Live Aid pre-concert meeting, July 1985
I said, ‘Before we start, lads I want to show you this. CBC television gave it to me ten minutes ago. You should see it.’
The video played. About one minute in I turned around to the black leather sofa. David Bowie was transfixed. Huge tears streamed down his beautiful cheeks.
There was a vast silence at the end.
‘How many songs do you want me to do?’ he asked. ‘Four big hits,’ I replied.
‘I’ll do three,’ he said, still staring at the video. ‘Then I’m introducing this .’
Harvey [Goldsmith] and I said we understood but from the point of view of a global audience it would be better for many reasons if he stayed with the four songs.
‘I’m introducing this,’ he said.
On July 13, 1985 Bowie asked the planet to pay attention for a minute. He wanted to show them something. The CBC-edited clips of emaciated and dying Ethiopian children, too shocking a reality for the evening news, played out to the world to the tune of the Cars song Drive.
The vast stadia crowds of Wembley and JFK, in London and Philadelphia, stopped. Utter stupefied silence.
Beautiful young girls in the sunshine of a perfect summer’s day wilted grief-stricken like drooping flowers atop their tanned bare boyfriend’s backs, and faces stared upwards, bewildered at the utter misery.
The film ended and the world erupted. Phone lines crashed, money flowed in as people finally understood what Live Aid was for.
Only a master showman would understand what was necessary, as Bowie did. Only a totally self-assured genius would offer to sacrifice a song as a nothing in the face of such monstrosity and call the world to attention. Pop was fine but there is always context.
Backstage, David wept again. ‘I can’t stand it,’ he said. And went off for a while to be by himself.
He was a VERY kind man. He was a lovely man.
Young me hitchhiked from Dublin to Brussels to see him on tour. I blagged my way backstage. How, I don’t remember. The austere Thin White Duke eventually asked me who I was. I said I was in a new Irish band, The Boomtown Rats.
‘Good name,’ he said.
I stared. He was VERY thin. He smiled. That smile. The two sexy vulpine side teeth flashed, the wonky eye sparkled its different-coloured twinkle and he said, ‘Let’s hear yeh then’ in broad Sarf Lahndan.
He stuck my manky tape on a ghettoblaster. I cringed. A proto Looking After Number One did less than pound from the inadequate speakers.
‘It’s just a demo,’ I blushed.
‘It’s great,’ he said.
But seriously, enthusiastically, God bless him. He was being kind again. He remembered that one day he’d been Davy Jones and the whatevers. We all start somehow.
‘Will you sign it please?’ I mumbled.
‘What, sign YOUR record? Not one of mine? Cheeky sod.’
That all-embracing smile. ‘You remind me of me. Back then,’ he said and signed.
Clutching my tape and those words ploughing through my head I went on my way to Amsterdam to try and blag some gigs.
I have cherished those words. Ridiculous of course. I could never be like him. Who could be like him? I never registered anywhere on the Bowie-o-meter talent graph. Not even in the bottom of the starter class with a handicap.
He was just too good. He was the Seventies. Nothing in disco or his bastard offsprings of punk, electro or techno came anywhere near the sheer creative depth of those musical outpourings.
Every single new release took your breath away with its daring. Its ambition. Its scale. Its innovative panache. You had to follow. There could be no other choice. And then you were left floundering as he dashed off elsewhere.
Schopenhauer says: ‘Talent hits a target no one else can reach. Genius hits a target no one else can see.’ Yep. It does.
BIG memory. I went to a soccer game in New York with Iggy and David. He hadn’t a clue what was going on, I don’t think. But he looked amazing. As ever. Trilby. Dandy suit. Tie (I think. I’ll have a look at the photo again. In fact I’ll frame the photo and stick it up here over the computer).
Cool. Iggy looked mega too. I looked like a f****** idiot (maybe I won’t frame it). Great afternoon. One for the books.
At my wedding in his morning suit. Impeccable. A laugh. Happy. Kind (again). I’ll stop now. It’s too much.
Oh David. Miss you so much.