Serious Moonlight Tour: Rare footage and pictures of David Bowie adrift in Thailand
Back in 1983, a blonde and beaming David Bowie waived his usual $1 million fee for his Serious Moonlight Tour so he could explore the ancient city of Bangkok, Thailand. From that decision, Bowie found himself in the middle of Thailand and at the centre of a new universe, we have these beautiful images and footage of him exploring a strange new world.
Without this appetite for adventure, the gig on the night of December 5th in 1983 would never have taken place. With a huge fee of $1 million attached to every Bowie performance of the Serious Moonlight Tour of 1983, those who were trying to bring the star to Bangkok found themselves way out of their league.
Bowie, though, saw the value of setting foot in new lands and Thailand provided another great foot forward for the star, whom in 1983, was not yet the legendary artist he is known as today. Despite playing to a half-empty stadium it appears that a 35-year-old Bowie had an incredible time in the Thai capital. The Starman saw the glittering and guttural sights of the city, he went on a now traveller-essential boat trip, he sneaked into a go-go bar, and even let a stranger spit on his face. All before hailing a cab to take him to the concert arriving only minutes before the show was scheduled to start.
Bowie at this time in his life was desperate to lose the shackles that held him tight to contracts and obligations following the previous decade which looked to harness his creativity to the money train. Now it was time for Bowie to cut loose and make his own decisions and his own money. “Such a wise man with a philosophical mind, he was down to earth and very polite in person,” Wasana Wirachartplee, the radio disc jockey, huge Bowie fan, and an executive of Nite Spot Productions who organised this massive event, recalled.
Wasana wasn’t just a big Bowie fan, she once backpacked to Germany from her native Thailand to see him in concert. Although she was aware that a gig of that scale would not be possible for Nite Spot, she was determined to bring the Serious Moonlight Tour to Thailand.
“We knew that Bowie was doing the Serious Moonlight Tour. It was his biggest concert, worth US$1 million per show. It was impossible for us. We never dreamed of bringing him to Bangkok,” said Amporn Chakkaphak, who is now the managing director of production companies Pisces Music and Boy Thai Band. “On average, we could afford to pay $50,000 to $100,000 per show.”
The Nite Spot Productions had organised some big names to grace Thailand and Bangkok but never to this scale. Up until that point, the biggest act to find the spotlight on their stage was Engelbert Humperdinck. You can imagine the surprise when they were unexpectedly approached by Bowie’s staff. “We told them that we could not afford that. But Bowie’s people told us they would accept the pay cut. We just provided them with logistic support, such as accommodation and the venue. We were excited.”
Despite the pay cut, Nite Spot still struggled to prepare for such a mammoth concert. They needed an outdoor venue big enough to hold a concert of that magnitude as well as sound equipment. Such was Bowie’s dedication to the adventure of Bangkok that his team organised everything for the gig.
Bowie arrived in South East Asia with his crew on Dec 3rd, organisers rented a run-down old Mercedes limousine so he and his crew could do some sightseeing around Bangkok before the concert. According to a video clip that was released at a later date, Bowie travelled by boat along the infamous Chao Phraya River. The clip captures the interior of a go-go bar in Bangkok and Bowie receiving a blessing from a Thai man, who spat holy water from his mouth on Bowie’s face. He had such a great time he nearly missed his own concert.
Take in the footage and some beautiful images of David Bowie being a tourist in Thailand.