David Bowie‘s longtime collaborator and pianist Mike Garson has spoken out about the late star’s legacy and leftover music – as well revealing his thoughts on famous tribute performances by Lorde and Lady Gaga.
Garson is currently touring with a selection of Bowie’s former live bandmates for the ‘Celebrating David Bowie‘ shows – performing the icon’s greatest hits with a variety of special guest vocalists. Having played with Bowie on many albums and tours between 1973’s ‘Aladdin Sane’ and his final ‘Reality’ shows in 2004, Garson says that it takes a very special quality to step in to cover the star.
“There’s never going to be another David,” Garson told NME. “The closest second was last year when Sting sat in on ‘Lazarus’ and ‘Blackstar’ at a show- he did a wonderful job. I appreciated David for all of the years that I worked with him, but not like I do now.
“You can’t compare anyone to David, but you just need to keep rotating and finding great singers to do the best they can. Every once in while, you do great one. We had Lorde singing ‘Life On Mars’ at the BRIT Awards – she did a great job and that was great to part of. We’ve also had some great performances from Perry Farrell and Mr Hudson. I’m learning as master of ceremonies how to conduct these things.”
Speaking of Lorde and why Bowie described her as ‘the future of music‘, Garson said: “There are artists that feel like they’re older souls and more spiritually evolved. Bowie recognised that. He saw that in Trent Reznor when I was playing with him on ‘The Fragile’ album. David was the ultimate casting director and knew who had the magic. I played in 13 bands with him but never played with a bad musician. Every band he chose was for the era that he needed.”
He revealed: “He had a gift for seeing it. He saw it in Lorde, she had a magic and a vibe. Another artist is St Vincent – she has a vibe. These artists are out there. Linda Perry, Juliette Lewis – I’m considering this as a continuing celebration of Bowie’s music. Will they all be great? Probably not. I’m trying to have them not imitate David, but bring their own take to it. Joe Elliot and Simon Le Bon were great at that. There’s almost no one who turns me down when I call, because they were all influenced by David.”
As for Lady Gaga’s divisive Bowie tribute at the 2016 GRAMMYs (which came under fire from his son Duncan Jones and former Spider From Mars drummer Woody Woodmansey), Garson admitted: “I think it was in the wrong direction. Had I been on that show, I would have suggested her doing ‘Lady Grinning Soul’ with me on the piano alone, just doing her thing.
“She has a great voice and is a great entertainer, she just went overboard and lost the magic. Thank god the Bowie Alumni Band and Lorde picked that up and salvaged that. Artists make mistakes, but to dismiss her as an artist because of that wouldn’t be fair because she’s a great artist. I’m hoping she’ll join us on a show somewhere and sing one or two songs. Nile Rodgers too.
“I must have a list of 100 alumni who I’d love to perform with us and over the next five years I’d like to work through them.”
In the wake of Bowie’s death, Garson admitted that he couldn’t listen to his “phenomenal” final album ‘Blackstar’ as it was “just heartbreaking” – especially as they had conversations about working together again in his last few months.
“The conversations we had in 2005 and 2006 were that he wanted to be a father and be there for Lexi for the next 10 years,” Garson revealed. “That’s the real truth. Then, in the last few months before he passed, he was talking to Brian Eno about maybe getting together with us to do the [1995 album] ‘Outside’ trilogy. Going back and finishing that. We wanted to do three CDs but we only did one.
“Back at the time, some assistant engineer stole the tapes back in Montreux in Switzerland and then David lost interest. Some 20 odd years past and he was then thinking about that and discussing it with Brian. That wasn’t meant to be because he passed, but that might have happened. I could have seen us touring. I don’t know if we would have done ‘The Next Day’ and ‘Blackstar’, I suspect we would have done one or two of those songs from those albums.”
Speaking on other leftover material, Garson said he was sure there would be plenty of unreleased songs .
“On the ‘Reality’ Tour we’d do ‘Bring Me The Disco King’ as an encore,” said Garson. “What people don’t know is that we recorded a whole different version of that song on ‘Black Tie White Noise’ that was never released, then another version on ‘Earthling’ and he still wasn’t happy then again on ‘Reality’. There would be three gems that didn’t meet David’s vision, but trust me – they were all great. I hope that they’ll come out at some time.
He added: “There are things that I’ve worked on that haven’t been released, yes. Look at [recently unearthed] ‘The Gouster’ from the ‘Young Americans’ sessions. I couldn’t even remember playing on those. I heard a bunch of songs I hadn’t heard for over 40 years. I suspect there’s much more floating around. God knows what happened to all the material we worked on for ‘Outside’ with Brian Eno. That could be revisited and reformed, because we had hours and hours of jamming.”
The Celebrating David Bowie tour
To mark Bowie’s death, this week will see an array of musicians who worked with the late artist during his esteemed career tour a set of his greatest hits for ‘Celebrating David Bowie’. The concert series was initially introduced with an inaugural live show at London’s Brixton Academy back in January.
Among the artists set to feature on the tour are pianist Mike Garson, King Crimson’s Adrian Belew, Carmine Rojas, Fishbone lead singer Angelo Moore, Gerry Leonard and Gaby Moreno. The tour’s official site also promises ‘special guests’ across the live shows.
Tour dates are below, with tickets on sale here.
10 – Salle Pleyel, Paris
12 – O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London
13 – O2 Ritz, Manchester
15 – Olympia Theatre, Dublin
16 – Paradiso, Amsterdam
17 – Tivoli Vredenburg, Ultrecht
10 – Silver Spring, MD at The Fillmore Silver Spring
11 – Philadelphia, PA at Keswick Theatre
12 – New York City, NY at Irving Plaza
13 – Albany, NY at The Egg
16 – Boston, MA at Chevalier Theatre
17 – Montreal, QC at M Telus
18 – Toronto, ON at Danforth Music Hall
19 – Detroit, MI at Royal Oak Music Theatre
21 – Minneapolis, MN at Pantages Theatre
22 – Milwaukee, MN at Pabst Theatre
23 – Chicago, IL at The Vic Theatre
25 – Denver, CO at Paramount Theatre
27 – Las Vegas, NV at Brooklyn Bowl
4 – Santa Rosa, CA at Luther Burbank Center
6 – San Diego, CA at Balboa Theatre
7 – Mesa, AZ at Ikeda Theater
10 – Seattle, WA at Benaroya Hall
11 – Portland, OR at Roseland Theatre