“Oh by jingo”
The enigma that is Marc Almond has been added to the bill for Tony Visconti and Holy Holy’s performance of The Man Who Sold The World at London’s Shepherd’s Bush Empire on September 22nd.
He will sing After All in the first part of the show and he’ll also duet with Glenn Gregory on Watch That Man for the second part of the evening.
We approached Marc with a few questions regarding his appreciation of all things Bowie and how he found working with Tony Visconti on his excellent new album, The Dancing Marquis. (Marc is pictured with Tony here)
He very kindly obliged and here follows that short Q&A.
Was your first introduction to Bowie via Starman or were you aware of him before that?
I first read about Bowie, before I’d really heard him. Articles, interviews, mentions and photos in the music press of the early 70s. So I became a fan before I’d even heard a note. Of course I knew Space Oddity and had seen him perform it on Top Of The Pops but I never really associated that David Bowie with the one I was reading about at that time. It was around the time of The Man Who Sold The World and Hunky Dory that he really started to strike a chord. I remember very well the first time I saw a photo of the famous album cover of TMWSTW of him in what looked like a dress. It was the most daring and alluring thing I’d seen from a singer. I heard his sessions on John Peel and was transfixed by his voice, sound and lyrics. He was unlike anything else. The first album I was able to buy was Ziggy Stardust, as it coincided with me having some money of my own. Before then I could only afford singles occasionally. After that I bought everything he had made previously and thereafter.
You first saw Bowie live in 1973. You have recalled that you were attacked on the way to that gig because of the way you looked. Can you remember what you wore and what happened at the gig?
I saw Bowie live at the Liverpool Empire in 1973 (Sunday June 10). I have told this story on a few occasions. On the train on the way to see him, I got beaten up for dressing up with my friends in glitter and makeup. I was hit over the head with a bottle. I wasn't hurt seriously but I was bleeding. I refused to let it stop me from enjoying the show. I climbed over seats and pushed my way to the front of the stage. Bowie had the circle on his forehead and the Japanese inspired costumes including the one with one arm and one leg. He looked otherworldly, incredible. As he sang Rock ’N’ Roll Suicide I reached up my hand, blood, makeup and glitter were running down my face. He reached down to touch the outstretched hands of fans and took my hand, “Give me your hand”. I've always said that it was a Glam Rock epiphany. It was one of the most magical things that has happened to me. I've seen many Bowie shows since but that one will always be extra special.
Were Bowie's versions of My Death and Amsterdam your introduction to Jacques Brel?
It was hearing Bowie's versions of Brel that really turned me onto Brel in a big way. When I turned over Bowie’s single Sorrow and played Amsterdam on the B-side, it really was a seminal influential moment. I had been aware of Brel through hearing Scott Walker and Alex Harvey but it was Bowie who really sanctioned Brel as being very cool. Bowie opened up a whole world to me. When Bowie mentioned a Singer or a Writer or Artist I had to check them out and they would become a big part of my cultural sphere. Genet, Lou Reed, Lindsay Kemp. Iggy Pop, Brel and many more. When Bowie recorded Pin Ups, all the artists he covered were instantly cool. His influence on Pop Culture was and is enormous. I’m sure it was the same for many musicians of my generation. Bowie taught me what my teachers at school couldn’t.
You've released a live version of Rock ‘N’ Roll Suicide and an affectionately faithful version of The London Boys (produced and arranged by Tris Penna). Are there any other Bowie tracks you have recorded or play live?
Rock ’N’ Roll Suicide I sometimes do in acoustic shows. London Boys has always been a favourite song of mine and my version on Stardom Road is quite faithful to the original arrangements because I love them so much. In my version I sing from a different view point, thinking of a 1970s documentary called Johnny Go Home (a film about Rent Boys in London’s Piccadilly), and my own experiences of coming to London for the first time, “the first time that you tried a pill”...club experiences, loneliness, trying to be someone. I did get a message through other people that David did approve of my version which I hope was true. I sometimes perform John, I’m Only Dancing in my live shows.
You were obviously aware of Tony Visconti’s extraordinary production skills via Marc Bolan and T Rex. But when did you first realise he had produced Bowie too?
Of course Tony Visconti was originally well known to me as the less visible though important member of T.Rex and Tyrannosaurus Rex, as his production credit was on all the records. But it was through The Man Who Sold The World, the 1972 re-issue, that I first became aware of him as Bowie's producer too. After that Space Oddity. Tony, I felt, must be the World's greatest producer as he was behind the records of my favourite Artists.
How important an album was TMWSTW to you at the time?
Though I loved Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane and all the Bowie records I first bought, TMWSTW was my favourite. It was darker, the lyrics more intriguing, mystical, and I loved that. I hated the cover of the re-issue and as soon as I was able to get an album with the original cover, I did. The arrangements are wonderful, textured, early synth and Mellotron sounds and what sounds like a Clavioline on After All. Mick Ronson’s guitar shines particularly on Width Of A Circle. It was one of my favourite live numbers, Bowie and Ronson duelling in strobe light and the infamous guitar fellatio. My favourite tracks on TMWSTW are Width Of A Circle, After All and The Supermen.
What did you think of the David Bowie is exhibition at the V&A?
The exhibition was overwhelming and left me with many mixed emotions and feelings. On one hand seeing the costumes from the shows was like greeting old friends after a long time. But, in another sense it was like saying goodbye to them forever. The costumes of course were always going to look better in my memory, under stage lights and filled out by the Artist himself. In some ways it felt like the death of part of myself and definitely my Teenage Years. I remember talking to Tony Visconti (who was the prize exhibit in the exhibition) as he looked fascinated into a glass case at some lyrics he'd last seen in a studio many years back. It was a fabulous, fascinating, poignant and oddly sad experience. I told Tony afterwards that I had gone home and cried for the loss of myself. Where a performing music artist is concerned, only a Bowie Exhibition could evoke those strong emotions. The opening of the exhibition was odd anyway, everybody was so busy being ’on’ that it was too edgy, many of us that had grown up with Bowie probably feeling the same feeling of being overwhelmed. I went back on a later date where i could spend more time and luxuriate.
You're teaming up with Tony Visconti and Holy Holy for the Shepherd's Bush show to sing After All. How did you decide on that particular song?
Tony V and Tom Wilcox chose After All for me to sing at the show. They could see what they felt would suit my voice and they were right, it’s one of my favourites from the album.
Tony worked on some of the songs for your latest album, The Dancing Marquis, including the delicious Burn Bright which was released as a single last year. How did those sessions go generally?
The sessions for The Dancing Marquis were some of the most fun and exciting sessions I’d done in a long time. Tony ignited my love for making some Pop Music again. The music that Tony produced has been some of the most important and influential music in my life and to finally work with him completed the circle for me. As well as producing the songs The Dancing Marquis and Burn Bright, Tony also arranged and recorded strings and mixed for me The Death Of A Dandy and Tasmanian Tiger. It was a thrill for me to have Tony bring some of his recording secrets and trademarks to the sessions. These songs will be up there with the songs I’m most proud of in my career as a recording Artist.
Thanks again Marc, we look forward to seeing you on September 22nd.