Travel: New York to London

David Bowie boarded the RHMS Ellinis on 13 December 1972, setting sail from New York to England.

It marked the end of his first US tour. The Spiders From Mars had flown back on 10 December.

Bowie arrived back in England on 21 December. During the voyage he wrote the lyrics of the song ‘Aladdin Sane’.

I don’t really think he’s me… It’s my interpretation of what America means to me. It’s like a summation of my first American tour.
David Bowie
Circus magazine, July 1973

On board the Ellinis Bowie read Evelyn Waugh’s 1930 novel Vile Bodies, a satire of the wealthy “bright young things” partying in London after World War One.

The book dealt with London in the period just before a massive, imaginary war. People were frivolous, decadent and silly. And suddenly they were plunged into this horrendous holocaust. They were totally out of place, still thinking about champagne and parties and dressing up. Somehow it seemed to me that they were like people today.
David Bowie
Circus magazine, July 1973

The protagonist of Vile Bodies was Adam Symes, a novelist whose foiled attempts to marry Nina Blount were obliquely recounted in Bowie’s song. In the new telling, ‘Adam Symes’ became ‘Aladdin Sane’, a new persona for Bowie and an extension of his Ziggy Stardust character.

The name ‘Aladdin Sane’ was also a pun on the words ‘A lad insane’, possibly in reference to Bowie’s half-brother Terry Burns, who struggled with poor mental health. Bowie also toyed with alternative titles for the album, including A Lad Insane, Love Aladdin Vein, and simply Vein.

Originally, I felt Love Aladdin Vein was right, then I thought, ‘Maybe I shouldn’t write them off so easily’ – so I changed it. Also Vein – there was the drugs thing, but it’s not that universal.
David Bowie
Disc & Music Echo
Last updated: 17 May 2023
Filming: Space Oddity
Live: Rainbow Theatre, London
Also on this day...

Want more? Visit the David Bowie history section.

Leave a Reply