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Angela Bowie
Interview: Part 2

Backstage Passes cover (Paperback version)

The Ziggy Stardust Companion features a second exclusive interview with David Bowie's ex-wife Angela. Angela talks about her CD of songs called "Moon Goddess", the new paperback version of her best-selling book "Backstage Passes: Life on the Wild Side With David Bowie" and answers some fan letters. Of special interest are Angela's interesting recollections/memories to a number of Ziggy Stardust pictures found in this interview.

See also Angela Bowie Interview: Part 1

Hi Angela and thank you yet again for your time. 

Hi Mike! Thank you for inviting me to do a second part to our interview. It’s a delight to be talking with you as opposed to pulling my hair out and looking at my computer which exploded last Thursday. Totally my fault, I was cramming too much stuff into it, I think!

Moon Goddess CD Cover

You have just released a new CD called Moon Goddess, only available online.  Can you tell us about that? 

That album has been waiting in the wings for a while, a long time in the holding vault! It has been a big thrill for me to have the album released at last.  It's great! I can now tell people where they can listen to what I write!

Moon Goddess CD at MP3.COM

I'm told that one of the songs was written 25 years ago?

"Some of My Best Friends are Strangers" was written in 1973/74. That’s 26 years! Shoot! Who’s counting? "Success" and "For the Sake of Fame" were written in 1976/77.

Is "Moon Goddess" in any way an "answer" to David's "Hours"? 

Those three songs were my answers to breaking up with David but the answer to "Hours" is "Kings Cross" which I have not recorded yet.

Some people have wondered if David was singing about you in a number of those autobiographical songs on "Hours", e.g.

"I guess we lived it all...lived with the best times...lived with the worst...I've danced with you too long...nothing left to say...We used what we could to get the things we want but we lost each other on the way..." from "Something In The Air"

What do you think?

I don’t think so. Songwriters know that an audience is not interested in WHO you are writing or singing about; they are only interested in HOW it relates to THEM and their lives. I thought "Hours" was a return to large sound, the subject matter was teenage and summer love so that appealed to me. Most creativity is cyclical and so now that David and Iman have their family with a new daughter, I’m sure David will do a Hunky Dory II. Hunky Dory (1971) is so close to Zowie and how happy David was to be a father! Their daughter will spark all kinds of wonderful songs, I am sure!

Backstage Passes cover (Paperback version)

Backstage Passes is just about to be re-released in paperback with a Ziggy Stardust era photo. Why the change of cover?

I don’t know. I did say I was not fond of that purple business, perhaps they did it to please me or to sell more books, who knows?

Backstage Passes: Life on the Wild Side With David Bowie by Angela Bowie, Patrick Carr
Amazon.com Price: $17.95
Paperback - 368 pages Reprint edition
Cooper Square Press ISBN: 0815410018
Available on October 1, 2000
Angela's BackStage Passes Website

Angela, here are some key images from the Ziggy Stardust era. What can you tell me about these images?  What memories do they elicit? The first is the famous "I Am Gay" interview with Michael Watts published in Melody Maker on 22 January 1972.

Oh You Pretty Thing Interview

Great Freddie Burretti suit with a quilted cream and dark-green Liberty print! David and I went up to London together and I dropped him at the interview, GEM Management, Regent’s St. and then I went to do errands. I met David afterwards and he looked like the cat who got the cream.

Was his "coming out" statement planned?

No, if memory serves, it wasn’t planned. It would be so clever to say now that it was part of an overall strategy, but the most extraordinary results occur when you don’t plan anything.

David told me what he had said and then mumbled, "Well, Mick probably didn’t even hear." I said, "You could have at least said you were bisexual. What am I? A spare at a wedding?" David looked miffed. I had said the wrong thing, quick recovery, "But I can assure you, he did not miss what you said. He had a tape on, right?" David nodded. I started to laugh and David smiled and we looked at each other and knew that the shit was going to hit the fan now!!! "Did you tell DeFries what you said?" David can be very cute, "No," he said, "I thought I’d let him read it in the paper!" I corpsed, started laughing like a banshee.

Here's a picture of you signing autographs outside Hammersmith Odeon on 3 July 1973. This wasn't such a happy time was it?

Hammersmith Odeon Concert (3 July 1973)

As you can see I am pretty upset. Life was not pleasant for me at that time. I didn’t like it and I didn’t know how to fix it. Pierre la Roche and David mocked me when I went to the dressing room to wish David luck for the show. Cherry Vanilla was having an affair with my husband who was nailing anything that moved.  That’s the look of six years in the music business, my concern for my son Zowie, my acting career was a non-starter, my writing was clipped to reports for the fan magazine, it is the look of a disempowered trophy wife, but I was no trophy, I was too much trouble!…about to shove it up someone’s ass. "I’ll endure it; but as soon as you close your eyes; I’m gone."

