It’s easy to find fault in Morrissey these days. His political leanings have been widely acknowledged by the musical word as not in-keeping with his music’s message. So we thought we’d look back to a simpler time when Moz did his work with the mic, revisiting the moment David Bowie joined him on stage for a rendition of T-Rex’s glam-rock classic ‘Cosmic Dancer’.
It’s fair to say that Morrissey would’ve been absolutely thrilled with the idea of Bowie working with him. As an adolescent in the murky depths of Manchester, Moz found comfort in the glittered escapism of glam rock. To him, Bowie’s incarnation Ziggy Stardust and T-Rex’s Marc Bolan represented a route out of the doldrums of modern life.
His first concert, in fact, was Bolan’s T-Rex on June 16th, 1972, and later, when Bowie came to town with Ziggy and his Spider from Mars a young Moz waited patiently outside the venue to give Bowie a note. “He emerges from a black Mercedes,” Morrissey writes in his memoir Autobiography before adding: “Every inch the eight dimension, teetering on high heels, with all the wisdom of our ancestors. Smiling keenly, he accepts the note of a dull schoolboy whose overblown soul is more ablaze than the school blazer he wears, and thus I touch the hand of this inexplicably liberating reformer.”
The relationship between the two would not end there. The pair would again meet in 1990 as Morrissey made his way backstage to meet his idol. Morrissey himself was a teen idol by this time and it appeared as if Bowie was keen on making Morrissey the baton carrier for the glam torch.
It seemed as though there was some sort of coronation in place when Bowie sauntered on stage to join Morrissey at The Forum in Los Angeles in 1991 to sing one of glam rock’s anthems; ‘Cosmic Dancer’. “He is stately against my last-gasp exhaustion,” Moz wrote in Autobiography. “The 12-year-old within me—unable to leave for school unless I’d soothed my sickness with at least one spin of ‘Starman’—bathes in the moment in disbelief. But there it is.”
Listen below to that epic cover of T-Rex’s ‘Cosmic Dancer’ from Morrissey and David Bowie.
While it may have seemed a match made in heaven, it turned out it was not to be. In 1993, the relationship began to sour as Bowie covered Morrissey’s track ‘I Know It’s Gonna Happen Someday’ but did so with a glint in his eye, choosing the song as a slight dig at Moz. The dig came as Bowie realised that the coda saxophone arrangement on ‘Someday’ was incredibly similar to that of ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Suicide’. “It occurred to me that he was spoofing one of my earlier songs, and I thought, I’m not going to let him get away with that,” Bowie later said.
In 1995 Morrissey would then join Bowie on his tour but, in what could’ve been a great run of shows, quickly turned nasty. Right from the start, Morrissey’s nose was put out of shape after being put on the tour announcements as a “special guest” and it got worse as Morrissey would occasionally open proceedings with: “Good evening, we are your support group.”
However, the breaking point would come—according to Morrissey—when Bowie would slowly replace Morrissey’s band throughout the last few songs of the set before Morrissey would be joined by Bowie for a rendition of one of Bowie’s own songs. David thought it would make for great theatre while Morrissey was left implying that Bowie had become a diva.
As is his way so often these days, Morrissey would leave the tour only (after only nine dates) and spend much the rest of his time lamenting Bowie. He recalled in one interview: “You have to worship at the temple of David when you become involved with him” and, in another interview, he said Bowie “is no longer David Bowie at all. Now he gives people what he thinks will make them happy, and they’re yawning their heads off. And by doing that, he is not relevant. He was only relevant by accident.”
So while we can look back on a beautiful moment, it like many other things connected to Morrissey, now feels a little bit muddied, but enjoyable nevertheless.