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But, like the poor Russians in the next car who existed only on raw eggs congealing on hot plates, the world that passed by the windows of David's sleeping car was a sharp contrast to the ornate glitter that ensconced him inside. As the train traveled west the infrequent smiling faces of the Russian people evaporated into the chilled Siberian air. Ramshackle towns rushing by David's window turned grayer and the countryside more barren. Soot infested everything, and even David's posh sleeping car afforded no way of washing. He began to think about changing his name to Ziggy Sootdust.
At night, as the train chugged through the Siberian mountains, David's depression kept him tossing restlessly in bed. And just when he was finally able to drop off to deep, the diesel train engine was exchanged for a steam engine which literally shook him out of bed. "Isn't train travel fun?" he sarcastically asked everyone.
The seemingly endless journey screeched to a halt every fifteen minutes in shanty towns where the poverty stricken peasants fought to get a look at the dazzling young rock star from the West. Yet even David, who thought naught of displaying his loins in Japan, self-consciously shied away from the curious natives. "If we had a war with Russia," he confessed to personal photographer Leee Black Childers, "they'd win. They are already living on war rations."
But the most harrowing moment hit David like a scene from a futuristic horror film a Ia 1984. David gratefully eased himself off the train for the first time in the dingy town of Sverslovsk. Photographer Childers playfully posed him against the grim surroundings. Suddenly, two uniformed guards appeared from the shadows and viciously began dragging the shaking photographer away. Our lad insane grabbed his own camera and started to film the entire event! Quickly the dynamic duo were hustled back to their train-barely escaping military arrest.
Mayday in Red Square was a frightening display of Russian artillery prowess that lasted twelve hours. As Bowie wandered through the Square, he was trailed by strange men who demanded to see his identification. A shopping spree at Moscow's Gum department store proved a huge disappointment when David found the only souvenirs available were Russian soap and underwear. The candy counter was like a treasure chest in the midst of a barren wasteland, and a chocolate bar cost as much as a priceless jewel!
After the eighth day of torturous travel, the Bowie caravan arrived in Moscow on May Day to confront an awesome celebration of Russian military might. The city of Moscow had been arranged in fifty concentric circles of security guards with only communist party members allowed to enter the inner circle. David's hotel was located in the second circle, but the walled "celebration" he saw froth his window only terrified him as thousands of young people marched below carrying pictures of Lenin (not John), and banners of muscular field workers.
Even the so-called highlight of Bowie's Moscow blitz visit to Gum's department store, the largest single store in all of Russia proved a shocking disappointment. The aisles and counters were barren except for simple necessities like soap and under-wear. "They take everything away from you," David whispered as he wandered up and down the aisles looking for presents for friends back ho,e, "and by the time you get one little chocolate bar, you hoard it like a treasure."
Moments after this photo of David was taken in the town of Sverslovsk, two uniformed guards began to hustle photographer Leee Childers into a waiting car with barred windows. David began to film the scene with his own 16mm camera when two more guards appeared to arrest him! With visions of Siberia dancing in their heads, David and Childers were saved at the last minute by the two railroad attendants who had taken a liking to the Bowie entourage. The women attendants literally carried Bowie and Childers back to the safety of the train while battling off the furious uniformed men. Heroically, the two husky girls blocked the door to the train until it picked up speed and moved out of the station.
"By the time I got to Berlin, I was calling it the 'free world' and really meaning it," he added. Yet even the comparative gaiety of beer-drinking Berlin couldn't dispel David's Russian-induced depression. "I just want bloody well to go home and watch the telly," he confessed to his wife, Angie, on their way home to Beckenham, England. "After what I've seen of this world, I've never been so damned scared in my life."
Would this journey like the American tour which inspired David's last LP, Aladdin Sane give rise to a new LP? Insisted David, "If I ever wrote about it, it would be my last album even" And he added mysteriously, "I don't think I'd be around after recording it."
---This page last modified: 12 Dec 2018---