This story was published in one of Melbourne’s newspapers some years ago, and if my memory served me correctly, it goes something like this –
David Bowie was in Melbourne for a tour, it could have been the Low/Heroes tour of 1978, it could have been the Serious Moonlight tour of 1983. Regardless, it was long before my time, and I would have always been too young to see Bowie on stage in Australia, anyway.
Bowie, accompanied by two burly security guards, was enjoying a night out at one of Melbourne nightclub pioneer Brian Goldsmith’s establishments when he began to take things a little too far with one of the club’s waitresses.
Perturbed by the advances of the over-confident Bowie, the waitress complained to Goldsmith.
Goldsmith, indifferent to who it was causing the trouble in his club and demanding a respectful manner from his patrons, approached Bowie.
He came up to Bowie and his two rough-headed security guards and very casually asked the men, “okay, which one of you is Bowie?”
The Thin White Duke was notably thrown back by the insult, his ego taken down a massive peg after being compared to the two brutish men he had either side of him, protecting him from crazed fan boys, girls, and perhaps other rough-headed Australian men who may have found Bowie’s androgynous styling offensive.
It may seem as though re-telling this story stems from a dislike of Bowie, his attitude and his music.
In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
The truth is, I get great pleasure out of this story because I love the thought of one of the world’s greatest artists partying in a murky Melbourne nightclub and being humiliated for being too cocky and disrespectful – to me it’s a great story from rock and roll and links the man behind some of my favorite albums (his own and other artists) to my hometown.
When my brother and I were about 10 and 12 we stepped out of our Backstreet Boys and Eminem (weird combination I know) loving phase and began asking our parents to buy us classic rock CD’s.
Being the music novices that we were, we didn’t even think about going through an artist’s catalogue and requested the greatest hits compilations from each artist.
The three albums I remember listening to most were a three-disk Queen anthology, a Jimi Hendrix greatest hits, and a greatest hits entitled Changesbowie.
Scratched and battered, the last time I tried to listen to Changesbowie was probably three years ago and it didn’t work.
The disk is still lingering around without its broken case somewhere at my parents’ house.
Regardless, I’ll never forget those early days driving along in the car with Mum and my brother Mark, pumping classics like “John, I’m Only Dancing”, “Rebel Rebel,” and “China Girl”, which I think was a personal favorite of my mum’s.
How could it not be with that funky oriental riff?
Last night, I played Let’s Dance on my record player, in a lame little tribute to Bowie.
I kept asking my girlfriend if she knew the different songs – “Modern Love”, the title track “Let’s Dance”, and of course, “China Girl”, and she knew them all.
Since those early days listening to the Changesbowie compilation, my love and appreciation for the man who managed to reinvent constantly and stay so damn cool about it has steadily grown.
I got older and was introduced to the music of two of Bowie’s closest acquaintances – Iggy Pop and Lou Reed.
My friends and I used to ask each other this question: in order from one to three, who is your favorite – Bowie, Lou Reed, or Iggy Pop? My favorite has always been Iggy Pop, followed by Bowie and then Reed.
However, I couldn’t have had such a great love for the wild man from Michigan if it wasn’t for Bowie’s influence on him.
Bowie played a major part in writing and producing Pop’s flawless 1977 album Lust For Life, even reportedly writing the riff for the albums famous title track on a ukulele.
Things changed from the island softness of the uke when “Lust For Life” was taken to the recording studio and turned into one of punk rocks ultimate classics.
Pop later said in an interview that he had to try and write quicker than Bowie in the Lust For Life sessions or he would not have considered it his own album.
There you go, another cool Bowie story: he wrote the riff for “Lust For Life” on a ukulele and had Iggy Pop scared that he was going to do outdo him so much writing the album that Pop barely slept during those recording sessions, way back in West Berlin.
Things change, Bowie said that a long time ago: my mum, brother and I don’t really drive along in the car singing along to “China Girl” anymore, but hey, we’ll still always have his music.