Wednesday, January 6, 2016

"No, but I wish I had his money..."

Bowie - 2015
When the staff at AM get into the zone, that sweet spot where everything about the magazine format seems to fit, there is a daily evolution/transition from article to article. Last's years posts about Laurel Canyon were some of the best the site has to offer, with each daily chronicling the events that occurred 50 years prior. In that spirit, on January 8, 1966, the Beatles' Rubber Soul reached the top spot on the Billboard 100 and remained there for eight weeks. January 8, 2016 commemorates David Bowie's 69th birthday and on it the release of  (Blackstar), Bowie's 25th studio album. (See, cohesion.) But there is of course more to the Bowie/Beatles connection, particularly the relationship between Bowie and Lennon.

By late 1974, David had completed his ninth studio album, Young Americans, but the LP remained in a holding pattern while David broke shady management ties with Tony Defries. Staying at the Sherry Netherlands Hotel in Manhattan, Bowie had a party that John Lennon and his girlfriend, May Pang, attended. Record producer, Tony Visconti, was also in attendance and later recalled that both John and David were high on cocaine and Cognac and while sketching caricatures of each other had a dark conversation about what it all means, with "it" of course meaning "life."


A week after the party, John received a call from David saying that he was at Electric Lady Studios working on a cover of Lennon's "Across the Universe" for the new LP. Young Americans didn't need any further material, but David seized the opportunity to get John into the studio (even stars are starstruck). John obliged and came to Electric Lady January 15, 1975 to sing backup vocals and play acoustic guitar on the Beatles classic. (John later commented that Bowie's "Across the Universe" was the best of versions, including that of the Beatles.) After jamming with the band on The Flairs 1961 hit "Foot Stompin'," Bowie and Lennon teamed up with guitarist Carlos Alomar, who'd been playing with David since the previous year, and the three wrote "Fame" on the spot.

In an interview following Lennon's death, Bowie said, "It's impossible for me to talk about popular music without mentioning probably my greatest mentor, John Lennon. I guess he defined for me, at any rate, how one could twist and turn the fabric of pop and imbue it with elements from other art forms, often producing something extremely beautiful, very powerful and imbued with strangeness. Also, uninvited, John would wax on endlessly about any topic under the sun and was over-endowed with opinions. I immediately felt empathy with that. Whenever the two of us got together it started to resemble Beavis and Butthead on Crossfire. 

Bowie went on to say, "Towards the end of the 70s, a group of us went off to Hong Kong on a holiday and John was in, sort of, house-husband mode and wanted to show Sean the world. And during one of our expeditions on the back streets a kid comes running up to him and says, "Are you John Lennon?" And he said, "No but I wish I had his money." Which I promptly stole for myself. 

"It's brilliant. It was such a wonderful thing to say. The kid said, 'Oh, sorry. Of course you aren't,' and ran off. I thought, 'This is the most effective device I've heard.' 

"I was back in New York a couple of months later in Soho, downtown, and a voice pipes up in my ear, 'Are you David Bowie?' And I said, 'No, but I wish I had his money.' 

'You lying bastard. You wish you had my money.' It was John Lennon."