In the morning of 13 February 1971, David Bowie flew from San Francisco to Los Angeles.
He was met at LAX by DJ Rodney Bingenheimer, who also worked at Mercury Records’ California publicist.
On his first night in LA, Bowie was refused entry to a restaurant because he was wearing a Mr Fish dress. Bowie was shadowed by Rolling Stone journalist John Mendelssohn while in California.
The singer stayed with RCA Records producer Tom Ayres at 8233 Roxbury Road, where he recorded demos of songs including a multitrack solo version of ‘Hang On To Yourself’. Ayres was impressed with Bowie’s work, and suggested he meet RCA’s West Coast publicity head with a view to signing a US record deal.
Bowie gave the demo of ‘Hang On To Yourself’ to Ayres to pass on to Gene Vincent, who was also recording demos at Ayres’ studio.
On a promotional trip to the US in January 1971, I was very kindly offered a room to crash in by the record producer Tom Ayers. At the time, Tom was producing one of the all time rock heroes, Gene Vincent. One night, at the recording studio, Tom asked whether I would like to jam or sing something with Gene. At that point, I had already written ‘Moonage Daydream’, ‘Ziggy Stardust’ and ‘Hang On To Yourself’. We settled on ‘Hang On To Yourself’ and made a ghastly version of it which is floating around somewhere on eBay, I expect. I went on to explain that Ziggy wasn’t going to be a real rock star and that I would play him. I think they all thought I was talking in terms of a musical. It’s possible that I was; it’s now hard to remember what direction I had expected him to go. Zig rather grew as he grew, if you know what I mean.
Listening to the Tom Ayers demo now, I can’t hear a trace of Vincent anywhere on it, though Tom’s son (who sent it to me) assures me that his dad swore Gene was on it. Gene left his mark on Ziggy in one other way, though. Back in the Sixties, Vincent was to co-star with Little Richard on a whirlwind package tour of the UK. Someone forgot to get his work permit together so he was not allowed to sing from the stage itself. To get over this, he sang his spot from the aisle. Ludicrous but very exciting for us fans. At the time, Vincent had been wearing a leg brace, the result of a car accident. It meant that to crouch at the mike, as was his habit, he had to shove his injured leg out behind him to, what I thought, great theatrical effect. This rock stance became position number one for the embryonic Ziggy. Mick Rock captured that well on many occasions, the best version appearing on the back of the Pin Ups album.
Moonage Daydream: The Life And Times Of Ziggy Stardust
Also on this day...
- 1976: Live: Sports Arena, San Diego
- 1974: Television: Top Pop
- 1974: Edison Awards, Amsterdam
- 1973: David Bowie sees The Rockettes live
- 1970: Awards: Disc & Music Echo
- 1965: Live: Davie Jones and the Manish Boys, California Ballroom, Dunstable
Want more? Visit the David Bowie history section.