I was rather late coming to the party. When David Bowie sang Starman to the Top Of The Pops audience in 1972 I was completely unaware what Top Of The Pops was. By 1975 when Space Oddity reached number one, I vaguely remember Pans People dancing to it, but as a pre-teen my life was covered in tartan from the Bay City Rollers. However, starting secondary school in 1979 gave me a greater understanding of music and I began to realise what a legend Bowie is. I bought my first album, Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, from boy in my class for £1.50 which was quite a lot of money to me back then, and fell head over heels in love. It was the start of a love affair that has continued throughout my life.
After Ziggy, I bought all the albums I could get my hands on with my limited budget from a paper round and Saturday job in Woolworths. I discovered the early Deram 60’s Bowie and rocking glam 70’s Bowie and loved it all. And although it’s fair to say I liked some of Scary Monsters…I was very much stuck in the 70s. I spent hours listening over and over again to the brilliance of his words and music. I marvelled at how clever Five Years was – to tell a story with such emotion! I was intrigued at the cut-up technique used on Moonage Daydream. I fell in love with Young Americans and hoped one day to meet someone who would make me feel the way this album did. No other band or musician really ever came close although I did have a soft spot for Abba.
In 1983 all my dreams came true. I couldn’t believe that not only was Bowie touring – but he was coming to my town. I may have been born in London but I no longer lived in a big city so for Milton Keynes to be put on the map in this way was more than luck – it was fate. No matter what I would be there.
It wasn’t easy to find people who love him like I do who would want to go to the concert, but because the gig was local, a couple of school friends came with me. I was still at school and only had a Saturday job so could only afford one ticket which was for the first night – Friday. But a good friend offered me his ticket for the Sunday so I was able to go twice. And plans to meet in the pub on Saturday to discuss all things Bowie meant the whole weekend would be a Bowie fest!
On that Friday morning I got up very early and caught a bus to The National Bowl. I had never been there before, I was too young to drive and had no idea where it was in relation to the rest of the town and where my home was. But I was first in line. 11am. The doors didn’t open until 2pm and I knew he wouldn’t be on until much later – but nothing could dampen my enthusiasm.
I knew we couldn’t bring in water or food so I didn’t bring any but I did hide my 110 compact camera in my bag as I really wanted a couple of photos of him. Rules on photography were strict back then and cameras were not allowed. This was only the second gig I had ever been to and my first on my own but I knew it was significant and I was willing to take the risk. Once I was inside I ran to the front and secured my space. I had already lost my friends from school but didn’t care. I also knew that meant I couldn’t go to get food or go to the toilet or I might lose my place. Again, I didn’t care. The sun was shining and I was all in white – hoping to stand out in the crowd. I got chatting to a few people around me but no one seemed to love him like me. I don’t say that lightly. I wanted to find someone who knew the album stuff – not just the singles. I wanted to say how much I loved some of the B-sides and have a soft spot for Amsterdam. Alas the people around me didn’t want to talk that way. So I sat in the huge scooped out field with the sun shining down on me and listened to the music from the speakers. This was a perfect day. This was the day I get to meet David Bowie.
I sat through several groups – I vaguely remember The Beat and Icehouse but to be honest none of them bothered me. I didn’t care for them much. I couldn’t wait for Bowie. The bouncers kept spraying the crowd with water. I wasn’t very happy about this. I know they didn’t want us to overheat but I didn’t want my mascara to run the first time I meet him either!
Eventually it was time. I was so excited. I had butterflies in my stomach and the anticipation was tantalising. He came on and what a vision he was. I may have had my mouth open but I was in shock. Blonde, a healthy looking tan and in a smart suit right in front of me by only a few feet. My goodness I couldn’t believe it. I felt very emotional and had tears in my eyes but blinked them away as didn’t want to cry ‘cause I wanted to capture and breathe in every moment. When he was at the back of the stage I couldn’t even see him ‘cause I was right at the front and the stage was high. I was transfixed by him. We sang along. We danced. It was truly a wonderful moment. Cracked Actor came on and during those first few bars I looked around for someone in the crowd who would know it – and found a girl near me. We both sang it loudly whilst the rest of the crowd waited for another song they knew. It felt very special to know only the ‘die-hards’ knew it.
I wanted to stop time. I wanted to never let this moment end. But alas the concert did finish and the 60,000 people started to leave. There was a free shuttle bus service back to the city centre. I got on it and someone said to me, ‘what happened to you?’. I replied ‘I was at the front!’ I was in a daze, not looking so white anymore from being squashed in the crowd, clutching my programme that had got a bit damaged on one corner but none of that mattered. I was at the front and had seen him. And only 48 hours til the next time. Best night of my life? Absolutely!
Years later my mum was trying to understand my love of Bowie and said to me, ‘Well if you love him why didn’t you marry him?’. I said to her, ‘Mum – he didn’t ask me!’