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|Angela Bowie Interview
Angie Bowie, the power behind Ziggy's
Photo by Mick Rock (May 1972)
The Ziggy Stardust Companion is very honoured to feature this exclusive interview (March 2000) with Angela Bowie. Many thanks to Angela for her time and wonderful memories! Her website is located at www.angiebowie.com
See also Angela Bowie Interview: Part 2
"Apart from a good number of great rock records, my ex-husband gave two pretty significant gifts to the world we've known these past 20 years. He very publicly asked a question our generation was very obviously begging. Well - what sex are we? And he almost single-handedly initiated some two decades worth of dress sense and hairstyle. David's new hairstyle triggered new experiments with makeup and greater interest in clothes and it wasn't long at all before young David Jones had turned himself into a figure that was pure 100% head-to-toe Ziggy Stardust - a lithe, red-haired, face-painted, very revealingly and very originally clothed poly-sexual Stardust alien. Which of course did the trick image-wise. There would never again be any doubt about which one David Bowie was, even if who he was immediately became a mystery that has persisted to this day ... And of course as the cultural historians have noted David as Ziggy was one of the great social catalysts of the times. He was the flash that ignited a worldwide explosion of sex role experimentation, glitter competition and narcissistic self absorption. And as Ziggy began his conquest of the world's imagination it became clear to me that fortunately I'd done my end of the job quite well. The team I had marshaled was talented, spirited and remarkably effective. David now had behind him a very fine full fledged rock band, a marvelously cunning manager, a greatly gifted personal designer, a creative and dedicated stylist and wardrobe mistress, a "hell on wheels" wife to run everyone for him and a full time nanny to make it possible for her to do so. Ziggy was ready to rock n roll!"- Angela Bowie from Backstage Passes Audio Book (1993)
Angela, what do you think the Ziggy Stardust era achieved?
I hope it achieved the worldwide recognition of David Bowie as a major artist and songwriter. That was my brief. It also changed the performance and presentation of popular music. Sound, lights and costumes became a necessity. Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars was a vehicle to express the 70s angst. The subject matter was gender and androgyny accented with enough Sci-Fi and galactic references to keep commerce away from the incubating thought until it was formed enough to jump onto the public awareness and run screaming towards the media! I just liked seeing boys look pretty and singing about something. All the perks and advantages of hindsight!
Did you enjoy the concerts, atmosphere, touring at the time?
Very much. The concerts were an exclusive party, access to know what we knew, a privileged club. You dressed for the occasion and it was a given that anybody at any of the shows was a friend.
"Ziggy Stardust" was a huge success. The release of this incredible album was accompanied by a live performance tour with full record company backing. Everything was promoted. The cover, the billboards of David up and down the country. Constant airplay on the radio stations. Reviews and editorials in all the papers. Ziggy Stardust was toured as an album, not as a concept. Therefore his band, named The Spiders From Mars, were on stage with him all the time during this show and David was the one who dropped in and out of songs vocally and instrumentally, giving them scope to improvise over and above their own solo spots. Ronno would lean back with that haunting wailing guitar to accompany him, looking like a young Greek god. They were all terrific!" - Angela Bowie Free Spirit (1981)
"It was wonderful, that first UK Tour. It wasn't a sellout all the way though - in some of the cities the halls were only half full - but everywhere David and the boys went, the reaction was delirious. I went to four or five of the gigs myself, and I'll never forget them, particularly the moment when I found myself in a box at the Queens Playhouse in Glasgow, watching with my heart in my mouth as the fans started climbing the wall of the theater to get to me. My mother was with me, and to this day I don't know who was more amazed, scared, and delighted all at once, she or I. When the show returned to London and played the Imperial College, I remember, the crowd rushed the stage during David's encore and carried him out of the hall in triumph on their shoulders, like some great hero of Ancient Rome" - Angela Bowie Backstage Passes (1993)
Photograph from Free Spirit (1981)
To what extent were you involved in the concerts, stage elements?
At the beginning I was involved making sure that the sound and the lights were functioning correctly but as I have a short fuse, David very sensibly retired my responsibilities in the stage management department before the second British tour. I didnt appreciate it at the time, felt like I was being stripped of my well-earned chores, but with a mixture of flattery and charm I was disposed to consider that there were other things with which to concern myself, for instance the Party at the Café Royal! There was always some bigger and better chore that needed to be performed and I was the door kicker so as the boys continued to tour I became less evident in that area.
Up until the last concert at the Hammersmith Odeon, I was responsible for the costumes for the boys but the link with Kansai Yamamoto came through RCA Japan. Stage elements yes and no. David would ask about the effectiveness of new moves and I would reply.
Is it true that you suggested to David the "Gimme your Hands" routine at the Ziggy Stardust concerts - where he reaches out to the audience?
Yes, I did suggest it. The interpretation of "Rock n Roll Suicide" was just about as close as I could see as perfection in the performance of popular song. It had drama, great lyrics and a rousing audience participation level to close it out, As Chris Walken said, on "Inside the Actors Studio", "The magic of the theater was apparent."
