The players: Trevor Bolder, Woody
Woodmansey, David Bowie, and Mick Ronson (RCA promo 1972)
(incidentally we tried
valiantly to track down the keyboard player for the live shows. We
tracked down Brand X's Robin Lumley in Australia who was thought to have
played this gig and he confirmed to us that he actually joined the band
in August 1972. With that info, we believed the player may have been
Procol Harum's Matthew Fisher whom we have not been able to talk to
sadly. We also tried to track down members of The JSD Band to no avail)
Saturday July 15th 1972
stays in the memory of everyone who was there and beyond- it was no ordinary
gig. This was the night Bowie took Aylesbury apart in front of an ecstatic crowd
and a plane load of important American journalists, flown in to witness the
phenomenon that was Ziggy Stardust. It wasn't fluke, Bowie had broken Ziggy on
the world at Friars six months earlier and the world finally awoke to what was
known for a long time - Bowie was a legend in the making. The story starts
before that of course, Bowie offering Bucks musician and early Friars stalwart
Les Payne a track 'Star' to help him in 1969 and in 1971, the first outing
anywhere of the Hunky Dory album was at Aylesbury with legend stating that Al Kooper who played Friars in 1971 told Bowie that Friars was an enthusiastic and
knowledgeable audience, something David found out for himself.
In June and July 2012
there have been BBC radio and TV documentaries of the 40th anniversary of the
release of the Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars album featuring, amongst
others, contributions from David Stopps and Kris Needs.
I was able to
interview Trevor Bolder for this feature
and he talks about Aylesbury and the first outings of Hunky Dory and Ziggy
Well, what happened
after that? David retired the Ziggy character in 1973, the same year it was
mooted that David might play Aylesbury Market Square or at least relay the gig
from the BAH to screens in the Market Square. David Stopps was convinced that
Bowie would play Aylesbury again and offered to eat his hat if he didn't come
back that year. He didn't and Stopps literally ate his hat on stage (Budget had
made one from rice paper for the occasion).
Bowie, as we know went
on to become one of the world's biggest rock stars and still retains affection
for the Aylesbury Ziggy Stardust gigs and is a true Friars Hero. He did however
make it back to Aylesbury in 1977 where in another first for Friars Aylesbury,
Iggy Pop played his first gig for years and on keyboards was.....a certain David
Here's some thoughts
from those who were there:
“[Spiders From Mars drummer] Woody Woodmansey was saying,
“I’m not bloody wearing that!” There were certainly comments, a lot of
nerves. Not about the music — I think the guys knew that we rocked. But
they were worried about the look. That’s what I remember: how
uncomfortable they felt in their stage clothes. But when they realized
what it did for the birds . . . The girls were going crazy for them,
because they looked like nobody else. So within a couple of days it was,
“I’m going to wear the red ones tonight.”
Aylesbury Friars Club gig sticks in my mind as one of Bowie and the
Spiders favourite gigs. I remember the first time we played we'd spent
weeks working out the show and it was the first airing of a Bowie and
Spiders concert that we then took around the world! The audience reception
was the best.'
Mick Rock photographing Bowie at this gig
(thanks Martyn Cornell)
Friars Aylesbury promoter David Stopps:
gig on 15 July was used as a showcase for record company executives from
all over the world. I remember doing a little history of the town and
giving this out to these high-flying executives. This was an amazing gig,
there was real hysteria. We had a hard time with security too. It was
really that intense. It was also quite clear at that point that it was
breaking huge. I had put on the gig in Dunstable the previous month and
Bowie was extremely good. I remember the fellatio with Ronson at that gig
and I remember everyone being pretty shocked. It was breaking literally
by the day and by the time 15 July came around there was great excitement
in the air. Needless to say, the gig had sold out instantly'
Roger Taylor (Queen drummer):
"I got Freddie out in my little Mini and I remember the
lights didn't work very well and we were going around the roundabouts and
he was going "Oh dear - I don't think you can see dear, can you?" and I
said "Don't worry Freddie it will be all right" and anyway we did get
around the roundabouts and we got out to Friars Aylesbury which seemed
like the end of the earth at the time. I think it could have been the
first-ever Ziggy Stardust gig and it blew us away - we were blown away -
it was so fantastic like nothing else that was happening and so far ahead
of its time - the guy he had so much talent to burn really and charisma to
burn as well, I hate to gush but he did have it like no one else did at
Angie Bowie in 2012:
'I looked at the [Friars Aylesbury]
site and there's nothing more to say. You've said it all. Great show'
Rolling Stone's Glen O'Brien in an interview
with Andy Warhol, 1972 said:
Aylesbury town hall is the size of an average pre-war high school
gym...There were perhaps a thousand peers in the hall when we entered. At
first I thought it was remarkable that RCA had spent at least $25,000 to
bring a select group of writers to a concert at which there were no seats
for them, save the floor...David Bowie did not come on unannounced. He
was in fact preceded on stage by a handsome Negro and his attendants who
attempted to work the audience to a fever pitch by tossing them balloons,
pinwheels, and hundreds of Bowie posters. The audience needed little
prodding, though, and anxiously awaited David Bowie and The Spiders From
Mars, while the giant amplifiers sounded a recording of old Ludwig Von's
Song of Joy from the Ninth Symphony. David appeared on stage with his
band to what could fairly be called a thunderous ovation. And he deserved
every handclap...His hair was a vibrant orange..And the band played
on...And David proved himself to be a unique performer'
The New Roxette's, (and local leek
grower), Rick Pearce recalls the gig:
remember how we got hold of tickets for the July 15th Friars
date but we did, somehow.
