A WEEKLY DIARY EXCLUSIVELY WRITTEN FOR MIRABELLE MAGAZINE
4th August 1973
Last week I was telling you all about Japan, and how I had the honour of attending a performance by Tomasa Boru (in case you've forgotten he is Japan's most popular Kabuki star), after which we met and talked, and he showed me how to put on the Kabuki make-up.
The next evening he came to my concert, and what an evening it turned out to be!
This time the audience really went wild, so I took off my favourite white costume, the one that Freddy made for me with the big red lightning streak on the back, and I threw it into the audience and thousands of hands were reaching up to get it. Meanwhile, almost no one noticed that I was standing there on stage dressed only in my pink underwear with a few rhinestone studded scatter pins splashing down the front. Well, when they realised what I was, or should I say wasn't wearing, they all just stormed the stage. I got so scared 'cause there just seemed to be so many of them and then suddenly they began disappearing right before my eyes - and I was safe.
I didn't realise until long after the show that the whole floor right in front of the stage had collapsed and what actually happened is that everyone just sank about three feet, putting them below stage level and therefore out of sight. Miraculously, no one was hurt and I managed to escape.
The next day Angie and Ronno (Mick Ronson) and I visited the Imperial Gardens at the Emperor's Palace and took part in the ancient and exquisite tea ceremony.
We were served some very light and very weak greenish tea and tiny, thin wafers by a most delicate and graceful Japanese lady who knelt, bowed and curtsied and moved with grace and at the pace the whole country must have at one time moved.
The Asian 'flu sure slowed me down for a while in Tokyo. I stayed in bed for two whole days and then got up, fever and all, to do a show. I thought I was going to collapse at the end of it, and couldn't even go back on stage for my encore.
Angie made me promise to rest all the next day while she went out to buy me a beautiful red silk kimono for my long journey back home to England.
The next day she and the baby flew home and I (who don't like flying very much - except in spaceships!) boarded the ship, Felix Nzerjinski, at Yokohama which took me to Nakhodka where I caught the Trans-Siberian Express. Though it was raining very heavily when I left Yokohama, thousands of fans and friends showed up at the pier to bid me farewell.
Now it's late and I too must say farewell but not goodbye just... sayonara (that's the Japanese words for love and kisses!).
11th August 1973
I thought that this week I would begin to tell you about my trip through Russia. Russia is such a fascinating country, that I was very excited at the prospect of being able to see some of it for myself, and, just as I expected, the trip was a wonderful experience. Of course, I had formed impressions of Russia from what I had read, heard and seen in films, but actually going there, seeing it for myself, and meeting the people, made it into an incredible experience which I will never forget. So now I hope I can give you some idea of my impressions.
Travelling with me for the whole of this trip were Geoffrey MacCormack (my conga player), Bob Musel (a UPI reporter) and Lee (my photographer).
Our trip started on a boat, the Felix Nzerjinski, which left from Yokohama in Japan and went to Nakhodka, the seaport town on the far east coast of the USSR. That part of the journey took us two days, and I must say, I really enjoyed it. The boat itself was wonderful, and very 'plush'! I found myself giving a short concert for the other passengers. We hadn't planned anything, but it seemed a good idea, it was nothing very grand, I just accompanied myself on the acoustic guitar. I think they loved it, it certainly seemed that way from their response.
In Nakhodka we boarded the train. It was really fantastic - I wish you could have seen it! It was an old French train from the turn of the century, with the most beautiful wood veneer, decorated oval mirrors, and velvet couches. Really it was like something out of a romantic novel or film.
I'm always at home on any train, but this one was very comfortable! It was really one of the nicest trains I've ever come across, and by now I think I can say that I've travelled on a lot of very different trains. I was looking forward to a long and very pleasant journey through Siberia, but, unfortunately, there was a disappointment in store for us. One day later we found that we had to change trains, in Khabarovsk, just before the long eight-day journey through Siberia, and this new train was nothing like the old one. It was simple and practical, and very clean, but we had set our hearts on the beautiful, romantic French train!
Siberia itself was incredibly impressive. We rode for days and days across relatively untouched wilderness - great forests, sweeping plains, and glimpses of people living a very simple, peasant life, getting a living from the land. I could never have imagined such expanses of unspoilt, natural country without actually seeing it myself, it was like a glimpse into another age, another world, and it made a very strong impression on me. It was strange to be sitting in a train, which is the product of technology - the invention of mankind, and travelling through land so untouched and unspoilt by man and his inventions.