I couldn’t decide who was trying to hurt me more: the staff at Mainman or Tony DeFries all by himself – I knew underneath it all it was David. We, David and I, had founded this power structure which was now going to run me off but not without a fight. David got rid of DeFries before he offered me an honorable way out. I had to give a party at the Café Royal after the show and act like everything was Hunky Dory. It was 4/5 days "last minute". It was a party and I road-managed. David and Mick and Lou Reed were insufferable camping about and being so obnoxious. It was fun when the dancing started. Then the "boys" took all the girls and adjourned elsewhere. I went home and resolved to get my ass out of Dodge!

And The 1980 Floor Show.

1980 Floor Show (18-20 October 1973)

Let’s see what do I remember about this? I never got a production credit - that’s the first thing I remember. David was having affairs with Ava Cherry, Amanda Lear. Tony DeFries was trying to get rid of me, I was denied access to Gunter Grove, the New York and Los Angeles offices. But I was to work like a dog, slave and be grateful to be married to a Mainman star, not the founder of Mainman: David Bowie but a Mainman artist. The divorce lawyer from London was trying out his terror tactics to wipe me from the slate, to make me so miserable that I would desert my post and he could fulfill patriarchal duties on his adopted son, David. I was so irritated I wanted to spit! I thought "You want to play, come on. We’ll play." I proceeded to make life miserable for Tony where it hurt in the pocket book. "So much politicking and deception". Well the book tells the story.

OK back to better times! This is the famous Mick Rock photograph from the Ziggy Stardust concert at Oxford Town Hall. 

Oxford Town Hall (17 June 1972)

Funny how one’s memory selects the pleasant things as opposed to the difficulties and dilemmas. It was a great show with a less than auspicious beginning. Someone from the council came and gave instructions and told us and the promoter what to do. During the early 70s, the councils held the prime & cheapest venues. For the privilege of playing in their arenas some self-important council members felt that it was within their jurisdiction to imply limits. Of course no-one in their right mind paid any attention but nevertheless, they could hold up a show, threaten to pull the power which was not cool for an electrified and fully lit stage show. This occurred in the U.S. as well but the councils were replaced by unions, thus the debacle in several mid-western cities Detroit or Chicago I believe when the electrical union demanded a cash bribe if the show ran past 11.00 p.m.

I can’t remember who the promoter was at the Oxford Town Hall but we loved him and he really stood up for David and the boys and the show began with everyone on edge including the crowd. There was rebellion in the air.

Was the "Electric Blowjob" as seen above a deliberately planned event?

No. But David probably knew exactly how to get the shot and I am sure the only reason he didn’t set it up with Ronno was from the Lindsay Kemp school of directing and production, Go for it, do it, if it works write it into the show!

What was it like working with the Spiders in terms of their stage work and look?

To give David his due, the boys were a great joy and much fun but in terms of stagecraft there were times when explicit directions had to be given. I spent a lot of time working with Freddie and the boys on their costumes. One of the things that we did was get very high platform shoes for Trevor and lengthen his leg in this manner, by tailoring the pants. The most instinctive was Ronno who had a natural flair.

I understand that Mick Ronson was pretty upset at the implication that the photo suggested and at one stage almost left the band because of adverse reaction from his family.

I remembered that Ronno, who was a Mormon, was pretty irritated after the show until of course he saw the photographs and it was through his generosity of spirit that the photo was printed as a thanks to our fans in the music paper, Melody Maker I guess.

How exactly did the photo happen?

It was such a smooth move. David came to the front of the stage and delivered a couple of lines then he saw that everyone at the back could not see him and so he strode towards the back of the stage and passed Ronno who stepped forward to give him a moment, beautiful placing, stagecraft, I was in awe. Then, Trevor approached Ronno and as he withdrew David was in a perfect position to slide to his knees as he passed Ronno and give credence to the publicity. That’s called pushing the envelope or the difference between wanting it and doing it. What can I say? I held my breath until the photo flashes numbered 7 or 8 and then I took a breath: "We got it! Yes! Now there would be hell to pay!" Ronno stomped off the stage. I put on my totally oblivious face, the one where nothing fazes me and ran backstage to the dressing room. "Damn good show," I said. Ronno looked at me quizzically and before he could say a word, David walked in with Trevor and Woody. I thought "band moment" and left.

