'My treasured memories with a true star man'
PUBLISHED: 11:27 02 March 2009 | UPDATED: 11:22 12 August 2010
ZIGGY Stardust sleeps on the Trans Siberian express, The Man Who Fell To Earth larks about in a dressing room, and a pensive David Bowie writes some lyrics for the album Station to Station. These snapshots behind the Chameleon of Rock have never before
ZIGGY Stardust sleeps on the Trans Siberian express, The Man Who Fell To Earth larks about in a dressing room, and a pensive David Bowie writes some lyrics for the album Station to Station.
These snapshots behind the 'Chameleon of Rock' have never before been published and were until recently stashed away in a chest in Beckenham for more than 30 years.
Geoff MacCormack, who accompanied Bowie on tour for three years as a backing singer, percussionist and performer from 1973, idly took the shots as they toured the UK, US, Japan and Russia.
As one of his 'Spiders from Mars', the musician had unlimited backstage access to the rock icon on the Ziggy Stardust live shows as well as the Aladdin Sane and Diamond Dogs tours.
He even hung out with him on set as he made his acting debut as alien Thomas Jerome Newton in Nicolas Roeg's cult film The Man Who Fell
The pictures would be gold dust to any Bowie fan, but they were hidden away in MacCormack's mother's home, until this year when his book From Station to Station was released.
"I thought I would get round to putting them together for a book at some stage," MacCormack laughed. "I kept things at my mother's house in Beckenham that were important to me like my '60s 45 soul record collection. Thank goodness they were there otherwise they'd have been lost - I am what you would call chaotically organised."
The limited edition leather-bound books feature 200 photographs that range from the "stupid to the sublime" according to MacCormack.
He said: "I'm glad that I didn't realise how important these photos would be, consciously using it as an opportunity to make money by taking sh*t loads of photographs, it was just a natural thing to do.
"I wish I'd kept up with photography, I didn't even have a decent camera at the time, no better than a mobile phone camera."
MacCormack was selling ad space at trade magazine Construction News in the early 1970s when his former Burnt Ash Primary school pal called to recruit him for his band.
Even though he admits he "can't remember at all" when he first met the young David Jones, he describes him as his second oldest friend.
The first is George Underwood, who he met at his first school St Mary's and who, like Bowie, went to Bromley Tech secondary school.
Underwood also toured with Ziggy Stardust and later created artwork for several of Bowie's albums.
"The three of us grew up together," said MacCormack who used to live round the corner from Bowie's Plaistow Grove home in Cambridge Road, Bromley.
"We used to go round to each other's houses, we liked the same American artists," he recalled.
And the trio, who also went to the 18th Bromley Cub Scouts together, still stay in touch today.
Among the anecdotes that run alongside the pictures in Station to Station, MacCormack writes: "I wouldn't knock the Cub Scout movement. It was one of my first big adventures to take a camping trip down to the coast, sing a few songs around the campfire and sleep under the stars.
"Many years later David and I were about to do it all over again, but on a somewhat bigger scale, under different stars and with wackier uniforms."
Indeed, as the photographs he took document, they later embarked on an incredible journey across the world - made even more unique by Bowie's refusal to fly, opting instead for travel by boat, rail and bus.
"Although I have seen more of America than most Americans, sometimes it was only through a tour bus window," said MacCormack.
"I had never been to New York and in the 1970s no one really used to go to America like they do now, it was still an exotic place to visit, and to go by boat was really an incredible culture of experience.
"The same for Japan, it was not a land you would get a chance to see, it was such a mystical country and not knowing much about the culture made it quite a magical trip.
"At that age, you take things for granted and think that you are predestined for these things. It's not that we didn't enjoy it, but we couldn't take it all in some of the time."
With days at sea, the band got up to all kinds of mischief to keep themselves entertained.
Recalling their journey to Japan, MacCormack - who also used the pen name Warren Peace when he co-wrote with Bowie on the Diamond Dogs album, said: "I remember on one ship I was put in a nurse's uniform but needed to go to the toilet and having to slide up my dress standing next to some men at the urinals."
Facilities on tour would vary, from the luxurious SS Canberra to New York to the SS Oronsay from LA to Japan which they nicknamed the 'Old Rancid'.
But on arrival, the band were treated like true rock stars booking top suites in hotels all over the world - even if sometimes they preferred to 'slum it'.
"We nearly missed the boat from Paris. David fell in love with a girl on a review show and I had a girlfriend there at the time," said MacCormack. "We had a suite in the Carlton Hotel for three nights but all we managed was to get back just in time to grab a banana, have a quick wash and get in a limo taking us back to get our boat, which we nearly missed.
"It was quite rock 'n' roll in terms of leaving a top suite at a top hotel deserted for three nights while we hung out in Paris.
"We were having fun. But you didn't get much time for parties. You would get in, check bags, do a sound check, do the show, go back to the hotel, get drunk, go back in the morning, arrive at the next place, check bags, do a sound check, do a show, get drunk..."
But MacCormack was in the front row for historic moments in rock history, including Ziggy Stardust's dramatic announcement of his 'retirement' in 1973.
MacCormack said: "I did know about his retirement beforehand but I was quite happy to go. It had already been a great adventure, and I was happy that it was coming to an end. I didn't realise then that I would stay on for a couple more years."
Not only did he tour for another two years - performing for an audience including Diana Ross, Paul McCartney and The Jackson Five - but he also co-wrote with Bowie and Iggy Pop and contributed to six albums from Aladdin Sane to Station to Station.
When he came off the road, he set up an advertising production company and went on to win prestigious awards, the Ivor Novello and Gold Clio for his TV commercials and film scores.
But he still stays in touch with his rock star friend, who wrote the foreword for the book under the name that he knew him when they first met aged eight.
Under the guise of a 'mechanic' David Jones, he wrote: "Oh Geoff, what a terrifically clever idea this is. I am all kinds of shades of green as I didn't think of it first. Take the two of us and pretend that we went to America, Japan and, wait for it, f****** Russia of all places, me as a rock star and you as cheerful backing singer and sidekick and then write a book about it. Brilliant! Will you actually be able to get this stuff published do you think?
"The long and short of it, Geoff, is that this is a great little book, full of warmth and good humour. It's so evocative of that time that I almost wish it had really taken place. Dream on, eh?"
From Station To Station: Travels with Bowie, 1973-1976 by Geoff MacCormack - is a signed, handmade book and limited edition of 2,000 copies is available through Genesis Publications; www.genesis-publications.com ; Tel: +44 (0)1483 540 970; Price £295. Prints are also available to buy at http://www.rockarchive.com/geoff-maccormack-prints.html.