He
was one of the boys."
I last saw
David at Radio City Music Hall, in New York,
at a Fashion Rocks event when he performed with
Arcade Fire. And that was it. After curating the Hi-Line Festival
for the City of New York David slipped off the grid. Extraordinary
in this paparazzi decade how anyone can do that, but David has
done a real Garbo on us all. Bravo!
Some say he haunts the downtown cafes in the disguise of Kaiser
Soze, another rumour involves an upstate dairy farm. Maybe he
has gone to the moon. Quality time with the kids, is what I’m
assuming, what I hope for him.
It’s hard to believe now just how available David was in
times gone by, when he too was ‘just one of the lads’.
What we wish we had told him. The most frequently repeated conversation
between Nick Rhodes and I on our recent world tour: "Wouldn’t
it be good to see him, just one more time?” "Yes, even
just to give him a hug..."
Seriously, what could you say to the man who changed everything,
and made anything possible? Raised the artistic bar for our generation
of writers and artists by an almost indecent degree?
Perhaps the greatest testimony to the love for DB in the industry
of music is a video message recently posted by Nile Rodgers, Quincy
]ones and Mark Ronson, offering their services to David if or
when he should choose to come out of retirement for one more album.
says, Maybe we should write a song called
Does It Come in Black?
That’s a bloody good song
title I still think"
I told a friend how on a recent visit to New York I found myself
in David’s neighbourhood, looking upward at his apartment
building. "You were stalking him," said the friend.
"No, not at all," I replied, "But you know, if
he had happened to step into the street as I walked past, that
would have been great. "You were stalking!" my friend
insisted. I continue to deny it, but you know what they say, "Once
a fan..." I saw Iman not too long ago and told her, please,
to tell David how much we love him. "He knows," she
Taylor photographed in his private study at South Wraxall Manor on 22
Photos courtesy of our friend Carsten
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