Consider this a milestone: It took David Bowie’s death, and a number of coincidences, to turn me into a fan. I, unreconstructable Rock & Roll fiend that I am, was largely indifferent to Bowie’s oeuvre until recently.
I saw David Bowie live, only once, in New Jersey, on 03 August 1987. Peter Frampton was playing guitar on this tour, and I was at least as eager to see Frampton as I was Bowie since it had been a long time between sightings.
Giants Stadium in the Jersey meadowlands is very large, and I saw Bowie from quite a distance. I can’t say I remember the concert all that well—over 30 years and all. I’m sure Bowie played his current album (Spiders from Mars) along with all the usual hits. They say the best camera is the one you have with you, and I might add that the best photographs are the ones you have taken. Sadly, I don’t have a single photo of David Bowie, either from the audience or anywhere else. And even more sadly, I never will. Best I can offer is a multi-Frampton to fill in.
I was able to find the exact date of my one Bowie sighting by doing a tiny bit* of research. Turns out it was called the Glass Spider Tour, and it has more of a story than I was aware of until now.
Of course, I had heard all the Bowie hits on the radio. But we didn’t have internet in those days and I had no way, beyond buying “albums,” to hear his lesser songs and even more obscure material. So what, then, was Bowie to me? Space Oddity and Major Tom and Ashes to Ashes, to be sure, but I didn’t particularly like the first and liked Ashes only somewhat more. In fact, my favorite of his was Rebel Rebel. I also saw his movie The Man Who Fell to Earth under really odd circumstances which I may relate some day. But it wasn’t my kind of science fiction. And thus did my acquaintance with Bowie repose until…
Wow! Putting out fires with gasoline! In an incredibly dramatic reading. But after a while it, too, faded out and another few years of repose ensued until…
The Coincidences Began With a Tale of Two Tonys
It seems an Eventidier, Joe Waltz, was intrigued by the vocal sound in Bowie’s Heroes, which is a story in itself. He made contact with Tony Visconti, David Bowie’s long-time producer, and got Tony Agnello, my partner at Eventide, in touch with Visconti. The two Tonys collaborated on an audio product (with coding by Adrienne Humblet), sold as Tverb, that replicated the Heroes vocal effect. Now that I think of it, I should have suggested Tsquared-Verb. Too late.
Of course I had heard the song Heroes before. But I didn’t love it at the time and maybe didn’t pay enough attention. I have now.
Next There Was the Martha Mooke Connection
No, that’s not the name of her band—that would be the Scorchio Quartet—but she also performs solo. Which is what she did when she offered to do a “house concert” here in Sedona with her electric viola and her electronic effects devices. I met her on the telephone and it was concert at first babble.
Turns out that she had played on several Bowie records, as I discovered when we met in person. Not only was her concert wonderful, but she was rewarded with a rainbow before starting, which I’m sure was an encouragement.
OK, a coincidence. But we’re not done yet. The third one is the most bizarre of all.
Tony Visconti, Bowie’s producer, along with Woody Woodmansey, Bowie’s drummer, were part of a group called Holy Holy, a Bowie tribute band. My Bowie awareness was augmented by attending a concert of theirs in Phoenix, and I realized just how little of his music I knew. Another impetus to discovery, this time with the internet as my accomplice. Holy, Holy
If I were Auric Goldfinger, that’s what I would consider this final coincidence. But it was a known not-enemy, so never mind.
We were in the gym and I was talking to a friend. The subject of music came up, perhaps a mention of the Holy Holy concert. She said to me, in approximate quotation, “My brother, Mike Garson, was Bowie’s musical director and pianist.” Garson was not a familiar name to me, but Wikipedia says “Garson was David Bowie’s longest and most frequent band member.” Even if I had happened to know my friend’s maiden name I never would have made that connection. It took the Tverb followed by Holy Holy for me to even mention Bowie, which led to this most bizarre coincidence of the lot.
It turns out that Garson was touring as part of The Bowie Alumni Band and was scheduled to perform in Mesa, Arizona shortly thereafter. A group of us went to the concert at the invitation of his sister, met Mike backstage, and a wonderful time was had by all.
I was talking to Martha Mooke, now Eventide’s “musician in residence,” and happened to mention that we were going to see the Bowie Alumni Band in a few days. She said, again in approximate quote, “They are playing in New York shortly after the Mesa gig, and I will be part of the band for that performance.” Of course that meant that she would be seeing Mike Garson, whom she already knew. I emailed an uncropped version of Mike’s photograph incorporating the aforementioned sister to Martha. The sister has no connection to Bowie or the concert biz, so you can imagine Mike’s surprise when one of the musicians displayed the photo I took in Mesa. I must imagine it, too, since I wasn’t there. Another coincidence, probably forgotten by now. But still…Is There More?
OK, I’m done, sort of. An internet ‘radio’ ‘station’ I listen to plays a lot of Bowie, and I’m slowly becoming more familiar with his music. It is surprising in its variety and a welcome addition to my listening oeuvre, if there is such a thing. Thanks, dramatis personae mentioned above, for improving my life.
* Tiny bit is more than I usually do. Normally it’s none.
** Joe is an intriguing fellow. How intriguing? Well, I’ll reveal a small sampling when authorized to do so. It involves, inter alia, this very blog.
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