What other ideas were yours?
I dont remember and I would be scared to say if I did for fear of attempting to take credit for something that defied anything that came before or followed. It was a series of magical moments when your performance and subject matter matches the needs of the audience. Like a great dictator senses the needs of the masses and what it is they need to hear, sometimes an artist plays so respectfully to his audience an entertainment orgasm occurs. There is a great deal of mutual congratulation between artist and audience. The audience as Walken reiterates should receive a credit in the program.
Davids ability to interact with every audience member making each performance a memorable feat of communication is unforgettable. Like a great church experience of ones adolescence, if he had asked us to buy shares we would have hocked our grandmothers, fortunately at that innocent time we were only required to buy albums and magazines, programs and tee-shirts.
Do you think the album was specifically designed as a concept album?
"Their music was explosive on the Ziggy tour. It had a beginning, a middle and an end. At the outset it was the ominous warning of "five years, that's all we've got" and then the scene switched to "Suffragette City" where the action was "wham bam, thank you ma'am" and culminated in "Rock n Roll Suicide" a vision of life at the end of a broken rainbow. One critic who reviewed the show wrote "At the end of the performance Bowie called out to his audience, "You're wonderful, give me your hands." I was expecting to see cripples run and loaves of bread and fish multiply" .... Everyone of his albums had a different theme, with the exception of Pinups, which was a glossary of the music of the Sixties. David and Twiggy were photographed by Justin de Villeneuve for the cover. My hair was cut short like Twiggy's at the time and I think some people mistakenly believed it was me on the sleeve with David" - Angela Bowie Free Spirit (1981)
"David, in one of the five jackets I bought for him on Sloane Street" from Backstage Passes (1993) Angela Bowie (1972)
Photos by Mick Rock
Where did you shop for David's costumes and what did you buy?
I shopped at Libertys for the fabrics Freddie Burretti made into the original Ziggy suits. I had shopped at Brick Lane in the East End but those fabrics wouldnt do once the singles started to move and the boys were being photographed a lot. For Davids clothes I went to Sloane St. and places in Chelsea, New York - a vintage clothing store called Vintage Halloween that Cherry Vanilla turned me onto and Paradise Bootery. The Mary Quant lame tee shirts in every color were available at any department store. I think I went to Harvey Nichols. Danyella Parmer, my friend and assistant accompanied me and it was a blast shopping for all the cool stuff available in London and New York at that time.
"Strangely enough, I received my greatest compliment at this time. Tony De Fries noticed that many of the girl fans at the concerts were copying the way I dressed. Said Tony one night "We've got seven or eight Angies sitting out in the audience..." I was astounded. And so was David. I caught sight of one girl. A platinum haired teenager who was very pretty and had got herself a dark green woollen dress like the one I had been seen out in only a week before. She wore stiletto heels in the same colour. Even her hairstyle and makeup were identical to my look" - Angela Bowie Free Spirit (1981)
What was your favorite Ziggy costume?
The red and black painted on leather body suit by Kansai Yamamoto.
Cyrinda Foxe, Angie Bowie & Tony DeFries (US Tour 1972)What is your favorite song on Ziggy Stardust?
Boy, you sure ask some tough questions! I had to go back to your website and listen to the whole album. I dont think its possible to choose a favorite except well, maybe "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide". Its such a complete piece that I cant imagine the album missing any tracks, they are integral to the overall concept of Ziggy as this alien superstar who traverses galaxies and yet is heard everywhere.
"Rock n Roll Suicide" spoke to me personally and it was my personal anthem for everyone everywhere who had endured the humiliation of growing up with stupidity and I am that all-embracing in my interpretation. Thats the incredible thing about Davids music: here we are, 30 years on still discussing a solo, a chorus, the meaning of the words. I know he takes pride in this incredible contribution because I do for my small part: being around, cooking, cheerleading, and a couple of ideas. I feel justified for my time on the planet to have accomplished the small amount of exposure to vital issues; bisexuality if youre growing up and wrassling with them. Now thanks to the Internet there is full-scale accessibility to information about everything including sexuality, space etc. etc. Hurrah!
"Rock n Roll Suicide" has the positive affirmative - "youre wonderful" and "Give me your hands youre not alone" refrain, that I could hear as I walked into a restaurant or jumped up in the morning.
When was the last time you listened to the Ziggy album?
Yesterday to answer your questions about my favorite track!
"Dinner in Japan, April 1973"
from Free Spirit (1981) Photo by Masayoshi Sukita
Were you involved in the recording of Ziggy Stardust? Did you visit the sessions?
I cant remember. The first couple of albums I spent a lot of time in Soho. See Backstage Passes for a full description of this time at Trident Studios. But with the boys in the band and Tony Visconti and Ken Scott all available at the studio, I didnt feel that David needed anybody to hold his hand. I had all kinds of other stuff to do, like getting a van and a PA, meeting with Freddie and going to the office, irritating Tony DeFries, keeping our hand in, so that Tony didnt start making decisions without us.
Continued on next page
---This page last modified: 12 Dec 2018---