- 12 Jan 16
Billy Corgan, Morrissey, Robert Smith and Moby are just a few of the artists who spoke to us over the years about the musical icon; we crack open the vault to gather some of the most entertaining, poignant and important recollections
Glancing through the Hot Press archives, there's one artist's name that routinely came up in interviews with some of the world's greatest acts. That musician was David Bowie.
What comes across in interview after interview, is how in awe people were of him. How these wildly popular bands, turned in to small little children in his presence. However, most strikingly, is the generosity, warmth and lack of ego these artists consistently mention time after time - Bowie was magnanimous in every moment and effusive with his praise for both established and up-and-coming musicians.
In an interview with Hot Press' Stuart Clark, The Cure's frontman Robert Smith was asked, does he ever get starstruck?
“Only once, which was when David Bowie asked me to play at his birthday party concert in Madison Square Garden. When I walked on to rehearse ‘Quicksand’ with him it felt like I was dreaming. When he started playing guitar, I thought, ‘This guy’s been my hero since my early teens and it’s just the two of us on this huge big stage. How the fuck did that happen?’
Smith added, “The stuff you’re into as a kid is always what makes the biggest impression. Bowie, Tommy Cooper, punk exploding… those are the memories you carry with you through life.”
Our Stu also had the chance to ask Moby about his connection with Bowie.
“We’ve emailed a few times, but I haven’t seen him since either the lollipop in the eye or the heart attack,” he concludes. “The thing about David is that he’s a survivor. No matter what life throws at him, he comes back stronger than before which is a quality I very much aspire to myself.”
Morrissey also opened up to us on his earliest memories and touring with David Bowie.
"Weirdly, the very first time my name was printed in the press was in 1972 because I had entered a competition in Sounds magazine to win the forthcoming David Bowie LP – which was Ziggy Stardust – and I won, and my name was printed in Sounds and I was dazed. I had bought ‘Starman’ but didn’t know anything about David, and hadn’t even seen a picture of him. I know it’s difficult to imagine for very young people now, but Bowie cropping up on BBC’s Nationwide in 1972 alongside Arthur Scargill and elderly people trapped in their own maisonettes was jaw-dropping.
"He was so important to me because his vocal melodies were so strong and his appearance was so confrontational. Manchester, then, was full of boot boys and skinheads and macho-macho thugs, but I saw Bowie’s appearance as the ultimate bravery. To me, it took guts to be David Bowie, not to be a shit-kicking skinhead in a pack. At the time Wayne County had a song called ‘Are You Man Enough To Be A Woman?’ and I thought it applied to the Manchester thugs of 1972, which is why I actually saw Bowie’s bravery as very strong, and not floppy or dippy. He just did not care. And all people care to a ridiculous degree – we’re all so frightened and boxed-in.
"Bowie would roll into Doncaster and Bradford in 1972 looking as he did, and if you had a problem with it then it was your problem – not his – he was the one who was always laughing or smiling. He wasn’t persecuted by anything. It was the people who objected who were persecuted. I was very grateful, even though it wasn’t in my instinct to dress like him or imitate him.
"It also seemed to me that his impact was bigger than punk, because he was a one-man revolution, yet it is punk that’s remembered as the big turnaround of the ’70s. The Outside tour didn’t work, though, because after a time knowing David I realised that he actually thought I was the singer from Suede – a fate worse than life. Can you imagine the indignity? I hope not…"
Speaking to John Walshe, Irish rockers Ash chatted about the Thin White Duke.
“He’s in great form at the moment. His show is really class,” guitarist Charlotte Hatherly gushes. “I actually went up to him, shook his hand and said hello. I touched the hand of Bowie. It is really bizarre seeing him wandering around a dressing room: it puts me on edge.
“After the first gig, all Charlotte could talk about was Bowie’s ass,” confesses frontman Tim Wheeler, while the guitarist has the good grace to look slightly embarrassed.
“He really looks like he’s 28 or something,” Charlotte enthuses. “Considering the amount of fags, booze and drugs he’s consumed, you’d think he’d be quite haggard by now but he’s very well preserved.”
