Marc Bolan and David Bowie were both kids from London with stars in their eyes from a young age. Having first met when they were teenagers, unsure of their artistic identity and in humdrum circumstances, they would form a bond that has since been etched into the annals of rock and roll history.
At the time, Bolan went by his real name of Marc Feld, and David Bowie was simply known as David Jones. The glam-rock revolution would kickstart both their careers, but there was nothing glamorous about the way in which the pair were introduced years before they’d gain international recognition.
Coincidentally, the duo were spotted by Leslie Conn, who acted as their respected managers during the early days of their careers. However, despite having two generational artists under his tutelage, Conn played no part in their ascents to fame. However, he taught them both a stern lesson in resilience which would later bear fruit.
Stylistically both Bowie and Bolan would later align by wearing similarly flamboyant clothing, and they both took great pride in their appearance pre-fame. Feld was a devout mod, and aesthetically, he was ready for superstardom. Meanwhile, Jones, like with his music, set trends rather than following them, and everyone in his school followed in his footsteps after he began wearing tapered trousers.
One day, Conn hailed them both into his office, but it wasn’t for professional reasons. As the two had nothing else to work on, their manager hired Bowie and Bolan to paint his office, which would be the start of a glorious friendship. However, it wasn’t love at first sight, and they initially got off to a hostile start due to Bolan taking umbrage with Bowie’s choice of footwear. After introducing himself as ‘King Mod’, he then brashly added: “Your shoes are crap”.
Bowie later remembered about that day: “We actually met very early on in the 1960s, before either of us were even a tad known. We were nothing. We were just two nothing kids with big ambitions, and we both had the same manager at the time. And we first met each other painting the wall of our then manager’s office.”
“Marc took me dustbin shopping,” Bowie added. “At that time, Carnaby Street, the fashion district, was going through a period of incredible wealth. And rather than replace buttons on their shirts or zippers on their trousers, they’d just throw it all away in the dustbins. So we used to go up and down Carnaby Street and go through all the dustbins, around nine, ten o’clock, and get our wardrobes together.”
When Bolan began to achieve moderate success with Tyrannosaurus Rex, and Bowie was still an unknown, Bolan invited Bowie to open their shows, which, admittedly, turned out to be disastrous. The artistically homeless Bowie performed a mime based on China’s invasion of Tibet, which was booed by the crowd.
Ultimately, once they’d flown away from the nest of Leslie Conn and Bolan put down his hippie facade, they both found themselves at the same creative juncture by changing the musical landscape. Those two penniless teenagers lived out their opulent collective dream, the same one that brought them together in the first place.