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and David Bowie
Brian and David Bowie - Cleveland (22
Photo: Sheila Rock
Ziggy Stardust Companion interview (1 December 1999)
In 1969 a young musician named Brian Kinchy (later Sands) founded the very first US David Bowie fan club (The International David Bowie Society) from his home town of Cleveland, Ohio. Brian's enthusiasm for Bowie's music resulted in a personal phone call from Bowie in 1972 and was also largely instrumental in Cleveland being chosen as the starting point for the 1st US Ziggy Stardust Tour that September. Following the first concert, Brian met Bowie and other members of the Ziggy entourage at the post concert party - and later again at Pittsburgh during the same tour - all described in the following interview.
Brian's early Cleveland bands "Moses" and later "Milk", were the only area bands "off the wall" enough to be booked to open for then developing artists The Stooges (with Iggy Pop) and Alice Cooper. In 1979 Brian began a solo music career recording as Brian Sands. Brian spent much of the summer of 1978 with the late Vivian Stanshall of The Bonzo Dog Band and did the photography for his L.P. release titled "Sir Henry At Rawlinson End". Brian's two solo LP titles are "Reheated Chocolate Tangos" and "Fixation" (of which the opening track "Dialogue in Limbo" is a take on "The Man Who Sold The World"). Brian Sands is currently working on a projected Spring, 2000 release of an extended CD single, of all new material. Brian Sands can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Brian Sands - 1980 live radio broadcast & interview, WKSU, Kent, Ohio.
Brian, what is the history behind your David Bowie Fan Club?
I formed The International David Bowie Society in 1969 when I was eighteen. I first became aware of David's music when I found his "Space Oddity" single in a cut-out bin at a local department store. Being a musician myself, I found the composition quite unique and challenging for the time. Not long after that I discovered his first album on Deram Records in a garage full of albums that a guy was selling. I'll never forget! - I paid just 35 cents for it! I then began finding photos and articles on David in the British music rags - Melody Maker, Disc and Music Echo and the like. I can't recall exactly where I bought "Man Of Words/Man Of Music" (his second album) from, but I always loved acoustic guitar and I really loved that one. At the time, I read a review of the album by the New York writer - Janis Schacht. She, like myself, was aware of David's budding career in England, and I met her later in New York while the club was forming and David had not yet performed in America. By the time I purchased "The Man Who Sold The World", I was a big admirer of his incredibly diverse work. I was in between playing in bands myself and had some free time to develop the Society. I figured that it was a great way to meet other admirers of his, trade collectibles and perhaps even a means to meeting him one day. I was a huge fan of "The Man Who Sold The World" L.P. - it's still my favorite release by David. I contacted Mercury Records in Chicago,and managed to get a biography from them, along with the information that he was leaving the label, and as we all know, he signed with RCA. In the meantime, I managed to obtain one of the rather limited copies of the English version of the L.P. which features David essentially in drag on the cover. Later David told me that "I was probably one of the only ones who bought it "! I also spoke with him regarding the American version (the infamous cartoon cover) and it seems that he hated it as much as me. He had "no idea" what they were thinking of when they issued it, and unfortunately they gave him no input on it's appearance. I used the wonderful portrait of David from the English version's back cover as part of my International David Bowie Society stationary logo, and then began placing ads in varying music publications announcing the club.
Did you see David in February 1971 when he visited the US?
No - I was aware of that trip (which he basically used to promote "The Man Who Sold The World") but Janis Schacht met him in New York. I have two photos of David taken then, as well as a tape recording of her speaking with him. During 1971 I took a brief trip to New York and stayed with Janis for a few days. We went to a few parties and I met Susan Blonde, Cyrinda Foxe ("The Jean Genie" video dancer), and (then) poet Patti Smith. I was telling people that I thought looked alternative (for that time period) all about this musician named David Bowie. I also met in New York with one of the fan club members, Joseph Fleury. Joseph was following my lead and had formed a fan club for a great band called "Sparks" (formerly "Halfnelson"). Their first album was produced by another musician I admire, Todd Rundgren. I bring this up because eventually, Joseph went on to become Spark's manager. Nice to see a fan come full circle!
