‘You’ll remember day you booed Bowie’
Making it big: Bowie on Whistle Test in 1972
Whispering Bob Harris remembers the moment he lost his temper with an audience after they slow-handclapped David Bowie as he played Space Oddity.
The future star had only just begun his climb to fame when celebrated DJ and Old Grey Whistle Test presenter Harris took him to a gig he’d been offered at the last minute.
He tells the Guardian: “I first saw David in a folky act called Feathers. He was very polite and surprisingly ‘English’. It was a fantastic, creative time.
“I lived with a mobile DJ and he’d double-booked himself, so I took David with me to a college gig. I introduced him, he played Space Oddity and they started slow-handclapping.
“I was so angry I took the microphone and said, ‘Remember this name: David Bowie. He’s going to be a star and you’ll remember the day you booed him off stage.’”
Harris says of his old friend: “I counted him as one of the closest people in my life, but once he became successful, he was unreachable. I think to get to that level of stardom, you’ve got to have a very high degree of self-absorption. Recently, when I was involved with the Sound & Vision charity for Cancer Research, David immediately donated something. He can be very distant, but on this occasion he really wasn’t.”
Meanwhile, former Spider From Mars drummer Woody Woodmansey has reflected on the amount of pressure Bowie was under during his Ziggy Stardust era – and how the experience changed his ex-colleague.
“We went on holiday to Cyprus and the plane got hit by lightning,” Woodmansey says. “He went white and fainted. He was so emaciated from the hard work, you could see the veins on his face. He didn’t fly after that.
“In the early days, we’d have a laugh, go clubbing – but later on it became apparent that he’d gone into character. You’d come off stage and he’d do interviews as Ziggy; you’d be sat in a taxi with this alien. You’d ask a question and he’d look right through you. He had turned into Ziggy Stardust.”
Bowie will release surprise comeback record The Next Day in March, with new single The Stars (Are Out Tonight) launched tomorrow. HIs guitarist Gerry Leonard recently offered hope that a tour might take place to support the album.