Click for larger image

David said they had it out and then the photographer arrived all overjoyed and the subject languished in Mick’s thoughts until he had a lager and realized it could be worse…not half as bad as stripping that jacket off his body and oiling up the torso, madness to hide it, he was a swimming god! This was just the beginning!

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Dorchester Hotel (1972)

This is quite a photo! David and DeFries were just tickled pink that they had accomplished getting Lou Reed and Iggy Pop to London. I guess this was taken when Lou was in town for the Transformer album and Iggy was there while DeFries negotiated the CBS album deal for Iggy.

Publicity at the time claimed that you bit Lillian Roxon's breast at the Dorchester.  True?

Yes I did, but it was at the Warwick hotel in New York at the end of an interview and not at the Dorchester. It was just there, huge and I was sitting in an armchair and she was standing next to the chair chatting and she said something very complimentary about David’s lyrics. The lyrics were my favorite thing about his performance and the fact that she appreciated the same thing overwhelmed my good mood and as I looked up to smile at her and agree, there it was: her breast. So I took a bite, saying it was in honor of her great understanding of things. I don’t think she minded!

Here is Lindsay Kemp on stage at the Rainbow Theatre Concert on 19th August 1972.  What was your involvement?

Rainbow Theatre Concert (19 August 1972)

David sent me to get the Lindsay Kemp Company from Edinburgh to London. They were booked at the Edinburgh Festival and Lindsay had been vague on the phone as to when they would be finished. They always needed someone to help backstage with changes or the follow spot. I was delighted to help. They were performing "Flowers" and the show was classic. Lindsay interpreting Jean Genet. Heaven! A beautiful young boy with wings and lavishly covered in gold make-up was suspended like a crucifixion. Jack Birkett danced and parodied the best friend and Lindsay Kemp shone, resplendent in a white silk sheath that plunged to his groin and was cut to the crack in the back. He wore strands of opera pearls looped around his throat, but his hands, it was those hands that spoke volumes. I’m writing myself into an ecstasy. Let me take a minute.

Well, the upshot of all this was that I had a blast and returned to London with the troupe delivering them as per instructions of the Bowie! To coin Ivana Trump. This photo is an indication of how well it went. See Lindsay smile. It was good for the boys to see David in the presence of his teacher. The Spiders and Ziggy were bonding, Good job too ‘cos they still had America in store for them! The band was great and David was wonderful but Lindsay was Lindsay, a great shining talent, he radiated with every gesture and facial expression. He played the music with his face and body. The audience was so amazing, so hip, they were baffled, incredulous, upset and then aware of what brilliance they were witnessing. Oh yeah, it was a great show!

Jack Birkett was an almost blind dancer.  How did you plan for that at the Rainbow?

For safety's sake it was a minimal part because Jack was not used to the size of that stage, I have a dim recollection that we made some arrangements so he wouldn't fall off the stage. David had seen him take a dive off one of the stages when he was in the troupe and didn't want Jack to plunge to his death, the Rainbow stage was higher than smaller theater stages like the one for "Flowers" they had just finished in Edinburgh.

Here is David on the Russell Harty Plus Show. Russell seemed pretty hostile to David in this interview.  Were you there too? What did David think?

Russell Harty Plus Show (17 January 1973)

No, I was not there for this. I can’t remember anything about it. Maybe I was out of the country. But, Russell Harty was very nice to me, but he was always being cynical. Kind of to prove how hip he was. I thought he was very funny. He pretended as if everything was so shocking and you had to ride it like a wave. I have no idea what David thought about it.

David and you in Paris 1973. Who are the others?

Paris (May 1973)

I think "Fuzzy Head" is the lovely Charles Sharr Murray - I don’t know who the photographer is. I know that guy in the white hat and I can’t think of his name.

I understand that David met Jacques Brel in Paris at this time.  Were you with him?

No, I don’t think I saw Jacques Brel with David. Jacques Brel was normal teenage angst at school in Switzerland. He did a lot of Swiss T.V. I am sure if there had been a choice to do something else or be somewhere else I took it!

Here are some fan letters.  Thanks for offering to answer them here in this interview:

Dear Angela,

I’m doing both a rhetorical and musical analysis of some songs of "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars" for college. As I'm not a native speaker of English, I‘m having a bit of trouble at understanding some parts of the lyrics. The question I'd like to ask is: When the disc was released, did people know what he was talking about in his songs? Was it only his fans who strive to understand them?

PS: I loved your lecture on bisexuality.

