Phone-In Interview with Jonathan Ross

BBC Radio 2

2nd August 2003

JR: now here it is, this is going to be David’s new single, it’s out in September on the 29th, it’s going to be from the new album which has been described by David himself as a little more ‘thrusty’. We will find out what that means. This is, I am excited, an exclusive play….. ‘NEW KILLER STAR.’ ‘NEW KILLER STAR’ plays.

JR: come on! Top quality! He’s back again. All the way from Brixton on the 8th January 1947 to New York today where he is sitting on the end of a telephone no doubt dressed as a Turkish potentate. David Bowie! David, how are you?

I’m wearing a ‘jubbly’.

JR: Oh, you see a ‘jubbly’, that’s a Moroccan kaftan isn’t it?

Yeah, no that’s the Elton kaftan.

JR: Oh no, you can’t go that way

Good morning everyone, how are you?

JR: David, it’s a room full of David Bowie fans because we’ve got Siouxsie and Budgie from the Creatures here.

Oh, hello Siouxsie.

S: Oh hello David.

Hello budgie how are you doing?

B: Very well thank you.

JR: Now Siouxsie has already lowered the tone with bad language.

S: Oh no.

Oh bless her.

JR: Already lowered the tone, we have apologised.

I can’t stand all this talk of Kaftans and Mu Mu’s.

JR: Well, I bet you’ve got a Mu Mu.

I had one when I lived in the 14th century town of Lewisham. I got it from Burtons.

JR: Hey David, the new single sounds fantastic.

Thank you very much.

JR: Congratulations, and I am not just saying that. I would have said it, even if I didn’t like it. But I actually DO like it.

Haha I know you would.

JR: Yeah but I DO like it as well which is fantastic. Is this a taste of what it is going to be like, it’s more….?

Yeah, I suppose…I don’t know. You know, it’s just a collection of songs. There is no real through-line to it. I like it a lot, I mean I am going on the road so I am looking forward to touring it.

JR: And is this you working with Visconti again, Tony Visconti?

Yeah, and this time a lot of the stage band that I have had over the last 8 or 9 years are pretty much the musicians on it so it is pretty representative of stage I suppose.

JR: It’s an incredible band you have. Siouxsie and Budgie… I am sure you must have seen David live, I mean you have played on his tour. Because the Glass Spider tour, that was your worst tour David, wasn’t it?

That was actually pretty much the way that we are planning this next tour πŸ˜‰


S: Inflatables!

It was singularly responsible for bringing abseiling into the rock ‘n’ roll arena, which I think has some merit to it really πŸ˜‰

JR: David am I imagining it or did you have a bloke come out on crutches at one stage?

Yes that’s right, yes.

JR: I remember a dancer coming out on crutches and I remember thinking, ‘Ok he’s lost me’.

Well he couldn’t dance.


JR: You should have got Rolf Harris.

He can’t dance so… Yes you had Rolf on the show this morning.

JR: Oh David, we had Rolf on and he had brought two pristine Stylophones with him and we jammed and everything.

Oh, you know what, did he bring one of those multi keyboard Stylophones with him.

JR: No No.

When Harris and I kind of came up with the Stylophone thing in the 60’s they thought they were in for huge sales so they started bringing out all these incredible.. complicated Stylophones.


JR: I like to think that in an alternative Universe somewhere, that is the only instrument left.

I tell you what, I did bring a Didgeridoo because I do play Didgeridoo.

JR: No.

S: Can you do all the breathing?

Yeah, Hold on, give me a second because it takes….you have got to light the fire and heat the water up before it starts working. I’ve got it going here. Hold on a second (takes breath).

Impressive Didgeridoo sound πŸ™‚

JR: Wow. Incredible, wow, that’s incredible.

S: And he’s out of breath, so he did it himself.

And here is something else you can do. You finish off the phrase and go (takes breath).

Elongated strangulated Didgeridoo sound πŸ™‚

S: Wooooo.

Pretty impressive isn’t it.

JR: Thanks for sharing that.

Not at all, I can do that all morning.


S: Did Rolf bring his extra leg Jonathan?

JR: No, he didn’t have his extra leg with him.

I saw you Siouxsie, and you were really excellent…many, many years ago..I must say.

S: It would have to have been many years ago.

I was clutching my copy of ‘The Scream’ I think, probably.

S: Ah that was many years ago.

JR: Oh those were the days.

And what I loved was that little Apache dance that you used to do on stage. I used to love that. I probably nicked that for a few gigs.

S: Well, I was into my Indians.

JR: I always thought you were like one of those chickens standing on a hotplate.

Who me? (laughs).

S: Chicken! This cheeky Jonathan Ross – what are we going to do with him. I am sitting next to him, I think I will pinch him.

JR: Ouch!

JR: David is now 72 ok. He is in incredibly good shape. When he was in last time he did a little kangaroo hop for us. Do you remember that David? You came in and we were talking about the original Legendary Stardust Cowboy.


JR: And you were talking about that you had seen him hop around on stage or something and you did it, and I could not believe just how flexible your knees are.

My knees are the talk of the town.

JR: Really, do you still do the boxing training? Do you still do the stretching?

