Before lockdown, Brighton hosted a dazzling exhibition on David Bowie called Rock n Roll with Me. It features rarely seen behind-the-scenes photographs of Bowie and crew on the road for the 1972-73 Ziggy Stardust world tour and the 1974 Diamond Dogs US tour. Here are a few surprising things I learned about the rock ‘n’ roll legend, David Bowie, on my visit.
1. Bowie was afraid of flying
After enduring a turbulent and stormy flight in the early 1970s, Bowie decided never to fly again. Instead, he would travel via buses, boats and trains, always in first-class if that was an option. He’s travelled on luxury trans-Atlantic cruise liners, such as Cunard Line’s QE2, Italian Line’s Leonard Da Vinci, and Orient Line’s Oronsay. He also hired a Greyhound bus to tour the US.
2. He toured for three years with his friend from Primary School
All the photos in the exhibition were taken by Bowie’s childhood friend, Geoff MacCormack. Bowie and MacCormack met at Burnt Ash Primary School in Bromley, South London when they were eight. They stayed friends and in the early 1970s, Bowie invited MacCormack to join the Ziggy Stardust and Diamond Dogs tours as a backing singer, and travel the world with him for three years. He also ended up co-writing couple of songs.
“It was kind of a huge leap but it was like being invited to a party. The party went on for three years. Sometimes you’d go home and wash – and then go back to the party,” says MacCormack in a book he wrote about his three years with Bowie, called From Station to Station: Travels with Bowie 1973-1976. “Being a naive kind of person, I didn’t ask what it was going to be like. I just went and did it.”
3. They travelled on the TransSiberian railway
Due to the fear of flying, Bowie and his tour crew travelled on the TransSiberian Express for the return leg of the Ziggy Stardust tour, taking them from Japan to Europe – even though there were 95 stops between Siberia and Moscow. Apparently, David soon captivated their two hard-faced female carriage guards by spending the evenings in their kitchen singing them 1950s rock love ballads.
4. He gave Soul singer Luther Vandross his big break
Soul Singer Luther Vandross supported Bowie on his Diamond Dogs tour of America in 1974, after being invited by an old school friend and workshop colleague, Carlos Alomar, to join him in the studio with David Bowie for the recording of the song, Young Americans. Who knew?
5. Bowie caused chaos performing at Brighton Dome
Apparently, 18 seats were ripped from the Dome auditorium and four fans fainted during Bowie’s performance at Brighton Dome on May 23 1973. “The act is total theatre. The stroboscobic lighting , the weird costumes and Bowie’s charisma transformed the Dome immediately into science fiction,” said a local newspaper report. And look! The tickets were only £1.20!
6. Kashai Yamamoto wasn’t Bowie’s only costume designer
Freddie Burretti tends to get second billing next to the more well-known fashion designer, Kashai Yamamoto. In fact the, the 19-year-old Londoner, born Frederick Burrett, is credited by the singer himself as “the ultimate co-shaper of the Ziggy look.”
Rock n Roll with Me runs until June 2021 at Brighton Museum. Tickets for online booking will be released when the museum can reopen. Keep up to date with museum reopening news, here.