How successful was your fan club?
Membership was slow but sweet - at that early stage in his career I was probably lucky that there were two members but the dedicated David Bowie fans soon came out pretty quickly! At its peak the fan club had about 200 members and folded in early 1973. One of my earliest club members was writer and musician John Mendelsohn. I heard that David jammed with him and some of John's musician friends while David was doing the 1971 MWSTW radio tour, in L.A! Sadly I'm no longer in touch with former Society members but if any are reading this I'd love to hear from them again. You really must remember that David hadn't been promoted very well in America at this point, or should I say he hadn't been promoted at all! Each letter I received made me feel that there were enough fans to continue, and so I did. I organized a discography, biography, and sent out an early Deram promotional 8x10 photo that I received from the actual photographer. I still have the original full contact negative he gave me. I continued to pass along Xerox copies of news clippings and to update members. I also made available duplicate copies of vinyl rarities as I came across them.
What was your contact with RCA if any?
At this point I became aware that David was in talks with RCA Records, and so I called their New York office to tell them about my fan club. I was graciously greeted with much enthusiasm - they were so thrilled that there was an American who seemed to know so much about their "new project" and I supplied details about David and his music that I think helped them feel encouraged about their signing with David. RCA at that time had a secretary (Barbara Fulk) who took on responsibility for David Bowie, and was an angel to me. When I first contacted RCA and spoke with Barbara, she told me of the forthcoming first RCA release - "Hunky Dory". In retrospect, the album didn't hold quite the fascination for me as "The Man Who Sold The World". I suppose I can best describe "Hunky Dory" as "charming".
How did you come to get a phone call from David Bowie?
Barbara told David about me and bingo!- one late afternoon at my house in Cleveland, I received a phone call that I honestly at first thought was a prank. But it took only a moment, after hearing David's voice for me to know that it was actually him - there is something about his speaking voice, even to this day. He told me he was calling from his home in Kent, England where he was living with his wife Angela. Barbara had informed him that he "already had" an International David Bowie Society - mine!- and on finding out about that - he showed his appreciation by phoning me. It was a brief phone call, but he informed me that a new album was being released by RCA (Ziggy Stardust) and that he hoped to play the States to promote it. Once RCA started to promote his name in the US, his career really began taking off. After the release of "Ziggy" a US tour was set up and it was decided that Cleveland, Ohio would be the first real live date for David and band The Spiders from Mars. Barbara kept in touch with me from New York regarding ongoing rehearsals and also graciously supplied promotional items for the club. I needn't describe how well the L.P. was received everywhere (we had really supportive radio play in Cleveland for the "Ziggy Stardust" album) and members of my little (but now rapidly growing) club were ready to receive the latest version of David Bowie to America.
What did you think of the Ziggy album?
At the time of it's release I was pretty taken with it, although I knew it was slanted toward the 'pop' vein and much more accessible. If you knew me, you would know that I usually seek out the more abstract side in things, including my interest in films, art, and culture in general. "Ziggy Stardust" really did establish David, and truthfully, I think that success and staying on top of the heap became more the driving force for him after that release. That's why I so loved The Beatles - they sort of did it in reverse. To begin one's career with "Love Me Do" and then to move toward "Only A Northern Song", or "Strawberry Fields Forever" was pretty ballsy, don't ya think?
What was the first concert at Cleveland like?
David's first date in Cleveland (22nd September 1972) took place at the Music Hall and I was thankfully seated next to his then manager Tony DeFries. I had been told to head straight to the post concert party afterwards at the old Hollenden House Hotel. I had also managed to add seven or eight members of the club to the guest list for the show and party, one of whom came from as far away as Houston, Texas! I'm sure you know the basic set that David performed, the really exciting aspect was that, due to my being seated next to his manager Tony DeFries, David was quite often looking toward us for reaction during the concert! Tony was also asking for my input, so I guess I was feeling pretty lofty because RCA had also asked me for my early feedback on David's performance. Being a musician, I made notes for Tony, during the evening's show concerning some technical and staging problems that I felt would concern David and the band, as I would for any artist. Believe me, I've been told more than once that I can be a very opinionated person and at times to a fault, but I don't think so, that particular time. The Music Hall itself was packed, and it was apparent that a bigger venue would have been more appropriate. That certainly changed when David made a return performance toward the end of the tour and played at the much larger Public Hall.
