The notorious comment was made during a support slot in 1983. Rowland was asked about it when taking NME‘s Does Rock ‘N’ Roll Kill Braincells?! quiz this month.
“Nobody’s ever asked me about this before. We had to be escorted out of the area!” Rowland laughed. “I’d been taking strong sleeping tablets prescribed by a private New York doctor. Whenever I took them, I’d be grumpy and didn’t give a shit about anything.
“We were about five songs into our 12-song set and it was going well, and I could see the applause going right back in this massive open-air venue. After we’d finish each song, around 50 people in the front were chanting and waving their hands in the air, so I’m thinking: ‘This is great! They’re really into it!’.”
He went on: “I thought they were chanting in French, and went over to the drummer Seb [Shelton] and asked: ‘What are they saying?’. He replied: ‘They’re shouting ‘Bowie! Bowie! Bowie!’ at you. So I just lost it! [Laughs] I was really disappointed. Because we were going down really well apart from these 50 people in the front, who were all half-naked, muddy and looked like hippies – not what you’d think of as Bowie fans.
“So I went up to them and said something along the lines of: ‘You’re sitting in a fucking field all day in a load of mud waiting for fucking David Bowie! He’s just a pale imitation of Bryan Ferry!’ As we went to start the next song, the plugs were pulled. Bowie had been at the back of the stage and heard it. We were supposed to do two nights, but they didn’t want us back for the second.”
Rowland added that Bowie was apparently “really upset about it”.
“Many years later when I got into recovery from cocaine addiction, I wrote him a letter apologising, to make amends, and said if he ever wanted to talk about it, please contact me. I know he got the letter, but I didn’t hear back. But that’s OK.”
Rowland and Dexys release a new album titled ‘The Feminine Divine’ next month (July 28). It’s their first new material in seven years, following on from their 2016 release ‘Let the Record Show: Dexys Do Irish and Country Soul’, and marks their first album of original songs in a decade.