The 1969 Malta International Song Festival drew to a close on 28 July 1969.
David Bowie performed twice at the event. On 26 July he had sung ‘When I Live My Dream’, and the following evening performed the one-off songs ‘No-One Someone’.
Bowie came second in the contest, which was won by Spanish singer Cristina. He was awarded a Silver Oscar for his placing (the full name of the festival was the Oscar 1969 Malta International Song Festival).
Such festivals were not in the tradition of British singers and we attached little importance to them. They were usually dominated by big-voiced ladies who seemed to spend their professional lives on the festival circuit. To win first prize at one would mean a lot to them back home and ensure their inclusion in a string of future festivals. It was self-perpetuating. But David had not come to compete with others and to win a prize, but for the sun and fun and to perform to the best of his ability the song we considered most suitable for the occasion, namely ‘When I Live My Dream’. He sang well, received a sustained round of applause then walked up to conductor Norrie Paramor and shook his hand, a gesture that won him a hum of approval from the Maltese matrons in the audience. He was voted second to Cristina, the artiste representing Spain.
The Pitt Report
The next day Bowie had no professional engagements, but he and Pitt visited the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga, which was anchored off-shore.
One of the real benefits to be derived from the festival was the pleasure of meeting a dozen or so artists and delegates from other countries, including the Eastern bloc. At first they were not sure how to take David, he didn’t come from the common mould. He, for his part, rightly thought it strange that apart from the main event nobody sang and there was no music and so, whenever we went off on one of the several outings that JB had organised for us, he took along his guitar and led a sing-song. When the commander of the USS Saratoga invited us out to visit his ship the glamorous girls in our party were particularly popular with the crew, but every singer took part in an impromptu concert given for the ship’s company. When it was time to board the tender for the shore David was found sitting on the deck of the mighty Saratoga, his legs dangling over the extreme edge of the ship’s stern, the sea far beneath him. He was strumming his guitar.
The Pitt Report
On 30 July Bowie and his manager Ken Pitt flew to Rome before taking a coach to Tuscany, where Bowie took part in the Festival Internazionale del Disco. They returned to London on 3 August 1969.
Also on this day...
- 1973: Recording: Pin Ups
Want more? Visit the David Bowie history section.