Jackie - 10th May 1970
Face To Face With DAVID BOWIE
- The Secret of my lost year...
What interests do you have outside music?
People. Architecture. And painting - I used to be a commercial artist six years ago. I spent just one year at it.
What's the best advice you've ever received?
To try to make each moment of one's life one of the happiest, and if it's not, try to find out why. I was told that by a Tibetan friend of mine, Chimi Youngdon Rimpoche [sic Chime Youngdon Rinpoche].
Why was his advice so important?
Because I'd reached a crucial point in my life. I was a terribly earnest Buddhist at that time, within a month of becoming a Buddhist monk. I had stayed in their monastery and was going through all their exams, and yet I had this feeling that it wasn't right for me.
Are you still a Buddhist?
No, though a lot of the basic ideas are still with me. But I don't believe it's suitable for the West in its Eastern format.
What attracted you to Buddhism in the first place?
I was very interested in Tibet while I was still at school, and wrote a thesis on it. That made me interested in the country, and I started reading about its history and its religion.
I suppose I would still like to go there, but it's been impossible to get into the country since the Communists took over.
How did you get it all out of your system?
I suddenly realised how close it all was: another month and my head would have been shaved - so I decided that as I wasn't happy, I would get right away from it all. I vanished completely for a year. No-one knew where I was. Actually, I had joined the Lindsay Kemp Mime Company. I spent a year with them and learned from Lindsay that people are much more important to me than ideas.
Have you continued this interest in theatre?
With a couple of other people, I started an Arts Laboratory down in Beckenham which is still thriving. It meets at a pub down there. We have about 600 people attached to it now - all pursuing their own ideas: art, poetry, music, mime, writing.
We've done a marvellous puppet show with 7ft high puppets, and I'm trying to get them a TV series at the moment.
Are you superstitious?
I never whistle in theatre dressing rooms, because that's something you're told not to do as soon as you start in the theatre - but that's more of a habit. I'm not superstitious about it or anything else.
Who has influenced you most?
My brother, Terry. He's seven years older than I am - I'm 22 now, he's 29. He was very keen on jazz when I was at a very impressionable age, and that led me into it.
I idolised John Coltrane and Eric Dolphy, and learned to play the clarinet and tenor saxophone when I was 12. When I first came into the business six years ago it was as a jazz musician.
Terry was very Bohemian and introduced me to the writers that meant a lot to him - like Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. And all this led me into songwriting.
Do you write your own material still?
I've always written all my own songs. I've had 137 published so far and my latest L.P. is all my own. I also did another one years ago when I was the first singer to record an L.P. before doing a single.
My stage act consists entirely of my own material, apart from one or two songs that I like very much - "Port of Amsterdam" by Jacques Brel and "Buzz the Fuzz" by Biff Rose.
Do your fans expect this when they come to see you?
I think most of them are a bit astonished, but they sit and listen. I'm always getting really nice letters from people saying the like what I do.
What has been your most embarrassing moment?
When I was singing with a group called The Buzz four or five years ago. I forgot the words to three songs in a row. That was dreadful.
Have you been surprised by fan reaction?
I stand bemused by it all. I would never have believed in a million years that people would scream at me. I'm really incredulous.
The first night it happened to me was in Perth - as I was singing a number called "Wide Eyed boy from Free Cloud".
I suddenly heard three or four screams from a corner of the theatre!
Now I'm always getting presents, gonky things with big eyes, and funny little love letters.
What is your most treasured possession?
There's no one possession that I couldn't part with quite easily. I've never attached too much importance to material things.
Do you expect to stay in pop music for a long time?
I don't know. I never plan ahead, and I'm very fickle. I'm always changing my mind about things. If I thought another media would mean more to me, I would move into it.
I never expected "Space Oddity" to be the success it was, and it's all rather overwhelmed me. I couldn't tell you what I'll be doing this time next year, but I'm quite happy at the moment.