So that is what we saw outside the train, as for inside the train - we had these two fabulous attendants on our particular car, called Danya and Nadya. They served us tea when we woke up, and for that matter they served us tea all day long - the tea is truly delicious, really incredible.
We all grew to be very fond of Danya and Nadya, they were so charming, and always smiling and cheerful. I used to sing songs to them, often late at night, when they had finished work. They couldn't understand a word of English, and so that meant they couldn't understand a word of my songs! But that didn't seem to worry them at all. They sat with big smiles on their faces, sometimes for hours on end, listening to my music, and at the end of each song they would applaud and cheer! They were a wonderful audience - it was a real pleasure to sing to them.
I've got lots more to tell you about Russia, but I'll save that for next week.
18th August 1973
As I promised this week I'm going to tell you more about my incredible trip through Russia. Last week I had just begun to tell you about Danya and Nadya, our wonderful attendants on the train, and how I used to sing songs to them late into the night and how they used to make the most delicious tea for us. As well as making the tea they used to get out at the various stops along the route to buy yogurt and rolls for us, and other things that one could buy from the townsfolk along the way. In fact, they really spoiled us. The rolls and yogurt were almost as delicious as that tea. And, of course, Danya and Nadya knew exactly what to get and what was the best.
I really love travelling by train, I find it very relaxing, and it gives me a chance to see the world and the people that live in it, and how they live. As I do a lot of my song-writing during my train journeys, naturally enough the atmosphere of the country I am passing through, the way of life and what I observe in the people, comes out in my songs. I wrote several songs about Russia, so I hope that one day you will be able to experience my impressions of Russia (and Japan), through my letters. You know, I keep thinking about that trip to Japan. It made such an impression on me. I loved the people and their culture, and I've found that of late my music and work has been greatly influenced by their music and theatre.
I find a train a very good place to work. I usually follow a kind of programme, getting up early, having a good breakfast, and then reading or writing music all day. Of course I also watch out of the window a good deal of the time, and talk to the people around me, and the people I am lucky enough to meet. I go to bed quite early, about 9 or 10, which when you think about it, is very early for a musician! But I believe that the sleep on the train is really just about the only real rest I ever get! Things can get so hectic.
Well, anyway, back to my trip through Russia. On April 30th we finally pulled into Moscow. We stayed that night in the intourist hotel, and the next day we were lucky enough to see the impressive May Day Parade in the streets of the city. May Day is Moscow's (or rather Russia's) biggest holiday - commemoration in honour of the founding of the communist party.
All party members march in the streets carrying red flags and singing patriotic songs - it's really quite a sight. It's very impressive to see such enormous numbers of people marching together like that, with a sense of harmony and purpose.
It looks like I've just about come to the end of my description of my trip through Russia.
After my time in Moscow I took a train through Warsaw, Berlin, Belgium and Paris, where I was joined by my wonderful wife, Angie, and my incredible press lady, Cherry Vanilla. They accompanied me back to England and that was the end of the trip. Of course, it is still all very much alive in my mind and my memory, and I hope it will live on through my music.
Oh, these deadlines are the nastiest things. Just when I have a chance to sit down and enjoy a nice cup of tea, and a biscuit, the telephone rings with a voice reminding me of my obligation to you, my lovely readers.
It seems this week, what with one thing and another, I've got a bit behind schedule with writing my column, hence the phone call reminding me that such things as deadlines exist in the magazine world. I was just about to write it, anyway, it's just with one thing and another... well, it's been a very busy week.
So here I am, not exactly a retired man, actually, lovelies, I haven't retired at all. It's just that there are so many, many things I would like to do in my life, so many ways I hope to express myself, that I just needed to call it quits with touring and concentrate on some new and wider areas of creativity and entertainment.
I can assure you that you haven't seen the last of the old Bowie, the last concert maybe (I do hope you were there) but never the last show.
Remember, I've got a whole staff of crazy actors, writers, friends and family, who are constantly coming up with new, young, perhaps insane, but certainly fun ideas. My manager has been sorting through all the main possibilities for films, books, records and TV that have been put aside while we were busy running around the world, playing for all of you in person.
There were so many places in the world we just couldn't reach and so many people who have never been close enough to a concert hall to catch my show, that we decided for them and, of course, for all of you, that I should be able to entertain all of you from the movie screen at your local cinema and perhaps right in your homes, on your good old TVs.
Defries (who is my manager) says I have to save some things for surprises for you, so I really can't tell you exactly what character I will play in this next episode of my play of life, but as soon as we're sure of completion of all the little details, we'll be sure to crow about it all - loudly - in your direction.
|Created: April 1998 © Paul Kinder||Last Updated: 15/8/98|