Best wishes, Valeria

When the disc was released many people did not know what he was talking about and that added to the mystery and the belief that Bowie fans were privy to some type of secret that no one else knew! I am a little at a disadvantage because you were not specific as to which lyrics are confusing. In the analysis for your paper it might help to know that David employed a technique called cut-ups following the example of William Burroughs where you dissect the lines of poetry and re-assemble them to find hidden meanings.

Free Spirit (1981) and Backstage Passes (1993)

Dear Angie,

I was wondering if you still had any contact with Mick Karn, I believe you were romantically linked at one time. I remember he toured with you in the early 80's when you were reading your poetry. Also Angie, How come there is no reference to your book "Free Spirit" in Backstage Passes? I enjoyed both books but felt Backstage Passes was a little crude. Great to see you on the Web, you are a true Beauty.

Paul

I have not seen or heard from Mick Karn. I watched the "Old Grey Whistle Test" version of "Time: Today, Tomorrow, Yesterday" and the show that contained the clip took the piss out of our efforts to synchronize poetry and rhythm so much, I can only assume that he was embarrassed to have done the duet with me. Free Spirit was never mentioned in Backstage Passes. Patrick Carr probably felt it was not a good thing when planning an autobiography to make mention of a book that had gone before and covered the same material. I thought Backstage Passes was a little crude too. I was under the gun to help Patrick Carr get the book finished and the more I changed things the more irritated the Putnam editor: George Coleman became.

Hi ya! Belfast calling

I've often wondered what became of you following the Bowie years and I'm glad to see you're looking stunning and apparently having a fantastic time. Congrat's are in order. Anyway, I was just curious (and I realise this isn't related to...well...anything I read on your site..) as to whether or not you've seen Velvet Goldmine? I read somewhere that Bowie claimed it was "seedy" or something...what are your thoughts? Is it also basically a cinematic version of Backstage Passes? I loved the film, and I love Todd Haynes, so I was a bit irritated with the slating of the film on our side of the pond...must try to get a copy of your book.

I won't keep up any more of your time....cheers!

Gareth
xxx

Yes, I have seen Velvet Goldmine. No, it is not a version of Backstage Passes. It has nothing to do with me. I don’t know Todd Haynes, but I liked the idea of making a film set in the Glam Rock period. I felt as though the characters were cartoon. It was a film of a look, of a time, of a sexuality, an expensive way to make a video of the album. The album/music was very good on its own!I feel bad Gareth, I don’t mean to knock your favorite movie, but you had to ask...!

Hello Angie

I would like to Know if during the Ziggy period if David was friends with Marc Bolan at that time. I'm a fan of both. But back in the early seventies I remember reading a lot of articles at the time that they did not like each other. I also thought that was odd since David did appear on the Marc Show. I never seen any pictures of them together except the MARC SHOW. I do know that Marc played guitar on "The Prettiest Star". I hope you can respond to this in the next interview on David Bowie or Marc Bolan websites.

Thank You

Ken

Yes, they were mates and had a friendly rivalry in the press. The rivalry to which you refer probably stems from the fact that Tony Visconti was record producer to both dudes. So from time to time David or Marc or Buzz Linhart (another great songwriter produced by Tony Visconti) would vie with each other over record sales or gigs or Tony’s time and his availability to them, just normal boys’ stuff!

Hello Angie,

I just would like to know what it means for you being the ex-wife of David Bowie and to have had the privilege of knowing David in his best times: the Ziggy years...

Thank you

José

"Paris Collection, 1973"
from Free Spirit (1981) Photo by Terry O'Neill

Do I have an answer to this question? David Bowie was my best friend for ten years. We saw a lot of action in the media arena which was our battleground with the establishment. In the public arena of the early 70s, Billy Jean King was making huge strides for Womens’ Athletics and Sports. She played Bobby Riggs in Texas at the Astrodome and beat him, the battle of the Sexes was vindicated. In the United States, Title IX equalized the opportunities for girls and balanced the gender differences which had plagued the Women’s Athletics’ movement.

In art and science, cutting edge technology was bringing strange, vital art works to prominence. Vassarely, Dali, Warhol, Antonioni’s Blow-Up, Hair, Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradbury, Carl Sagan, Star Trek, William Burroughs. All these stimuli affected that time and us. It was a time of radical change and we each had separate agendas. Where the agendas dovetailed, we were very successful and yes, I cherish and am delighted to have shared those years with such a good companion. I was never bored! There is no greater compliment that that, surely!

Thanks so much Angela and good luck with the book and CD!

Angela can be emailed at angie@angiebowie.com

---This page last modified: 19 Jan 2007---

Ziggy Stardust Scarf (1973)