Tuesday, January 12, 2016

"Oh, look out - you rock'n'rollers..."

A pleasure and a privilege as ever to chat to 77-year-old bass maestro Herbie Flowers, who played not only on Bowie’s breakthrough Space Oddity single and album in 1969, but also the Diamond Dogs LP and tour of 1974. Oh, and he also played on the sessions for Lou Reed’s classic Transformer LP of 1972, produced by Bowie - but with Flowers coming up with the defining bass riff to 'Can I Kick It?', sorry, 'Walk On The Wild Side'.

Ah, anyway - felt it best to simply transcribe the insights from the man himself Musician, 77, from Ditchling in East Sussex tells his Bowie tale - ah, a different floral tribute...

"We go way back - even before Space Oddity, to the first BBC sessions which were quite remarkable. I don’t know if records of those could be purchased?

I think he was a total genius and the world will miss him. To me, he’s up there with Shakespeare. Everything David did, he did himself - and everything about his career was what he wanted to do.

Does it take two people to write a song? He wrote it all himself, he had a wonderful voice, he had a great eye for fashion.

To me, all his different transitions - Ziggy Stardust, the Thin White Duke, Diamond Dogs, everything that followed - it was like you were walking through a massive art gallery.
Only the pictures are real-life sensations - Bowie was right among us all.
Going way way back, Britain was a much darker, angrier place, David was shining a light - he kind of understood the future, whether science or space travel or whatever.

Even when he was getting stick about him seeming to be transgender, he was foretelling what’s going on now and than goodness someone had that vision.
When we toured America for Diamond Dogs I was a bit scared some of the time, because some of the people were frowning at this singer coming over doing concerts in make-up and costumes.
But that kind of thing goes right back through history, to Shakespearean theatre - David brought it back, giving a much brighter look than just a rock band shouting protest songs.
That’s why I put David up there with Shakespeare - and even greater than the Bacharachs of the world, who need different people for the lyrics and the music. He didn’t.
If he needed a bass player, he’d call one. If he needed a producer, he’d phone Tony Visconti. Everything was planned.
And while he was doing all this, he was such a gentleman - a great bloke, a fine example.

I’m sorry that the world isn’t going to get ten more records, or CDs, or DVDs, or films. He’s been cut short.

He was great to work with, because he was great at what he did. 
You worked for him, you’d roll up at the studio and you couldn’t be miserable or having rows otherwise the music wasn’t going to work.
The focus was always on what we were producing - and at the end of three hours or six hours or a whole day, you’d end up with three or four tracks that will stay with us forever.
We’d never hear the finished product when we were doing the record - the rhythm section’d put down our bit with a rough vocal, before all the fancy bits were added afterwards.
Then suddenly you’d get a call from David: “You know that album we did six months ago? Well, we’re going to go on tour for six months around America with it - do you want to?” Well, of course!
There was no time for ego trips. It’s not like being in a band when you’re with someone like David. It’s just him. You just do exactly what you think he wants you to do.
Other bands come and go, falling out - I can’t stand all that.

I don’t listen to many records now because I’m out as a working musician most of the time - but I always made sure to hear what he does.
This last LP was a goodbye. But it’s the photographs accompanying it that have just blown me away. I feel like I’m in a bit of a dream, these last few days.
There are things I should be getting about and doing, but I can’t do much but just sit and think about what a privilege it was to work for him and be part of that wonderful thing that he created.

As a musician, in a way I think that what he created was a lot of work for a lot of people.
But he also embraced the fashion industry, the film world - everything he did, he did to perfection.

I can’t think of anything original to say.
But I love him. My kids love him, my grandkids do too. 
Maybe he really was from another planet, I don’t know.
He was everything I wish I could be.
He’s up there with Shakespeare, Salvador Dali, Picasso.

There are only a handful of people that really have showed us the way and the world’s still not taking enough notice - the ones that run it, that is. They don’t understand what David was all about.
But ordinary people, they know. Thank goodness for having such a leader we can love and aspire to being like.

Nothing more to say, really, is there..."

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