Ash also shared a surreal anecdote. "There we were, waiting for a mini-bus to take us to the tourbus proper (this being America, we weren’t allowed to walk), when all of a sudden who should walk over and join us only David Bowie. All smiles and disarming cockney charm, Bowie is the epitome of good humour, even posing for a photograph with yours truly (he looks younger than me), while laughing about his gig earlier in the day. During a stunning show, Bowie had to re-start ‘China Girl’ due to the fact that his microphone fell apart in his hand and the short-sighted superstar was left to fix it on his own. Ash, Andy Dick, Bowie and me… again I pinched myself… only in America."
The Killers' singer Brandon Flowers revealed what the musical icon said about their material.
"Seeing David Bowie singing along to ‘Mr. Brightside’. I couldn’t believe it! Afterwards he complimented every single one of us individually, and said that he could hear the whole history of rock ‘n’ roll in our songs. He’s a hell of a musician and a hell of a nice guy.
Hugh Cornwell, former singer for The Stranglers, spoke about working with producer Tony Visconti because of the work he'd done with Bowie.
“Well, Tony mixed a couple of Stranglers albums, so I’d worked with him before,” explains Cornwell. “I always thought he was very good with voices, because of the work he’d done with David Bowie. I thought he did very good work with my voice on The Stranglers stuff, and I’ve always been in touch with him since then, so we thought it was a good idea to do something together.”
Has Cornwell himself met Bowie?
“Yeah, I’ve met him once or twice,” he replies. “One time was when I re-established contact with Tony. He’s a very, lovely disarming man, and he does a great Norman Wisdom impersonation. I just hope he gets out and about and active again if he can, ‘cos he hasn’t done anything for a while.”
Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan chatted about his relationship with Bowie.
“I saw him last year, when he played in Chicago,” says Corgan. “He was incredible, the best I’d ever heard him sing. It was fantastic, I just loved the shit out of it. He certainly made some phenomenal records, but the thing was that he was a big influence on bands that I love. So I guess you could say that he’s been an indirect influence, in that I love Joy Division as much as I love David Bowie.
“But he’s very warm. I’ve known him now for at least 10 or 12 years, and I find that the more I run into him, the warmer he gets. I feel like each time you get a little closer to the man, and a little further away from, y’know, that guy. He’s very well-read, he always keeps himself up on culture, and he always has something to say about everything, and that’s my favourite kind of guy. You can talk to David about politics, you can talk to him about Gene Vincent. He’ll hang with you on whatever. He’s very inspiring in that way.”
Finally, former Ash guitarist Charlotte Heatherly, couldn't help but gush about the Starman's influence.
"The obvious one for me is David Bowie. I first saw him when I was 14 and was really into him when I got into my first band when I was 16, and when I joined Ash I was listening to him non-stop. He was totally inspirational for me in getting into music, and not just music, but every book and magazine I’ve read about him. He introduced me to nearly all areas of pop culture. I was obsessed with him for years. There was something incredibly attractive about him throughout all his different stages. I devoured everything – every book and every single album. I think the intelligence behind him was quite intriguing to me. Especially at the time, it was all Britpop when I was 16 and at school and everyone else was listening to Blur and Oasis and I was listening to Aladdin Sane thinking I was really cool!
"It’s really cool now because we’re doing the Area 2 tour with him and Moby in America. Moby asked us to do it. The anniversary of Ziggy Stardust is coming up, and there are rumours he is going to get the Spiders back together – minus Mick Ronson obviously – with all the costume changes and the whole Ziggy show. I’m wetting myself over that. It’s going to be fantastic. I might finally get to meet the old man. I don’t know what I’d say. It’ll be like the scene in the Church when Steve Martin meets the girl of his dreams and he can’t speak. I might try and avoid him really. I don’t want to shatter any illusions I have.
"I know people who have met him, and for some naïve reason, I expect him to be quite fatherlike in that he’ll take me home and father me!
"I don’t know whether it would be a good idea (to meet him). Another one of my heroes is PJ Harvey, mostly for being another female performer and guitarist and being so inspiring for me when I was learning to play. I actually met her and we were talking briefly. As I was walking away, I tripped over a bin and I fell over. Now every time I think of PJ Harvey I cringe at that moment. I don’t want to repeat that with David Bowie. It would be awful..."