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Carnegie Hall, New York
(28 September 1972)
Special Feature

"When David Bowie made his Carnegie Hall debut last fall everybody from Albert Goldman to Andy Warhol was there plus a gaggle of weirdo's expecting some kind of a British Alice Cooper.  That's not what they got.  The concert opened as Bowie, in clockwork orange hair, came onstage amid flashing strobe lights, to the Mooged up strains of Beethoven's Ninth.  From there, except for a simulated sex act with silver haired guitarist Mick Ronson, it was a matter of music, ranging from hard rock laid down by Bowie's band, the Spiders From Mars, to a Jacques Brel song with guitar accompaniment..." - Playboy (1973)

David Bowie's most important concert of the 1st US Ziggy Stardust Tour (September - December 1972) was his debut at New York's prestigious Carnegie Hall on Thursday 28th September 1972. Carnegie Hall was where The Beatles had performed two concerts in February 1964 and for Bowie this was to be his third concert in the US, after two earlier warm-up concerts in Cleveland and Memphis.

In September 1972, David Bowie was still very much an unknown quantity in the US. None of his singles or LPs had yet appeared in the US charts. To succeed in the US rock market, it was very important that Bowie succeeded in New York. As such there was very heavy promotion of the Carnegie Hall concert by both MainMan and RCA.  Even the cast of Andy Warhol's play Pork were employed to distribute tickets to New York's large and influential counter-culture, most of whom had never heard of David Bowie.

With so much riding on this one performance, Bowie was described as being very nervous about being in New York, where he would also meet the national press for the first time. David and Angela met with Newsweek's music editor (a Newsweek article appeared a week later), and on the night before the concert Bowie had a dinner interview with New York Post's Alfred Aronowitz (an article appeared after the concert called "The Super Pop Event"). After the concert David and Angie were interviewed by Timothy Ferris (Rolling Stone) for the cover article appearing on the 9th November 1972 called "David Bowie in America".

An interesting visitor that Bowie received while in New York at this time was a drugs dealer who had read about the concert in the New York Times and had caught the first available plane from South America to make the concert (reportedly with pockets full of cocaine).  He had been a classmate with Bowie at Bromley Technical High School! Bowie would later write "Panic in Detroit" and model "the man who looked a lot like Che Guevara" after him:

"I know who I associated with that character.   It was somebody who I used to go to school with who ended up as a very big drugs dealer down in South America. And he flew into see one of the shows and re-introduced himself.  I don't believe it! - I said - Is this what you are now!? He was the full bit with the clothes and the piece and everything and I thought - My God! - Him?" - Bowie

Carnegie Hall ticket.

The concert itself very quickly became one of New York's social events of the year and tickets sold out very fast. Andy Warhol was only able to get two tickets. It was even reported that Ahmet Ertegun, an Armenian diplomat's son and President of Atlantic Records, was unable to get a ticket at all.

When Andy Warhol was asked if he was going to see David's debut concert at Carnegie Hall, he said "I think I might...I hear he has red hair now.  Did he have red hair before he saw my play?"

Cyrinda Foxe, Angie Bowie & Tony DeFries relax
at the Plaza Hotel after the Carnegie Hall concert.

On the evening of the concert, a Klieg spot-light was positioned outside the hall, its powerful white beam playing the sky and nearby buildings as if for a Hollywood movie premier.

The slogan on the Carnegie Hall marquee simply read "Fall in Love with David Bowie."

Hundreds of curious spectators milled outside the Hall, some checking out "the scene" and some desperately hoping to get a ticket.  Such was the demand that scalpers were able to get between US$30-$50 for the $6 face value tickets outside the theatre. 

A "Who's Who" of celebrities attended this concert including Truman Capote, Todd Rundgren, actors Tony Perkins & Alan Bates, Lee Radziwill (sister of Jackie Kennedy), Andy Warhol and the New York Dolls (with their respective entourages). There was also a very large press turnout. Every one of the British music papers was represented. RCA announced that more than 400 applications had been made for the 100 press passes available for this concert.

