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Music

10 wild stories from the life of David Bowie

David Bowie was a man of many masks. Some days he performed in one way, and some days he performed it completely differently. And much like The Joker, if he wanted to remember something, he preferred it to be “multiple choice”.

He was a direct peer to Freddie Mercury, and although his work rarely lived up to the standard set by Queen, Bowie was nevertheless a raconteur and performer of high repute. And in his own idiosyncratic way, he melded a legacy that was his in every shape and form.

Bowie was strikingly handsome, which meant that he was a draw to both men and women, but it was his chops as a songwriter that he will be best remembered as. Indeed, there are many songs we could highlight in another article, but this one is about some of his wild escapades.

There are some escapades that we have chosen not to go into, due to their moral ambiguity, but there is plenty here to chew upon for an enjoyable evening’s read.

10 wild stories from the life of David Bowie:

10. Keeping urine in a fridge

Yes, you read that correctly. The singer used to store urine in a fridge in an effort to preserve his morality, after purportedly falling out with Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page. Bowie was convinced that the Zeppelin songwriter was capable of summoning dark spirits, given his fascination with the occult. He used to stock up his fridge with urine in the hope of quashing evil spirits in his fridge.

Bowie and Page enjoyed a friendship in the late 1960s, and the guitarist allegedly gifted him a riff that wound up on The Man Who Sold The World. Indeed, ‘The Supermen’ sounds like a Zeppelin outtake, steeped in head to toe in Page’s DNA.

9. Referring to Yoko Ono as “others”

Bowie was a master of lyrics, regularly punching up his work with cryptic messages and brisque, oblique metaphors. Yet he was also clumsy of making an idiot of himself in public, as he did with the prayer during The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert. The surviving Queen members were embarrassed, stunned that the performer was shallow enough to take the focus away from them on their night of intense grief.

Worse still, Bowie rambled through the 17th Annual Grammy Awards, congratulating John Lennon and Yoko Ono on “finding love”, before describing them as “others” after speaking to the “ladies and Gentlemen”. Considering Ono’s status as a Japanese woman, this was clumsy wording, but Bowie later explained that he was barely sober. Nevertheless, Bowie and Lennon collaborated nicely on ‘Fame’.

8. Fighting for long hair

Out of all the stories that make this list, this comes across as both the most juvenile, and the most innocently hysterical sounding. But the young Bowie felt strongly enough about the status of his hair length to speak about it on television. He speaks passionately, but naively. Bless him, he was only 17.

“It’s really for the protection of pop musicians and those who wear their hair long,’ explained founder and president, David Jones, as Bowie was then known as. ‘Anyone who has the courage to wear their hair down to his shoulders has to go through hell. It’s time we were united and stood up for our curls.’ David is in the process of enrolling members. ‘Everybody makes jokes about you on a bus, and if you go past navvies digging in the road, it’s murder!’” He had it hard, alright.

7. Coming out as gay in 1972

Bowie famously came out as gay during an interview with Melody Maker. In many ways, he said in such a nonchalant way, it would barely register in today’s environment: “I’m gay. And always have been, even when I was David Jones.” And yet the words ricocheted through the media, upsetting many parents across Britain. When you consider that homosexuality was still a crime in Ireland and Scotland, this was a brave thing to admit, but it was a decision he later came to regret.

In 2002, he admitted that it was premature to admit to his sexual preferences in life. “I knew what I wanted to be, which was a songwriter and a performer,” he recalled, “And I felt that bisexuality became my headline over here for so long. America is a very puritanical place, and I think it stood in the way of so much I wanted to do.”

6. Getting into fights

For years, people were fascinated with the difference in colour between Bowie’s eyes, when it transpired that the change in pupil density came from a schoolyard scuffle. George Underwood fancied the same girl as the 15-year-old Bowie did, and decked him in an effort to ditch the competition.

The singer was left with a dilated eye, that carried into his solo work. But that’s ok, because the singer added it to his idiosyncratic wardrobe, and it connected Ziggy Stardust to The Thin White Duke, all in an effort to create a new form of art in rock.

5. Bowie’s guitar fellatio

Like Serge Gainsbourg before him, Bowie liked to shock, and although relatively tame by today’s standards, the vocalist simulated fellatio on Mick Ronson’s guitar in 1973. The posture was daring, inventive and designed to provoke more puritanical members of the audience.

As it happens, the move was enough to get him noted in the presses, and he emerged as the new bad boy of rock in a way no one could have expected. But rather than bring bravura or bravado, Bowie simply brought sex to the proceedings.

4. An affair to remember

Bowie’s liaisons were legendary, and although this isn’t the place to comment on Bowie’s relationship with Lori Mattix, it is interesting that no less a luminary than Slash himself admitted that the songwriter enjoyed a liaison with his mother. “My mom started working professionally with David Bowie at first,” said Slash. “I’m pretty sure that’s how it started and then it turned into some sort of mysterious romance that went on for a while after that.”

Slash’s mother worked with Bowie as a costume designer, but there were very few clothes involved in some of their other endeavours. Slash claims to have caught them naked at one point. The Guns N’ Roses guitarist reveals that he only realised what they were up to in hindsight.

3. Doing cocaine with Debbie Harry

In her autobiography, Blondie vocalist Debbie Harry says Bowie and Iggy Pop came to her in search of cocaine. “One time David and Iggy were looking for some blow. Their connection in New York had suddenly died and they were out,” Harry wrote in the book. “A friend had given me a gram, but I had barely touched it. I didn’t care for coke too much — it made me jittery and wired and it affected my throat.”

The two artists had no such misgivings and duly took it one go. As a form of thank you, Bowie pulled out his “manhood”. Harry’s account of the penis is colourful, to say the least.

2. Trying to outdo The Beatles

John Lennon was never crazy about The Beatles’ version of ‘Across The Universe’, feeling that the band didn’t do his song justice. Bowie echoed that sentiment, stating that the original was “very watery” and wanted to “hammer the hell out of it”.

Lennon chipped into the recording, but the finished result is even more dreadful than the recording heard on Let It Be. It was a case of Bowie’s ego getting the better of him, presenting a cover that was overbaked, overstuffed and under realised. Indeed, if there is a definitive version of the song, and it’s Liam Gallagher’s recording of it.

1. Bowie’s fascination with Nazis

During the mid to late 1970s, Bowie grew fascinated with Nazi imagery and namechecked Adolf Hitler in an interview with Anthony O’ Grady. The words were shocking, which wasn’t helped by the fact that the singer supposedly gave a Nazi salute in public. As with many misunderstandings in life, it was a case of one too many drugs in the system.

He later came to retract the comments, claiming that he could barely remember the recording of Station to Station, because of the influence of cocaine in his personal life. But what a title track he produced during this time.