By now the ‘Tour Without End’ had really hit its
stride and things were getting faster, slicker and even tighter than ever.
Memories of the gig itself are a jumble of confused images and impressions:
A huge wave of energy and sound coming off the
stage, Hang On To Yourself always hits like a bolt of lightening and it’s
the first time I’ve seen them in a small venue since they played here in
January…Blue lit otherwise darkened stage for The Supermen… Total strobe
disorientation and fragments of She Shook Me Cold during the jam section
of I Feel Free… Ronno raising his arm to signal the end of White Light
White Heat and Woody just keeps on drumming… Crushed against the PA by the
crowd with Jackie, Jenny and her friend Tim and being deaf for days after… Bowie
taking off his jacket towards the end of the show, ripping it to pieces,
throwing rags to the crowd. At the same time Stuey George and (probably) Stage
Manager Peter Hunsley are hurling fliers from both sides of the stage, girls are
fighting over bits of white satin and I’m wondering how it’s possible to look
cool in the middle of all of this, realising it’s impossible and giving up on
even trying… Grabbing Ronno’s guitar as he runs to the front of the stage and
shoves it out into the audience… The surface of the guitar is rough, almost like
sandpaper and the strings are very light gauge… Wondering if seeing the Beatles
at the Cavern was anywhere near as good as this…
Eventually the band leave the stage, the
houselights come on and we are left standing there, drained, deafened and
stunned by the sheer intensity of what we have just witnessed.
After that things just got bigger, wilder and totally beyond control. DB and the
Spiders were no longer able to be just our band. The Universe, or at least
America had taken them over and we would never get them back. Sadly that’s often
how it works and the only choice we have is to live with it every time it
happens or to become bitter, twisted, cynical and ultimately deadly boring.
On further consideration, there is no choice!'
Journalist, author and original Friars member Kris Needs writing in 2012:
'There’s been much
attention lavished lately on the 40th anniversary of Ziggy Stardust’s
spectacular landing on this planet, particularly the January 29 gig which marked
the first time Bowie’s exotic new creation had set foot on a stage.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve written magazine features and spoke to Gary
Kemp for BBC Radio specials, now realising most of the attention went to how
this shy singer-songwriter, hiding beneath his long blond tresses, metamorphosed
into that amazing creature called Ziggy Stardust, with a lot of the in-between
events skipped over in favour of the July, 1973 retirement announcement.
Everyone has loved to credit that ‘Starman’ appearance on Top Of The Pops
for the moment Bowie exploded into the national consciousness and Bowie-mania
was born. Very true, but I actually think the Friars Dunstable gig a few weeks
earlier showed that Bowie-mania was taking off nicely. It was all happening so
fast, something new and exciting happening every day.
Then came July 15. By then, me and local fans including Rick and Judy
Pearce and John Hopcraft had pursued Bowie to various local suburban gigs, the
Ziggy album was out, I’d helped with his fan club and was marvelling at the
beautiful serendipity of Mott The Hoople getting their ‘All The Young Dudes’
rescue. Up until now, it had been easy to talk to Bowie, before and after the
show. We were always greeted warmly by him and he really didn't seem to believe
how fast it was all happening. But now, since the TV and some Star Is Born-type
reviews, manager Tony DeFries’ Colonel Tom Parker-style tactics upped gear. He
started cutting Bowie off, trying to create an untouchable legend, Elvis-style.
When Bowie returned to Friars on July 15, he was back on safe ground playing
a showcase for a planeload of US journos and record company execs flown in to
start the buzz for Ziggy's invasion of America. Although I managed to witness
the soundcheck in the afternoon, things had changed; the show was slicker, his
jumpsuit now the red and green quilted affair, the going down on Ronno routine
debuted that May in Oxford now a set piece. Bowie had also gained a mean, black
bodyguard called Stuey, who informed me after the gig that I would see his
charge, 'over my dead body'.
So that magical six months, whose reverberations would ring through the
ensuing decades, was over. David wasn’t ours any more but it didn’t matter. This
had been a gift from the gods for a teenage Stones-Mott fan like me, paved the
way for the New York Dolls and a new period of immense fun running Mott‘s fan
club for a few years. Like the Stones, the shockwaves of his impact reverberated
deeper than the music, invading image, culture and social taboos, sparking a new
revolution. No one knew that a direct lineage to punk rock was opening up but,
at that moment, pop music was being invaded by a vision from the future. Forty
years later, I can still feel that buzz.'
