Detail from that week's full page 'Starman' ad in Melody Maker mentions the Free Trade Hall show.
We had such wishful beginnings...
After more than a month's break from live work, the 1972 tour of the UK reconvened on the 20th April at The Playhouse in Harlow. The next night, exactly thirty years ago today, and one week before the release of 'Starman', David Bowie and his band played the Manchester Free Trade Hall. The show was considered important enough by David's management to be plugged in the 'Starman' ad that had appeared in that week's music press. You can see the full advert, from which the above is taken, in last Sunday's news.
Although it's now referred to as the first Ziggy tour, the music for these shows was split pretty evenly between the more familiar 'Hunky Dory' and the as yet unreleased 'Ziggy Stardust'. In fact that same 'Starman' ad was still plugging 'Hunky Dory', as the release of 'Ziggy Stardust' was still almost seven weeks away. These songs were supplemented with a few from 'David Bowie', (later to be reissued as 'Space Oddity') 'The Man Who Sold The World' and a handful of cover versions.
Just eight bob, or 40 new pence to see an early Ziggy show!
Anyway, I've managed to track down two Bowie fans that were at that show in Manchester, and they've kindly agreed to share their reminiscences with us. The first comes from Mark Doyle, who also supplied the above ticket from the show:
"I saw David at the Free Trade Hall, Manchester in April '72. He began with Hang On & Ziggy and then explained to the audience that he'd spent the last week in rehearsals and that his vocal chords were sore. He could either play a short "hard" set or a longer "softer" set - which did we want?! We opted for the long set and he proceeded to play all of Ziggy, several of his back catalogue, plus White Light / White Heat & I Feel Free. Port of Amsterdam may also have been in there.
After about 90 minutes, the audience were ecstatic and David seemed pretty pleased with the reception too - enough to actually walk out onto the audience's hands at the front of the stage, and they did manage to keep him aloft (for a short while anyway!). Definitely one of the all time great gigs!"
The other contributor is one Tony Husband, who, like Mark Doyle, went on to see David again as Ziggy...but more of that at a later date. Here are his memories of David Bowie at the Manchester Free Trade Hall on Friday, April 21st, 1972:
"I'd been following Bowie for some time, I'd seen him doing his mime show with Tyrannosaurus Rex, seen him at Glastonbury and prevented a greaser throwing a bottle at him at a Humble Pie gig (got thumped for my efforts). Anyway, I'd got "The Man Who Sold the World" and was totally knocked out by it. Ronson's thrilling guitar, Visconti's doom-laden bass and some of the heaviest songs ever recorded, so when the tour was announced I was brimming.
On the day the tickets were released I went to the ticket office at the Lewis department store at the back of the lingerie department, an old guy showed me the seating plan of the Free Trade Hall and said "Take your pick, you're the first" (a moment I am still proud of). I had the entire hall to choose from and chose the circle front row, dead centre, a choice I was later to regret. I presumed it would be full so I would have the best view etc.
Come the night, it wasn't full, I'd say about 200 to 400 or so dripped into the 3000-seat Free Trade Hall. I can't remember who the support bands were but I remember the Spiders entrance, dressed in glitter suits, stack heels, fucking amazing. This was when I realised being in the circle was a shit place to be. Everyone rushed the stage and me and the handful of circlellites sat watching the spectacle unfold.
I can't remember what order the songs came in, or to be honest, what they were even, but I do remember a blistering gig. Bowie at his arrogant best, strutting the stage, Ronson darting around playing paint peeling guitar and the solid rhythm of Bolder and Woodmansey.
I remember Bowie crowd surfing, the small knot of fans carrying him over their heads. I remember him passing an acoustic guitar into the crowd and I'm thinking "what the fuck am I doing up here?" I remember Bowie stepping toward the microphone and it banging him in the mouth, through the show he kept feeling his tooth, strange what you remember.
I looked to the side and some of the Free Trade Hall management were looking at this band of freaks, they were smirking and laughing, three guys in suits had never seen the like, neither had we. It was truly an awesome gig.
When David got bigger I went to see The Spiders at the HardRock in Stretford with about 4000 others. I didn't like the fact I had to share him and the band with 4000 newcomers. I was at the Free Trade Hall with just 400 others months before, witnessing one of the all time great gigs by one of the all time great bands. I'm proud of that and it's burned into my memory forever."
Great stuff, thanx a lot Mark and Tony. We'll be sending you a little something for your troubles. Remember to send your memories of Ziggy live in '72 to me at TotalBlamBlam@DavidBowie.com with a subject line of "I remember Ziggy", and if we use it we'll send you something too. Here's an excerpt from an interview with David in 1997, regarding these early shows:
"Things moved quite fast in those days, but Ziggy was a case of small beginnings. I remember when we had no more than twenty or thirty fans at the most. They'd be down at the front and the rest of the audience was indifferent. And it feels so special, because you and the audience kid yourselves that you're in on this big secret. It's that English elitism and you feel kind of cool. It all gets so dissipated when you get bigger."
When I asked David about the walking out on the hands of the audience he remembered it slightly differently: "Nope. Not quite true. I was carried through the crowd on the kids' shoulders." Can you imagine that at this years BowieNet Roseland show? I think not, his arse would be pinched black and blue by you animals! };-)
Thanx again Mark and Tony, it's great for those of us that weren't at these shows to get a glimpse of that early madness. As you all know, things got much crazier and we'll hopefully be looking back again in the near future.