And the post concert party?
I had been graciously invited to David's after show private party, which as noted, was held at the old Hollenden House Hotel, just a stones throw away from The Music Hall. Upon entering the party room, which was really buzzing, I soon saw David, fairly swamped by various members of the press and his "new" adoring public. I wasn't about to rush him, and so I did the smart thing and headed to the barman, for a gin and tonic. I then spotted David's wife Angela, who was strangely standing all alone. I'm sure only the entourage and myself even knew who she was. I went straight up to her and introduced myself, got a quick hug, and she almost screamed -"Have you met David yet ?!- he's waiting to talk to you!!!!" I explained that he seemed rather overwhelmed already but she gripped my hand and nearly dragged me over to where David was now seated in a corner with several people and the Spiders drummer, Woody Woodmansey. Angela stepped right through everyone and proclaimed -"David, this is Brian!!!!!!" More lofty feelings, as every one kind of froze as if it was Brian JONES, visiting from the heavens. Nope, just me. In an almost shocking move, David whispered to the young lady sitting next to him (obviously asking her to move) and motioned for me to take her place! David and I shook hands as photographer Sheila Rock snapped photos (see title image), and David quickly introduced me to Woody. All I can say is that after running down some questions regarding some rather obscure moments from his past, (David and Woody almost slack jawed in amazement), David asked me "How in the world do you know all about this stuff?????" I even blew Woody away when I told him I had a 45 rpm U.S. promo copy of "Fourth Hour of My Sleep" by Ronno (basically The Spiders From Mars). He later that night was yelling for Mick Ronson to tell him that in fact Mercury Records HAD issued a promo, with intention to release it, which neither of them knew! - "Brian's got a U.S. "Fourth Hour"!!! During my conversation with David that night he actually tapped on his drink glass and sang a portion of "London Bye Ta Ta" for me, which I knew he had recorded and he told me was still in the vaults at Phillips Records. After some time chatting, Tony DeFries came by to prompt David to "mingle". We HAD been going on a bit long, and I quickly made a move back to the barman, while everyone was coming up to ask who I was. I suppose I should have said Brian JONES! A month later I got a MainMan postcard from David thanking me for all my help but it wasn't until later in the tour that David and I would sit face to face again.
Where was that?
I was able to see David perform in Pittsburgh (28 November 1972), a town I know pretty well, as my band was managed from there for a time, and we had performed there as well. I flew there and stayed with a friend who had been a fan of mine! I took her to the show and we both went to the after concert party with David. While everyone was chasing around the hotels looking for "Ziggy Stardust" - David, the band and myself were all spending the remainder of the evening at an old "blue collar "Irish bar, where the "regulars" had no idea who David was. It was my kind of place! No dimwits from the press, no pretentious radio people - just the local neighborhood barflies, some folding tables full of lunchmeat, pickles, snacks and ... draught beer! I think this was a rare after show "breather" (as opposed to a party) for David, the band and even some of the roadies. Again I spoke at length with David and more so this time with Mick Ronson, Woody and Trevor Bolder. It was there that I blew David away again when I told him that I knew where he got the "Ziggy Stardust" name from. He sat in a bit of wonderment as I told him that the "Ziggy " was a variation of Iggy (Pop), and that the "Stardust" was swiped from an obscure recording artist - The Legendary Stardust Cowboy (who had shared the Mercury Record label with David around the time of "Space Oddity). Guess what?? - I was dead right, and David had to call over some of the band to tell them that he was "found out"! He really did nearly fall out of his chair. Overall that night was just a blast! To see David looking as he was then, sitting with some old lady at the bar along side your average shot 'n a beer Joe was quite a surreal moment. Mind you, I was getting my share of looks as well. All of my 5' 10",110 lb. (then) body - and most of it was my hair!
