For a period of time, David Bowie’s interviews were just as gripping as the music he released. Through the many different personas of his career, nobody knew what version of Bowie would show up to a media invitation. One day, he could be a charismatic figure with the ability to charm a snake, and on other occasions, he could be vacuous and cold. The constant between the different personalities, however, was that David Bowie was always fascinating to listen to.
Bowie’s most famous interview moment came when he predicted the advent of the internet with a scary level of accuracy, detailing the seismic way it would change the way we live. Bowie always had the audacity to pull out the spectacular and the unexpected, a skill that regularly lit up his interviews.
The singer was a showman in every facet of his life, with his approach to interviews an extension of his attitude towards the studio. Bowie notoriously hid behind characters throughout his career, and this elusive conduct wasn’t exclusive to his recorded work.
The 1976 interview with Playboy was quintessential Bowie. Although he eventually opened up and made some candid revelations, it took a long road before his real identity started to seep through.
The conversation came at an intriguing point in Bowie’s life, a time when he was reliant on cocaine, and his dependency on the drug goes somewhat to explain his acerbic behaviour. However, on the bright side, it did lead to him writing this eccentric song mid-interview.
Elton John was once a close friend of Bowie’s, and the two would regularly hang out in London’s gay district together. However, after ‘The Starman’ referred to him as “the token queen of rock”, their relationship understandably soured. When this comment was mentioned to the singer, instead of addressing it, he said: “I’d much rather listen to him on the radio than talk about him. Let’s do something else. Want to write a song?”.
Remarkably, he wasn’t speaking in jest, and Bowie then proceeded to write a song titled ‘Audience’, which Bowie said was “about rock ‘n’ roll”. He began with the line, “Led Zeppelin is solid. They make you like a wall,” before inviting the interviewer to name more artists to include in the track.
Bowie then worked his magic after he was asked to write about Joni Mitchell and Stevie Wonder. He responded, “‘Joni Mitchell has our hearts.’ [Writes it down] She does, doesn’t she? OK, let me get my guitar. [Looks at what he’s written and begins strumming and humming softly]. All right, here we go. [Sings] ‘Led Zeppelin is growing, erasing our minds / They make us feel stony, they make us go blind / Hey, Stevie Wonder, there like a wall / So good to lean on, the hardest of all.’ Isn’t that a nice little tune?”.
Unfortunately, there’s no recording of this song anywhere to be found online. Most vitally, this episode is a shining example of Bowie’s burning desire to create at all times. Nothing provided more joy to him than starting something from a grain of an idea, but ‘Audience’ shows that even Bowie didn’t always strike gold.