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Veteran Scots rocker reveals how he watched as teenage pal David Bowie transformed into Ziggy Stardust

 
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MessagePosté le: Dim 24 Mar - 15:01 (2013)    Sujet du message: Veteran Scots rocker reveals how he watched as teenage pal David Bowie transformed into Ziggy Stardust Répondre en citant



David Bowie in 1972 as he morphed into Ziggy Stardust
Mick Rock/Star File


By Lynn McPherson | 24 Mar 2013 13:10

Veteran Scots rocker reveals how he watched as teenage pal David Bowie transformed into Ziggy Stardust

ALAN MUIR recorded songs with David Bowie, gave him his Hunky Dory catchphrase and then sold him a pair of boots while working in Freddy Mercury's shoe shop.

HE'S back at No.1 after 20 years and an ­exhibition charting his astonishing career is the hottest ticket in London. Pop chameleon David Bowie is back.

And today, a veteran Scots rocker tells of his crucial role in the rise and rise of the man who became Ziggy Stardust.

Alan Mair said he sent Bowie on the road to success with a free pair of boots fitted by his shoe shop manager – ­Freddie Mercury.

He also told how he persuaded Bowie to sing in a Scottish accent on one of his tracks and revealed the song, on Bowie’s debut album, is about his own son.

Alan, who played bass with Scottish legends The Beatstalkers, even claims credit for introducing Bowie to the phrase which gave him the title of one his best known albums.

Alan, originally from Shawlands, Glasgow, became friends with Bowie after his band recorded three of the then-unknown musician’s first ­compositions in 1968.

The Beatstalkers shared the same London manager, Ken Pitt, as the ­fledgling musician.

Alan, who later enjoyed success with the 1970s punks The Only Ones, said: “We met him when he was just a ­teenager but, even then, he had a charisma you couldn’t ignore.”

The Beatstalkers had moved to ­London in 1967 in search of their big break after enjoying success in their homeland.

Alan said: “I was just 20 and we were Scotland’s first pop stars. We were known as the Scottish Beatles and sold thousands of records and caused riots wherever we went.

“We recorded Silver Tree Tops School for Boys which David had written when he was just 16 or 17. We also recorded When I’m Five, which was a very strange little ditty and ended up as a B-side.

“David played acoustic guitar and sang backing vocals on them.

“The last song was Everything Was You. They weren’t commercial really. He hadn’t quite honed his magic at that point but I always thought that when he presented a song there was no shyness or lack of confidence. The confidence he had was amazing, he sold the songs with his personality.”

The Beatstalkers carried on for about a year but when their tour van was ­stolen, they decided to call it a day.

Alan moved into handmade boots and opened a unit at the now indoor Kensington Market.

Bizarrely, Alan’s shop ­manager was none other than the late Queen star Freddie Mercury.

He also had an office at Ken Pitt’s London HQ so kept in touch with Bowie. The Scot said: “We became friends. He even wrote a song about my son Frank.

“Often Frank would come with me to work and David thought he was a fantastic kid.

“He started writing a song called Little Bombardier that mentioned Frank and got me to teach him to sing it in a ­Scottish accent.

“The song ended up on his first album.

“Years later, when Frank was a teenager, he came home from school and asked me if I had heard any David Bowie songs.

“I said that not only that but that David was a good mate – and that he had written a song about him.

“You couldn’t really check it then. Now you can go online so it wasn’t until a bit later that he got a sense of how amazing that was.”



Alan Mair, bass guitarist of the band 'The Beatstalkers'
Dale Cherry


Alan also believes that his old pal picked up one of his catchphrases to name one of his most famous albums.

He added: “When David was hanging round with us, I was always saying that everything was hunky dory.

“David asked me what it meant and I said I thought it meant that everything was ok. He started using the term and I laughed when he brought out his album with the title Hunky Dory.

“It’s synonymous with David now. He was very quick on the uptake.”

Alan and David lost touch for a while until the star came to his stall after he had tasted chart success with second album Space Oddity in 1969.

Alan said: “I asked him if he wanted a pair of boots and he said no, that he didn’t have any money and had just come to say hello.

“I said, ‘But you’ve had a hit record’. But in those days hit records didn’t mean a lot financially, initially anyway.

“I said he could pay me whenever and Freddie fitted him for a pair of boots. I introduced them. Freddie’s career hadn’t taken off at this point. I wish I had taken a picture of Freddie on his knees fitting David’s boots.”

It’s a story that sounds almost too good to be true – but it has passed into folklore among Queen fans.

As Bowie’s career took off, Alan turned up at gig in London in 1972, despite having no ticket.

He said: “There were hundreds of people trying to get in, which I couldn’t believe.

“I asked one of the bouncers if he could get a message to David that his old friend was outside with friends, then someone came to the side entrance and said, ‘Come this way’.”

Alan then heard Bowie singing in his ­dressing room and knocked on the door.

He said: “He was in his Ziggy Stardust gear with stripes on his face. He i­mmediately said, ‘Hi, Alan’ and threw his arms around me. The show was amazing. I just looked up and thought, ‘What a ­transformation.’ A star was born.

“After the concert, I saw him occasionally but you just start to go your own way.”

Alan is still in London while Frank and his grandaughters Grace, 18, and Lily, 13, live nearby. He still tours with The Only Ones and played Celtic Connections this year with the reformed Beatstalkers.

But he isn’t jealous of the longevity which has seen Bowie’s new album The Next Day go straight to No.1.

He added: “I experienced a taste of the fame that David achieved. But I’m a private person and I don’t think I would have liked the level of fame he has.”

Bowie biographer Kevin Cann interviewed Alan for his 2011 book Any Day Now: David Bowie The London Years 1947-1974.

The writer said: “Alan saw first-hand David ­struggling to make it and felt so kindly to him that he gifted him a pair of boots.

“He ­probably thought he was another gifted, ­struggling musician, and then he ­witnessed David’s huge leap from struggle and trial to great success.”

Daily Record


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