Bowie and His Heroes

Imagine taking a larger-than-life iconic figure like David Bowie and unearthing his own heroes, inspirations and crazy encounters.

In Tom Hagler’s newly-released We Could Be…Bowie and His Heroes, we get an insider’s look at some of Bowie’s fame moments with everyone from Lennon to Liz Taylor. BBC reporter (and Bowie-obsessed) Hagler provides 300 short stories, some embarrassing, some downright jaw-dropping, in this hardback read, perfect for any Bowie fan or music lover.

The book’s chapters are presented in chronological order, starting with the aptly-titled Absolute Beginner (1947-69), and continuing straight through to 2016. A few black-and-white photos are sprinkled throughout the book, however it’s the stories that surely entertain here.

Thumbing through its pages, I discover a few gems. For example, Bowie was so greatly influenced by Pink Floyd’s Syd Barrett that he named his prototype Ziggy Stardust band Arnold Corns in homage to the Pink Floyd song Arnold Layne. Another less-hyped link to Barrett is that he was the only other rock star (aside from Bowie) to write a song about a gnome.

Although Barrett wasn’t interested in Bowie, it was the royalties from Bowie’s cover of See Emily Play that allowed the former Floyd man to continue living in London rather than moving back in with his mum in Cambridge. Once Barrett was replaced by David Gilmour, Bowie biographer David Buckley believes that this left a gap for Bowie to enter the music scene.

Another big Bowie fan was Ridley Scott, who approached Bowie for a film role (both were apparently fascinated by future dystopias). Blade Runner’s replicant character, played by the late Dutch actor Rutger Hauer, was even given the same birthdate – January 8 – as Bowie’s.

Bowie, Pop, Reed
[David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed]

Talk about star power: David Bowie met Lou Reed, Iggy Pop and Andy Warhol within the space of one week! While Bowie was busy shaping the 70’s music culture, he was unknowingly influencing some of the biggest stars of the 80’s, including Ian Curtis, Chrissie Hynde and Marc Almond.

Even more amazing, later in life, Bowie and Alice Cooper teamed up with Iggy Pop to become unlikely golfing buddies.

Iggy Pop and Bowie shared a flat in Berlin, which ultimately saved both their lives. Pop was broke, Bowie in financial straits due to a poor management contract, yet Bowie would give Iggy 10 Deutschmarks every morning for food and essentials. Without Pop, Bowie may have never been courageous enough to go to Berlin, and Pop attributes the move to his being alive today. “This guy saved me from annihilation”.

Bowie has had brushes with A-listers, including Liz Taylor, Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Frank Sinatra, Michael Jackson and David Cassidy. Taylor served as a mother hen type figure as they shared the world of superstardom. She’d phone him regularly and they’d chat over her daily routines and health.

As for Lennon, Bowie described him as his “greatest mentor”. The two became great friends over time, and although Bowie was devastated when Lennon was assassinated, he found the courage to perform the night after his murder. A counterbalance to this deep friendship was a big letdown by Aretha Franklin.

Madness fans will definitely want to turn to page 237 where a fun story ensues about a Madness show and later a family holiday in Switzerland with Suggs!

Even Stephen King has a short chapter in here. He was apparently such a Bowie fan that he named his sci-fi TV series after one of his fave Bowie tunes (Golden Years). An amusing story on page 350 describes ex-Jam frontman Paul Weller and Bowie sharing a good laugh over a 60’s photograph too.

British astronaut Tim Peake once asked Stephen Hawking what one song he would take to space. Starman was his reply.

We Could Be… Bowie and His Heroes is available via Octopus Books (CAD $27.99, USD 24.99, £20) and at booksellers around the globe. Visit Octopus Publishing online for more info.

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