Spider From Mars: My Life With Bowie is the first memoir to follow the rock legend's passing. It contains an absorbing look at sessions, shows and celebrities. Now the author, Woody Woodmansey, is also sharing his story with Eltonjohnworld.com. . . .
EJW: When Bowie and the Spiders From Mars rehearsed at the Rainbow in Finsbury Park, a number of rockers stopped by. Mick Jagger and Paul McCartney were particularly interested in your drum kit. Do you think this was due to the way you played or was it the appearance of the drums themselves?
WW: I'd like to think it was my playing but my silver sparkle Ludwig kit did look good so it was an obvious topic of conversation. They both commented on how good it sounded too, so it was a combination of both my playing and the kit!
EJW: Elton was also at the Rainbow, but you didn't get acquainted until the U.S. tour. That's when you were at the Beverly Hills Hotel and discovered the singer was in the bungalow next door. Although you both talked about music, he offered you advice about a totally different topic: What was that?
WW: Yes, Elton had been at the Rainbow gig but I hadn't bumped in to him - unfortunately. He was one of the artists that used Trident Recording Studios where we had recorded most of the early Bowie albums. I recall listening to Madman Across The Water in Trident around the time; Elton had just finished it. A brilliant album. I finally bumped in to him during our ''Ziggy'' tour of the USA. He was doing his first gigs in LA I think, and I remember part of the promotion for his shows were several 'town criers' who went around LA ringing hand held bells and they were shouting ''the British are coming.'' I thought it was a cool idea.
We were staying at the Beverly Hills Hotel in between concerts. There were about 24 bungalows in the grounds of the hotel and in the past these had been the favourite places of people like Marilyn Monroe, John Lennon, Humphrey Bogart etc. Bowie had one bungalow and we the Spiders had another one. I walked out on to the veranda to have a cigarette and next to me on his veranda was Elton. ''The British are coming,'' he said. We both laughed. We talked about how different the US was to England. He mentioned he had had a party in the bungalow and had ordered a few lobsters, but somehow he had ended up with 60 lobsters arriving at his door! Way more than needed. ''Watch it when you order room service,'' he advised. ''If you fancy some lobster, pop round...''
EJW: In 1987, you and Elton were among the entertainers at a Royal Command Performance for the Prince's Trust. This was quite a few years after your last encounter (in 1972), but he remembered the details straightaway. What happened this time around?
WW: I was playing with Art Garfunkel and both he and Elton were appearing at the London Palladium for the Royal Command Performance for the Prince's Trust. Prince Charles and Lady Diana were the guests that night.
During rehearsals for the show I met with Elton's drummer. He was panicking as his drum kit hadn't arrived yet and he wasn't certain it would show up for the show. I told him he could use mine, which he was relieved about. After we had finished rehearsing, Elton came up to me and thanked me for the use of my kit. His next word was ''lobsters'' and we both cracked up laughing. He then asked if I'd ever met his percussionist Ray Cooper. I said I hadn't but had always been amazed at what Ray could do with a tambourine. He introduced me and I had a great musical chat with him. Needless to say, it was a great night. I found Elton charming and thought he had impeccable manners. And one of the UK's great artists I might add. I always admired how he threw himself 100% in to his music and career, he just seemed to charge at life.
EJW: Your present-day band is called Holy Holy, after a David Bowie song. It started when you decided to perform The Man Who Sold The World album live, as this hadn't been done before. What's next for Holy Holy and yourself?
WW: Currently I'm doing book tours. My book was released on November 3rd in UK and January 3rd in the USA. I'd been approached many times over the years to write it but always declined the offers. I guess I thought David would probably release a detailed account of that period of his career so I didn't see the point. It became clear he wasn't going to do that, and also in 2013 I noticed there were so many books released or about to be released that were supposed to cover that period. However, most were written by individuals who were either not actually around the scene, fans and what I'd call pseudo-intellectual journalists who seemed to have some 'mystical' insight in to Bowie's mind and knew him better than he did himself. So I decided at this point I needed to write it.
Yes, Holy Holy is my band and we have been touring since 2013. We have done several UK tours, two US/Canada tours and also Japan.
After David's passing we were asked to do a show in Hull (the hometown of the Spiders). Hull has been designated by the government the UK's City of Culture 2017 and they asked if we could perform the Ziggy Stardust album as a tribute to our deceased friends and former bandmates Bowie and Spiders, Mick Ronson & Trevor Bolder. We couldn't refuse the chance to honour them so we start with two sold out shows in Hull on March 25th & 26th. This is followed by shows in Glasgow (on the 27th); Manchester (28th); London (30th); and Aylesbury (the 3rd of April). More gigs are being looked at and will soon be added, plus some festivals over the summer.