Thank-you postcard send by David Bowie to Brian.
Did you attended the other Cleveland concert too on 25 November 1972?
Yes - this time with my "bestest" buddy, Larry Smiley, an artist and musician friend. I understand from you, Mike, that there is now some sort of bootleg release of that show?
Yes - it was released in 1998 and called Va Va Va Voom. The story goes that someone in the audience made a recording that night - sat on it for 26 years and then to the surprise of Bowie collectors released it! Its great quality (for the circumstance and period) with a magnificent early acoustic version of "Drive In Saturday".
I can truthfully say, that by that time, with the press making David Bowie their "darling" and his music being heavily exposed to an entire nation, nearly overnight, it was becoming self evident that my part in all of this was nearing an end. That evening's much larger venue, jam packed with people who wouldn't have known who this man was, only a year before, pretty much painted the picture for me. Don't get me wrong, I was very happy for David and perhaps for myself as well. But I now took the opportunity to refocus on my own music.
What did you think of David's music after Ziggy Stardust?
After the Ziggy Stardust album, I listened to David's music very little. I didn't go to any of his 1973 shows on his next US Ziggy Tour, or any afterwards. I do admire his efforts as an actor, and would have liked to have seen him develop his obvious talent more in that field. Ok Mike, - so I won't score many points with that statement, but that's just how I feel.
When did you become a musician yourself?
I began with trumpet in the school band - ugh ! and dropped out of that pretty quickly - too structured. Went to drums, then finally guitar at age 15. As noted, I began to refocus on my own music after David's first US tour and eventually after playing "world traveler" for a number of years in the 1970's as well as avoiding perhaps THE worst decade in music, I finally began a solo music career, in 1979. I'm still a pretty damn good drummer, but basically play acoustic guitar and 12 string Rickenbacker electric.
What are your musical influences?
Brian and Marc Bolan in Cleveland - radio promo tour for "Electric Warrior"
Early on as a kid growing up, it was pretty much the British Invasion stuff - The Beatles primarily, Procol Harum, The Small Faces, The Kinks, Donovan, early Tyrannosaurus Rex, The Left Banke, and also (then) lesser knowns: Syd Barrett, Emitt Rhodes, Colin Blunstone, The Mothers of Invention (Frank Zappa), The Bonzo Dog Band. There was a moment when I was considering doing the Society for (the late) Marc Bolan and his duo, Tyrannosaurus Rex. I joyfully followed his early releases, but eventually chose to put my effort into The David Bowie Society. I did get to meet Marc, here in Cleveland, while he was doing a radio tour, promoting his "Electric Warrior" L.P. I suppose The Byrds are just about my all time favorite band. In the eighties it was Thomas Dolby, David Sylvian. Currently ? - well sad to say, not much. It all sounds sadly, so "cookie cutter"- formulated hits. I do like Nick Heyward, Robin Hitchcock, and especially Texas-born Radney Foster - I like him a lot.
You mentioned that you love "The Man Who Sold The World" and that the opening track "Dialogue in Limbo" (from your solo LP "Fixation") is a take on that. Can you tell me about that?
The opening track to my second album is a song entitled "Dialogue in Limbo", and it's not so much a spoof or "take" on David, but a personal tribute to the mood of "The Man Who Sold The World" album, along with just a sprinkle of "Space Oddity" as well. It was a challenging piece to record. I really, even to this day get an "other worldly" feel from that album. I love the mix of acoustic and electric guitars, as well as Mick Ronson's truly groundbreaking licks. David 's vocal treatment was just awesome. Did you catch his Marc Bolan at the end of "Black Country Rock"? There are only a handful of records I can think of that have that sort of unique style all of their own. That's one of 'em.
1980 LP "Fixation"
Brian Sands can be reached at: email@example.com. For the curious there are a very limited quantity of pressings of Brian's 1980 L.P. release - "Fixation" available. Details can be obtained by contacting: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Ziggy Stardust Companion thanks Brian very much for his time and memories.
---This page last modified: 12 Dec 2018---