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Music

David Bowie revealed the one thing John Lennon did better than anybody

@josephtaysom

David Bowie wasn’t the world’s biggest aficionado when it came to The Beatles, but that didn’t stop him from intensely admiring John Lennon, an artist who was his favourite member of the group by a considerable distance.

The two would become friends after a chance encounter at the hands of Elizabeth Taylor who, at the time, was attempting to entice Bowie into making a movie with her. Taylor invited ‘The Starman’ to a glamourous Hollywood party and introduced him to Lennon, who he greeted by saying: “I’ve got everything you’ve made — except the Beatles”.

His brazen comment impressed the Beatle, and he found a new accomplice for his ‘lost weekend’. Lennon was estranged from Yoko Ono at time, and he’d filled that void in his life with narcotics and excess. The duo were kindred spirits that both tended to shoot from the hip, a trait that can be noticed on their famous collaboration ‘Fame’, a song that lamented the music industry.

“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 once said about their friendship. “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.”

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While Bowie appreciated Lennon’s mercurial artistry, and there was something about his wit that he especially found charming and made spending time in his company a joy. “The one thing that I really adored about Lennon’s writing was his use of the pun, which was exceedingly good,” Bowie said on another occasion. “I don’t think anyone has ever bettered Lennon’s use of the pun.”

Bowie then compared their respective pun skills, and added: “I played on it more; Lennon would throw it away in one line. I tend to build a song upon it. I treat my puns a lot more seriously.”

While they spent a significant amount of time together in a concise period, their lives went down different paths, with their respective family commitments taking precedent. However, fortunately, they’d both did find themselves in Hong Kong at the same time. The year was 1977, and the old friends bumped into one another in a hotel foyer. Bowie was with his Iggy Pop while Lennon was joined by his son, Sean, and the four of them took advantage of the circumstance by holidaying together.

Bowie recollected about the trip: “During one of our expeditions on the back streets a kid comes running up to him and says, ‘Are you John Lennon?’ And he said, ‘No but I wish I had his money.’ Which I promptly stole for myself. [imitating a fan] ‘Are you David Bowie?’ No, but I wish I had his money.

“It’s brilliant. It was such a wonderful thing to say. The kid said, ‘Oh, sorry. Of course, you aren’t,’ and ran off. I thought, ‘This is the most effective device I’ve heard,'” he added.

Lennon’s shock death understandably devastated the singer in 1980, but the sage advice and humour that he learnt from his late friend stuck with him eternally.