David Bowie‘s former drummer from Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars has spoken out about his last contact with the ‘Blackstar’ icon before his death, as well as paying tribute to his ‘dark, Northern’ sense of humour.
Mick ‘Woody’ Woodmansey played with Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars from 1970-1973. Ahead of the release of his new memoir about the period, Spiders From Mars: My Life With David Bowie on 3 November, the drummer has spoken to NME to recall receiving Bowie’s approval to tour a tribute show to Bowie’s ‘The Man Who Sold The World’ and other classics with producer Tony Visconti – before the pair invited fans at one of the shows to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to him down the phone, just days before he died.
“We’d done a live album at Shepherd’s Bush Empire and Tony said ‘I’m going to play this to David because he kept asking how’s it going’,” Woody told NME. “He said it was really nice, he was beaming from ear to ear, all the way through the album and said he really liked it. Tony said ‘David and I have talked over the years about we should’ve taken ‘The Man who Sold the World ‘on the road as a live thing’ because when we finished it we really thought we were gonna set the world on fire, we’d thrown everything we had into that album and never toured it, we did a couple of tracks from it on the Ziggy tours but never in its entirety.
“I wasn’t sure Tony would be into but he immediately said yes and apparently David said ‘Why do you want to do it?’, then Tony replied ‘because we never did it’, and Bowie said ‘I can’t think of a better reason really’. So it was good and when we spoke to him from the stage. It was two days before he died. Tony knew he was ill, but didn’t know how severe it was, didn’t know he was near the end, and I don’t think David knew either. I think that last album was his last musical thing for the fans, I don’t think that was in his mind, I think he had more stuff he wanted to do. But it was a nice ending to it really.”
However, Woody told NME that the last time he saw Bowie in the flesh was during the recording of ‘Low’ at the start of the ‘Berlin Trilogy’ IN 1976.
“I was in France doing some sessions and he was in the château, and I knew Tony was producing,” Woody told NME. “I hadn’t spoken to Tony for quite a while, so I phoned him up and we had a chat. I came down to the studio to meet him and David and spent a good half an hour on our own just chatting in between one of his recording sessions. That was good, we put a lot of things to right, we parted as friends again basically.”
Then, Woody and Bowie spent the subsequent decades emailing one another about comedy shows.
“I remember once, it was one of the more bizarre comedy things that was out at the time. I can’t remember the name of it, because he like those comedy things. He was pretty sharp, he had a very left-field humour. I mean, I just… right from the early days of The Goon Show, and Monty Python and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the kind of off-beat things. We used to tell dirty jokes and all sorts of things. I guess he had a bit of a Northern sense of humour, whether that was something he got into because we were all from Yorkshire but he did seem to have that naturally, a dry sense of humour.”
Woodmansey also spoke to NME to reveal how he and Visctonti turned down the chance to perform with Lady Gaga for her GRAMMYs tribute show – slamming it as ‘tacky’ and claiming it ‘didn’t represent anything good about him’.
Bowie passed away in January at the age of 69.
A new ‘best of’ compilation ‘Bowie Legacy’ is set for release on November 11. It has been reported that David Bowie planned “a long list of musical releases” before he died, with the upcoming release of the ‘Lazarus’ musical soundtrack to feature his final ever recordings and unheard songs.