Friars founding father Robin Pike writing in 2012:
I decided that this
gig should be a Gala. My background in theatre and ballet told me that Galas
must have flowers and lots of them. So Nick Menday and I set off for Covent
Garden flower market just after pub closing time on Friday July 14th. At this
time the flower market was still in Covent Garden with trading starting around
1am. I have absolutely no recollection of which flowers we bought but we did
indeed buy lots! Coincidentally, Lou Reed was playing his first UK date at the
Scala in Kings Cross that night and since it was an all-nighter Nick and I made
our way over to the venue. Friars had booked Lou Reed for a date later in July
and it seemed reasonable to ask the Scala promoter for admission via his Guest
List. Now I have a thing about Guest Lists, and I vividly remember the Promoter
informing me wearily that I was the 220th person to be on the List. In the end
one of us paid. As for the show!! Lou had a band called The Tots on account of
their extreme youth and this was his first tour since leaving the Velvet
Underground. In fact I learned later that the bass player was 15 years old. I
think it was around 2.30am when they came on and they were stunning. The
audience was equally stunning. I shall not go into detail here but for anyone
who is curious I invite them to listen to the lyrics of
Walk on the Wild Side.
There were a lot of Candys that morning.
arrived back in Aylesbury and set about enacting my flower plan. I had formed
the idea that David Bowie should play under a floral sky. This meant that we
would 'fly' the flowers above the front of the stage. The Assembly Hall (aka
Grosvenor) happened to have a number of benches with collapsible legs not that
I had ever seen them used. Anyway, we turned them upside down, filled them with
soil and stuck the flowers in. The soil came from a garden at the back of
Barclays Bank in the Market Square (but do not ask me how we got in there).
There was a spare lighting bar above the stage which had to be lowered manually
by means of a nasty winding wire and handle mechanism. We suspended the benches
from this bar and slowly wound it back up with the floral display hanging
below. I thought the effect was brilliant. Somehow I think that I may have
thrown some flowers on to the stage as well.
Oh.............and the gig was brilliant too. As I recall Mick Ronson played a
fine version of ' I feel Free.'
Author and original Friars member Pete Frame writing in 2012:
the times that I’d seen Bowie earlier, it seemed as if he was still prospecting
. . . but at Friars that night, it was obvious that he’d found the goldmine. He
charged around the stage, full of confidence, secure in the knowledge that all
the elements had finally come together and the time was right. He dressed,
thought and sang in full technicolour. For the first time, the world was in his
grasp. We all knew that nothing would stop him now.
I clearly remember the bus load of foreign
journalists trooping up that alleyway beside the Green Man. RCA had flown them
in to witness Bowie climaxing at the club which had nurtured him – all the more
alluring because it was in a sleepy, provincial market town. Those whose minds
were comprehensively blown included Dave Marsh, who then wrote for the
Detroit-based Creem magazine (and later wrote the first Bruce Springsteen
biography), and Lillian Roxon, who had recently written the world’s first rock
encyclopedia (which, significantly, had no entry for Bowie). Executives from RCA
were strutting around the foyer, whooping in jubilation because they knew that
Bowie was about to jump from the Friars stage onto the world stage.
Friars fan Robin Symons:
and I as teenagers went to the gig and at one point, David took his satin jacket
off and threw it into the crowd, Vivien my to be wife, grabbed at it and tore of
one of the pockets ! She still has the remnants which also has had some coloured
gems sewn on.
Friars fan Aly Moss:
Yes, I was at the Ziggy Stardust gig. I
nearly got expelled from school as a result.
My friend Hilary and I had been made to go
on a school trip to York to watch the mystery plays, but due to torrential rain,
they were cancelled, so an alternative trip was arranged. However, Hilary and I
decided we would far rather see David Bowie at Friars, so we did our chore (we
were staying in a youth hostel) very early in the morning, shinned down a
drainpipe and caught the train back to Aylesbury in time for the concert.
Unfortunately we didn't tell anyone where we were going, so you can imagine the
ructions that caused!! Hilary managed somehow to wash her hair on the train in
readiness for the evening, and we had a great time.
We were summoned to Miss Camp's office on
the following Monday morning, and narrowly escaped being suspended for nearly
giving the teacher on the trip a heart attack.
Sadly, Hilary passed away some years ago,
but it remains one of my favourite memories of the fun we had together during
the Friars years. It was definitely worth the trouble we got into!
I have since found out that my future
husband was there as well, but we didn't know each other then!
Friars fan Jacky Sayell:
will always remember that gig being a big Bowie fan. I was waiting for him to
come out the back of Friars, he was with Angie and he was just getting into his
car when someone smacked him in the mouth. I was so shocked to see blood everywhere
and will never forget it. Soon after went to London to see him play the Marquee
and he asked if anyone went to Friars I said I did then he replied "do you know
Dave Stopps and Kris?" I went "yep" in a state of shock then he went on to say
he loved playing Aylesbury Friars. Made me proud.
was issued in 1972. The owner of this copy (Keith Bradbury) received this
in the Regent Cafe in Kingsbury Square, Aylesbury.
and the back simply had