Live: Hammersmith Odeon, London – Bowie breaks up the band

The concert’s climax was ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Suicide, preceded by David Bowie’s shock announcement.

Everybody… this has been one of the greatest tours of our lives. We really… At first I’d like to thank the band, I’d like to thank our road crew, and I’d like to thank our lighting people.

Of all the shows on this tour, this particular show will remain with us the longest, because not only is it… not only is it the last show of the tour, but it’s the last show that we’ll ever do. Thank you.

David Bowie
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About 48 hours later, I’m sitting there thinking, ‘What have I said? I don’t think I really meant that at all. I’m feeling better already.’ But too late. I know I really pissed off Woody and Trevor. They were so angry. I hadn’t really told them that I was splitting the band up. But that’s what Ziggy did, so I had to do it too.
David Bowie
An Appreciation Of David Bowie, BBC Radio 1, 12 November 1981

Bowie’s words came as a complete shock to bass guitarist Trevor Bolder and drummer Woody Woodmansey.

My first thought was, ‘What did he just say? Did he just say it’s the last show we’ll ever do?’ My eyes went to Trevor who, judging by the look of confusion on his face, was thinking exactly the same. I looked around at the other guys on the stage and most of them wore the same bemused expression. Some of the audience began shouting out, ‘No, no no’ and I could see many of the fans close to the stage in tears…

Throughout the song I was wondering if it was just another of Bowie’s publicity stunts. Had he planned this or was it just spur of the moment? He’d done many things like this before without informing us. By the end of the number I was actually quite annoyed so I threw one of my drumsticks in his direction, obviously with no malice intended as it missed his head by about six feet.

Mick Woodmansey
Spider From Mars: My Life With Bowie

Bowie left the venue immediately after the song’s conclusion, to attend a party in his honour at the Café Royal in London’s Piccadilly. On the guest list were Paul and Linda McCartney, Ringo Starr, Mick and Bianca Jagger, Keith Moon, Cat Stevens, Lou Reed, Lulu, Jeff Beck, Barbra Streisand, Sonny Bono, and many more musicians and actors.

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Woodmansey and Bolder also attended. Woodmansey wanted to remind Bowie and Ronson about his wedding, due to take place two days later. Ronson was to have been his best man, although he never showed up, and his place was taken by Bolder.

Arriving at the Café Royal, we were confronted by a red carpet and a bunch of photographers madly flashing away as we exited the cab. The place was jam-packed with guests. I’d hoped to see Keith Moon but there were so many people I never did, and we tried to get to Bowie but he was surrounded by the likes of Jagger, Lou Reed, Jeff Beck and Ringo. It soon became clear to us that this wasn’t the time or place for any serious band discussions, or wedding reminders for that matter.
Mick Woodmansey
Spider From Mars: My Life With Bowie

In 2002 Bowie said of the event, which finished at around 5am the following morning: “I remember nothing of this party, absolutely nothing.”

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The setlist:

  • ‘Hang On To Yourself’
  • ‘Ziggy Stardust’
  • ‘Watch That Man’
  • ‘Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud’
  • ‘All The Young Dudes’
  • ‘Oh! You Pretty Things’
  • ‘Moonage Daydream’
  • ‘Changes’
  • ‘Space Oddity’
  • ‘My Death’
  • ‘Cracked Actor’
  • ‘Time’
  • ‘The Width Of A Circle’
  • ‘Let’s Spend The Night Together’
  • ‘Suffragette City’
  • ‘White Light/White Heat’
  • ‘The Jean Genie’
  • ‘Around And Around’
  • ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Suicide’
Live: Hammersmith Odeon, London
Single release: Sorrow
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