Angie Bowie & Cherry Vanilla at the Plaza Hotel after the Carnegie Hall concert

However, there was also the suspicion that many of the audience had been "planted" by RCA and Mainman in order to help ensure a successful concert.   While the other Ziggy Stardust concerts on this tour netted about US$20,000 each, according to Bowie's manager Tony De Fries, there was no financial return from the Carnegie Hall concert because it was largely a "paper audience" - so many tickets had been given away that it made no profit at all.

Singer Ruth Copeland opened the concert - but most people ignored her set - preferring to stay in the Carnegie Hall lobby and bar - and some only rushing back to their seats at the last minute when the Clockwork Orange theme was played.

Future author Eric Van Lustbader was there is his earlier role as a rock reporter and the following extracts are taken from an article on Bowie's entire career that he would write in 1976.

"The Hall fills up slowly.  Most people are still at the entrance to the bar, all the way back up the aisle.  There you can see them milling in the corridor within the blue-white haze of smoke.  Glassy eyed, furry tongued, sequined and bejeweled, the men with lacquered finger-nails, the women with choppy, carrot-orange hair.  Ziggy is just moments away.  And Ronno the Electric, they also think of you, those who stand and wait, drinks in their hands. One glimpse, now and again, the odd issue of Melody Maker or the New Musical Express, clutched tightly, and opened to photo spreads of the current Stardust Show snapped as it occurred somewhere in the hinterlands of England: Slough or Wolverhampton.   Magic words of places never actually seen.  The last of the girls and boys rush to their seats as the intermission lights go down and the rustling of the crowd is like the insistent sweep of insects through a field of wheat....."

At 9pm following a taped introduction from "A Clockwork Orange", Bowie and the Spiders made their entrance to a standing ovation from the audience. "Hello," said David Bowie...." starting his 90 minute set.

Setlist

"Hang Onto Yourself" 
"Lady Stardust"
"Moonage Daydream"
"Five Years"
"Suffragette City"
"Changes"
"Life on Mars?"
"Queen Bitch"
"Starman"
"Andy Warhol"
"My Death"
"Space Oddity"
"Width of A Circle" 
"Waiting for the Man"
"White Light - White Heat"
"Round and Round"

Bowie was initially dressed in a multi-coloured jumpsuit and would make one more costume change (to a gold and black checkered jumpsuit) halfway through the concert.  In addition to the white strobe light which was used for the opening number, two more strobes (coloured red) were used to highlight David's face so that the audience could see his expressions change with every musical moment.

Bowie was very frightened that he was going to physically break down during this concert due to a 48 hour influenza bug that he and some of his entourage were suffering from.  However, the concert was very successful despite this and few people noticed that it impeded his singing or stage theatrics.  Timothy Ferris (Rolling Stone), though, due to Bowie's flu, described the show as only a "pallid imitation" of those he had seen earlier in Cleveland and Memphis.  When Ferris interviewed Bowie after the concert he noted that Bowie's:

"...flu had progressed to its stupefaction stage .... He responded to questions in the flu sufferer's manner, with a blank stare into space for about the time it takes to ride a bicycle up a long hill, followed by a fretful harvest of words..."

It was reported that it took a while for Bowie and the Spiders to build momentum but they were soon in stride and during "Starman" there were accounts of some of the audience (including Angie and Cyrinda Foxe) dancing in the aisles.

"Sound. Its swells like the booming of surf on a deserted shore.  Ziggy and the Spiders.  And there's Ronno, on his knees in front of the idol whose fame Bowie covets.  The sexual movements are explicit and everybody is happy because it is happening just as it was reported by NME.  Carnegie Hall is for a moment Wolverhampton.  You can't fault the music. Or the group. They play hard, muscular chords, sharp and choppy, the tempo a futuristic quick-step that induces the adrenaline to flow.  And Bowie as Ziggy cries to the crowd, head back, sweat running in glistening rivulets down the creases of his thin neck, staining his uniform.  Put Your Space Face Close To Mine, Luv.  Ronno rips off the chords.  It's the first Bowie show with real power..." - Eric Van Lustbader (1976)

