1. Bowie's 1976 Playboy Magazine interview.
At the time, I was a ten-year-old kid living in the sticks in Indiana when I happened upon my Dad's stash of Playboys. It wasn't so much a "Jackpot" moment as "Hmm, what's this?" Odd that the first issue I picked up contained an interview with then-29-year-old David Bowie, who proceeded to blow my tiny mind away with such quotes as the following:
PLAYBOY: Why do you say it’s the best thing that ever happened to you?
BOWIE: Well, for one thing, girls are always presuming that I’ve kept my heterosexual virginity for some reason. So I’ve had all these girls try to get me over to the other side again: “C’mon, David, it isn’t all that bad. I’ll show you.” Or, better yet, “We’ll show you.” I always play dumb.
On the other hand–I’m sure you want to know about the other hand as well–when I was 14, sex suddenly became all-important to me. It didn’t really matter who or what it was with, as long as it was a sexual experience. So it was some very pretty boy in class in some school or other that I took home and neatly fucked on my bed upstairs. And that was it. My first thought was, Well, if I ever get sent to prison, I’ll know how to keep happy.
Needless to say, while I was still years away from embarking on my own sexual journey, Bowie's remarks were splashed upon the blank canvas of my young mind and I was suddenly very aware that rock & roll was an alternate universe of sorts, full of freaks and deviants. While I wasn't gay, I already knew that that young age that I wasn't cut out for the straight-laced world and that the wonderful parallel universe of rock & roll was where I wanted to be. Would I have still gotten there if I hadn't picked up that particular issue and had the magazine literally fall open to the Bowie interview?
2. He co-produced all the best Iggy Pop and Lou Reed albums.
While I love the idea of who Lou Reed and Iggy Pop were/are as iconic figures of rock's early '70's subversive side, let's face it, they're extremely one-dimensional performers and you either dig that one dimension, or you're not a fan.
Loving their personalities as I do, I was always a tad disappointed by the recorded results, unless, of course, Bowie was producing. Under the Thin White Duke's tutelage, Iggy gave the world The Idiot (featuring "Nightclubbing" and the original version of "China Girl"), Lust For Life (featuring the monster title track and "The Passenger") and the sorely underrated Blah Blah Blah. Remember that Iggy Pop song ("Lust For Life") that a certain cruise line used for their ad spots? Bowie wrote it.
Also with Bowie at the helm, Reed delivered the best album of his career, Transformer, which featured "Walk On The Wild Side" and "Perfect Day". 'Nuff said.
3. Two words; "Under Pressure".
While I can't quite put my finger on exactly why this is the case, the one-off collaboration between Queen and David Bowie remains the one song that I can listen to endlessly without ever getting tired of it.
That's why I was a tad saddened to hear years later that Bowie and the band actually butted heads quite fiercely during the writing and recording of the song. Ultimately, Bowie declared that he alone would oversee the mix of the song, much to the band's chagrin, but that is the version we know and love as the studio version released in 1981.
4. Bowie had the best taste in guitarists.
Through Bowie, I came to adore the work of Adrian Belew and, later, Reeves Gabrels, but prior to that, Mick Ronson, Earl Slick, and Carlos Alomar lent their considerable talents to taking Bowie's music to the next level. Additionally, it was the guitar work of Stevie Ray Vaughan that elevated Bowie's breakthrough album Let's Dance.
Sadly, Bowie proved to be a tad stingy with the purse strings and, as a result, Vaughan turned down the opportunity to play guitar on the ensuing world tour.
5. Not only did Bowie take the best mug shot EVER, he also bailed out the others with whom he'd been arrested, including one James Osterberg (Iggy Pop).
On the morning of March 21, 1976, in a Rochester, NY hotel suite, Bowie, Iggy Pop, a bodyguard and a local Rochester woman were arrested for possession of roughly half a pound of marijuana. After unsuccessfully attempting to take responsibility himself for the contraband that police officers found in his room, Bowie paid roughly $6,000 out of his own pocket to bail out the others.
He then skipped the arraignment to make the next gig, returning as day later to take what is surely one of the most stylish mug shots ever taken. In it, Bowie looks like a 1930's gangster who surely went by the nickname "Pretty Boy" or "Babyface". Amazingly, the photo was all but lost to the annals of time until it was discovered amongst the belongings of a retired Rochester police officer. It was later sold on eBay for less than $3,000.