David Bowie marries Angela Barnett

David Bowie married his first wife, Angela Barnett, at Bromley Register Office on Friday 20 March 1970.

The couple had met in London in 1969, and were married a year later.

I married her because she was one of the few women [his emphasis] that I was capable of living with for more than a week. We never suffocated each other at all. We always bounced around. No. I don’t think we fell in love. I’ve never been in love, thank God. Love is a disease that breeds jealousy, anxiety and brute anger. Everything but love. It’s a bit like Christianity. That never happened to me and Angie. She’s a remarkably pleasant girl to keep coming back to and, for me, always will be. I mean, there’s nobody … I’m very demanding sometimes. Not physically, but mentally. I’m very intense about anything I do. I scare away most people that I’ve lived with.
David Bowie
Rolling Stone, 12 February 1976

The witnesses at the wedding were Clare Shenstone and John Cambridge, Bowie’s drummer. They were greeted on the steps of the register office by Bowie’s mother Peggy, who had not been invited.

David Bowie and Angela Barnett on their wedding day, with Bowie's mother Peggy, 20 March 1970

When Cambridge went to sign the register, Peggy approached the desk ahead of him and signed in his place. Bowie allegedly shrugged his shoulders at Cambridge to indicate his acceptance.

David and Angie exchanged Peruvian bangles instead of wedding rings. Guests at the wedding included Tony Visconti’s girlfriend Liz Hartley, and roadie Roger Fry. Visconti was unable to attend due to a Tyrannosaurus Rex recording session.

The couple posed for photographs outside the register office – Peggy had alerted the local press ahead of the day. The party then celebrated over the road in the Swan & Mitre pub, before hosting a party at their home, Haddon Hall.

Oh, what a lovely wedding! It was exactly in tune with the times. I wore someone else’s dress (a lustrous silk number from the twenties, bought the day before at the Kensington Antique Market); we held our ceremony in a registry office and didn’t invite any family members (although Peggy showed up anyway, alerted by Ken Pitt); we forgot about the legal requirement for witnesses and had to drag along our housemates at the last minute; neither David nor I had any intention of obeying the laws or observing the moral or social conventions of marriage; and rather than send the groom off on his last night as a bachelor to get drunk and make out with some stranger, we went off together and made love with a friend.

The only non-seventies aspect of the affair was that neither of us was stoned when we said our words (I hate to call them vows). But we made up for that by proceeding straight from the registry office to the Three Tuns, our local pub and the venue of Beckenham Arts Lab performances, and getting as drunk as possible with our buddies.

So voilà! One perfectly Alternative wedding for one perfectly Alternative couple. And lest there linger any doubt about just how Alternative that was, why don’t I make it perfectly clear?

We didn’t, for a start, marry from any romantic impulse. As I’ve said already, I myself took the plunge with David to end-run the United Kingdom’s all too efficient immigration authorities and thereby bring my professional goals within reach (and to shut Peggy up). For his part, David was taking care of similar needs: getting a shot at his professional goals by keeping his door-kicker by his side (he’d had a stiff dose of his own resources during my retreat to Cyprus, and had found them wanting), and shutting Peggy up.

We were simply soothing a major irritant and removing a massive obstacle from our path to the big time. It didn’t hurt that my parents had undertaken to add a wedding present of three whole thousand British pounds. That kind of money bought a lot of curtains, even great big long ones for great high Haddon Hall windows.

I must also say, however, that when David and I tied the knot, I got a real old-fashioned girlish glow. The moment was sweet, significant, all those things: romantic, in fact, and I really liked it. Yet I did my best to play those feelings down. It wouldn’t be cool to start acting like a real girl all of a sudden: better to stay strong, steady, competent, capable, motivated, aggressive—good and butch, in other words, the way David liked me.

Angela Bowie
Backstage Passes
Last updated: 28 March 2023
Live: Three Tuns, Beckenham
Recording: Memory Of A Free Festival
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