The friendship between David Bowie and John Lennon is one of those pairings that sounds too good to be true. Lennon had some famous pals, but the magnitude of these artists simply sharing a chat or having a laugh feels laughably bizarre. Two of the most legendary musicians of the 20th century having tea together is just too normal for figures like Bowie and Lennon.
And yet that’s just what it was. In an interview with MTV in 1995, Bowie recalled meeting Lennon around 1974 and the reaction Lennon had to Bowie’s chosen milieu at the time, glam rock. “We kind of started knocking around with each other and at the time he gave me what I thought was one of the better Lennon quotes, which I have said a number of times,” Bowie recalls.
“I asked him what he thought of what I was doing, glam rock, and he said, ‘Yeah, it’s great, but it’s just rock and roll with lipstick on.’ I was impressed, as I was with virtually everything he said.”
Bowie went on to praise Lennon in ways that only Bowie could. “He was probably one of the the brightest, quickest witted, earnestly socialist men I’ve ever met in my life. Socialist in its true definition, not in fabricated political sense, a real humanist. And he had a really spiteful sense of humour which of course, being English, I adored.”
Bowie concludes by stating “I just thought we’d be buddies forever and get on better and better, and all that fantasy.” Bowie and Lennon were obviously incredibly busy, so their friendship was more casual as Lennon embraced fatherhood in the latter half of the ’70s. Still, Bowie was effusive in his praise for both Lennon and The Beatles.
“Everybody had their favourite Beatle… I did realise that. I always knew that but one wouldn’t have declared it in the early 1970s because that would have been most uncool, to actually say you liked the Beatles in any way, shape or form. They made such a great impact – they gave the British the illusion we meant something again and we love hearing that, boy do we love hearing that.”