David Bowie signs to RCA Records

David Bowie signed a recording contract with RCA Records on 9 September 1971.

The deal required him to deliver three albums over two years, for which he would be paid an advance of $37,500 per album. He would receive a royalty rate of 11%.

After the legalities were completed RCA hosted a reception for Bowie at The Ginger Man pub at 11 East 36th Street. The guests included Lou Rood. He also met Disc & Music Echo journalist Lisa Robinson, whose friend Danny Fields had Iggy Pop staying in NYC with him. Pop was introduced to Bowie when the party moved on to Max’s Kansas City, paving the way for two key collaborations.

David had a new contract with RCA. Tony Defries had struck while the iron was hot and the gate was wide open over on Forty-fourth and Sixth: RCA, having suddenly bestirred its corporate self and recognized the existence of a youth market, was in a mood to part with significant currency at the slightest reasonable-sounding excuse. And there we were, all expenses paid, quartered in high style and great comfort at the Plaza Hotel, single-handedly holding aloft the banner of RCA’s new contemporary consciousness (they’d signed the Kinks and Lou Reed too, but Lou wasn’t British and the Kinks weren’t new).

Not that we cared about all that. Tony had secured complete creative control for David as well as lots more money (or rather, credit: everything was an advance against future royalties) than Mercury could or would have offered him, so David was happy—no more album cover hassles and so on—and I was happy that he was happy. We were all happy, really. RCA was treating us like stars, throwing parties for us and limo’ing us around the hot spots (we met Lou Reed and Iggy Pop at one party, and saw Elvis perform and Colonel Tom market at Madison Square Garden), and that stuff was just wonderful.

God, it’s so nice when they bend over and smooch your tootsies like that, especially the first time around. When we walked into our room at the Plaza, an impressive enough experience itself, and saw what the record company people had done for us, it half killed me with kindness. Piled on the bed, and all around it, were wrapped presents: all David’s RCA promotional material; the whole RCA album catalogue for that year, plus the entire Elvis catalogue; and personal welcome-aboard and welcome-to-New York gifts from all sorts of people in the music business. It was bigger and better than any Christmas I’d ever had, and all the more wonderful because it was so unexpected.

David and I looked at each other like little kids and grinned all over.

‘This is it, isn’t it?’ he said.

I looked around me, drinking it all in, experiencing the same delightful impression as my man’s. ‘Yeah, babe, I think you’re right. It’s happened!

And by God, it had. If they treat you like a star, it means you are one. So we’d done it – we’d arrived.

Angela Bowie
Backstage Passes
Last updated: 26 April 2023
Travel: London to New York
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