"They went ape-shit. The place really rocked.  It was fabulous, the best, the only comparison was The Rainbow Show" - Will Palin

When Bowie introduced his song "Andy Warhol" he had a smile on his face, realizing that Andy Warhol was in the audience.  This is "for all the blondes in the audience" he said.  After about seven numbers Bowie and Mick Ronson perched on stools for the acoustic numbers which included Jacque Brel's "My Death" - which some mistook for "Port of Amsterdam".  He introduced "My Death" with the words:

"We are going to cut some of the acoustic numbers down because I'm having a little trouble as you can hear,  I may not finish this one...This is by Jacques Brel" - Bowie

Incidentally RCA recorded this concert for the aborted Ziggy Stardust live album and while it was never released "My Death" from this concert is able to be heard today as it was included on RARESTONEBOWIE (1995).

Before he sang "Waiting For the Man" Bowie told the audience "This is like bringing coals to Newcastle" - a reference to his next two songs being written by New York's own Lou Reed. Trevor Bolder's bass amplifier blew out during "White Light - White Heat" but the group kept going. 

Bodyguard Anton Jones and Woody Woodmansey
at the Plaza Hotel after the Carnegie Hall concert

A five minute standing ovation was accorded Bowie before he and the Spiders returned for "Round and Round" - the encore. Ellen Willis of the New Yorker was seen standing on her chair enthusiastically applauding at the end of the show. Bowie finished with a smile, and a sincere "thank you" to the audience.

Andy Warhol "Pork" star Geri Miller then presented a bunch of gladioli to David on stage.  Geri Miller had obtained much press notoriety by bursting naked out of a birthday cake for Mick Jagger but on this occasion managed to keep all her clothes on! After the concert, security was so tight that Andy Warhol could not get to see Bowie.

Bowie was however able to be interviewed backstage by newsman Scott Osborne for US TV:

Scott Osborne: "What do you want your audience to think when they see you?
David Bowie: "I don't want them to think anything. They're probably just as confused about my writing as I am. I mean, I'm the last one to understand most of the material I write".
Scott Osborne: "How would you describe yourself?
David Bowie: "Partly enigmatic, partly fossil..."
Scott Osborne: "Fossil?"
David Bowie: "Yes".

As with the audience reaction, most press accounts of this concert were extremely positive. Largely due to the concert's success another eight weeks of concerts were added to the tour.

"Bowie set himself a number of impossible requirements for the full success of this tour, and then, being Bowie, proceeded to meet all of them with grace." - Billboard

The following are links to articles reviewing the concert:

"Rock Music: A Colourful David Bowie" - Don Heckman
"Bowie Neat-O At Carnegie Debut" - Ron Ross
"David Darling of The City" - Lisa Robinson
"Caught in the Act" - Ray Hollingworth
"Ziggy Stardust Outshines Bolan?" - Linda Solomon

However, there were a few detractors. Robert Christgau (Newsday) wrote that while David may have been prettier than his opening act, he wondered if winsomeness and songs about Andy Warhol by an "English fairy" were enough for an American rock audience. Albert Goldman (Life) wrote nothing at all:

"I must concede that the performance did not impress me at all.  In fact, I told my assistant, who accompanied me, that I thought he was a classic example of the star established though hype.  Obviously I was wrong, but I wasn't wrong about that concert.  It was nothing and the atmosphere was one of frenzied hype stirred up by RCA." - Albert Goldman

Alfred Aronowitz (New York Post) did not go to the show and instead sent a scout he called "Tattler Bob" a.k.a. Bob Weiner - and producer of the film Groupies.   Reportedly, Bowie was appalled at this lack of good manners, especially after granting Aronowitz an exclusive dinner interview the previous night.

"The Super Pop Event" - Alfred G Aronowitz

Mick Ronson at the Plaza Hotel after the Carnegie Hall concert

There was no traditional after-show party. Due to his worsening influenza, Bowie retired early to bed at the Plaza Hotel, while the others (as seen in the images above) relaxed.

---This page last modified: 28 Oct 2002---

Ziggy Stardust Scarf (1973)