David Bowie was never an artist to sit still, and by the time the invite to Howard Stern’s 44th birthday landed on his door, he had become a little tired of his old hits. The singer did, however, find it in his heart to remix one of the most fitting tracks ‘Fame’ for the shock DJ’s celebrations.
Stern has become famous for his all-star parties. The iconic DJ has welcomed everyone from Lena Dunham to Dave Grohl to Steve Tyler—but none were as star-powered as Bowie’s performance back in 1998.
Howard Stern may be one of the highest-paid radio DJs of all time but even he can be turned into a snivelling fanboy by some artists. At his 44th birthday, the DJ’s show arranged a surprise set of performances for him which saw both Billy Joel and Megadeth take to the stage but the real show came when Bowie appeared.
The invitation for Bowie to perform at the event came from Stern’s utter adoration of the Starman. Stern has since been numerously quoted expressing his appreciation for the chameleon of rock and roll and you can hear his giddy excitement on the introduction in the below clip.
As Stern’s co-host Robin Quivers slowly introduces the mercurial artist, Stern’s anticipation grows to a fever pitch and he’s as happy as a clam when she screams: “David Bowie!” before t singer launches into an industrial performance of his 1975 single ‘Fame’ and everyone goes wild. It was an unexpected moment of joy.
During the nineties, Bowie was in no mood to keep on trotting out ‘Space Oddity’ for everyone to gasp at—it went against everything he stood for as an artist. It’s a mark of his respect for Stern then that Bowie decided to perform something from his back-catalogue. Admittedly, he changed up the song’s identity entirely.
Instead of the soulful, smoky sounds of the 1975 single, Bowie and Gail Ann Dorsey replace it with a metal workshop straight out of the grease-filled factory line. Bowie’s work with Tin Machine and Trent Reznor blindingly obvious, Bowie is determined to take this classic into the modern world.
Bowie also performed ‘Hallo Spaceboy’ and ‘I’m Afraid of Americans’ for the small crowd. It was a testament to Bowie’s legacy that he was allowed to play such relatively unknown tracks. But Bowie wasn’t like any other artist.
Sadly, there was no time to see a Stern and Bowie interview on the night and would again miss out after becoming ill in 1999. The singer would depart this world before there was ever a chance for them to connect.
After Bowie’s death in 2016, Stern was left shocked. He went about arranging a huge tribute performance in honour of the Starman. “When I got into rock & roll music, one of the artists that I first really got into was David Bowie,” Stern said in a statement about the tribute. “He was always evolving, he was always on top of things, he was just a great musician and a great songwriter and a great singer. I want to make sure that people remember David Bowie.”
See the performance, below.