Yeah, I do. I don’t like to talk about it too much because I would be hopeless in an actual match, but I mean…

S: Jonathan is offering to be a punchbag.

JR: Ricky Gervais, who I know David is a fan of as well. Ricky was over here. Did you see the celebrity boxing he took part in David?


JR: He boxed someone. I propose we put him in a ring with you.

That’s not a bad idea is it. He could just tell jokes at me – I would collapse.

JR: You are faster, come on, you could jab him..get in there.

Yeah, I could jab.

JR: We are going to say goodbye to Siouxsie and Budgie now.

Oh, that’s a shame.

S: Bye Bye.

JR: We are going to play a track and then we will chat to you some more. Can you hang around a little bit longer David?

Yes of course, yes.

JR: Alright we will chat some more after this.

S: Good luck to everyone in whatever you are doing.

Bye bye guys.

S & B: Bye Bye.

S: Nice talking to you.

JR: Siouxsie thank you for coming in. ‘Budge’ great to see you again. What are we going to play Andy. Bit of ‘The Bees’?…and we will be talking with David Bowie more after this. The Bees – ‘A Minha Menina’ plays

JR: That’s The Bees and we have David Bowie with us live from New York City. David, thanks so much for calling, I really do appreciate it genuinely.

Not at all, that was lovely that piece.

JR: It’s a nice track isn’t it?

Isn’t that nice.

JR: They are a great band. You have always had an ear for new music, I know that.. Who are you listening to at the moment?

I don’t know really , I guess I have gotten a bit stuck into my own thing at the moment. I am listening obviously to the new Grandaddy’s album which I actually like. I know it is not received that much.

JR: I haven’t heard the Grandaddy’s album.

It’s called ‘Sumday’.

JR: Do you like the ‘Kings of Leon’?

Yeah, but they a bit too hard rock..thing.. for me.

JR: You know this is what interests me about you. What is it that you veer? Sometimes you are doing the hard rock. You have had periods in your career where you have done sort of hard rocky stuff. You’ve had your soul period, you’ve done all that kind of stuff.

It’s kind of a bit quirky though, my rock. I mean, I don’t think I have done sort of straight forward R&B rock since like ‘Jean Genie’ type stuff.

JR: Yeah I know. I’ve got in front of me and early CD release of ‘The Man Who Sold The World’ with the extra tracks on but I was thinking of stuff like ‘Running Gun Blues’ and ‘Black Country Rock’ on there.


JR: ..had a real ‘Led Zeppy’ feel to it

I guess that was the harder stuff. That was really the first kind of flames of the Ronson thing really. Terrific.

JR: How much does what you are listening to though colour what you are producing at any given time?

That’s hard to say. I guess other people would say more than I would. I hope it doesn’t particularly. I think I go back to the past an awful lot.

JR: I am interested that the new album has some cover versions on it as well, because ‘Pin-Ups’ was such an incredible album and a huge success for you I know as well – but you are doing two covers on the new album, is that right?

Yeah. One from Jonathan Richmond and the Modern Lovers called ‘Pablo Picasso’.

JR: Now I didn’t have you figured as a Jonathan Richmond fan.

Oh, he was terrific. I guess he is still terrific. He is up in Boston somewhere still writing.

JR: Yes he is still terrific. He does quite a lot of Spanish language stuff as well now.

(laughs) Does he really? Well we plonked a Spanish guitar on our version of ‘Pablo Picasso’

JR: I think that was from the first Modern Lovers album wasn’t it, ‘Pablo Picasso’.

Yes it was, and it was covered at some point later on by John Cale of the Velvets. He did a version of it too.

JR: I can’t wait to hear your version of it.

It’s totally, it’s completely unrecognisable actually.

JR: Otherwise why do a cover I guess. And you do a George Harrison song as well on there?

Yeah and that was, ironically, that was kind of unwitting because it was actually…. for me it was always a Ronnie Spector single. I think it was the last single produced by Apple records back in ’74 or something and Harrison produced it for her with Phil Spector. I got it around that time because I was totally ga-ga over Ronnie Spector. I always thought she was absolutely fantastic.

JR: She’s still a fine looking woman.

Oh, she’s a terrific looking woman, yeah.

JR: And what an incredible voice she had as well. Does she still sing? Does she still perform?

Yeah she did a couple of years ago, she did one of the last things that Joey Ramone produced. He produced a little kind of EP with her…and she still sounds absolutely great. So I kind of covered it as a Ronnie Spector song and it kind of really only dawned on me afterwards that I had actually done a tribute to George, which is, I guess a lovely thing to have happened really.

JR: Yes. Presumably you are going to be playing the new material live when you come back. The last tour that I went to see you played all of the new ‘Heathen’ album and all of the ‘Low’ album back to back.

That’s right yeah.

JR: What are your plans for this new tour?

We are not going to kind of duplicate it because that worked out so well that I didn’t want to, I guess, kind of ruin that by repeating the same thing. We are doing an awful lot from ‘Heathen’ and from ‘Reality’ – the new album, and I’ve certainly pulled out a lot of interesting things from the past and the near past as well. I’m going back to a few things like ‘Motel’ and ‘Battle For Britain’ but there again I’m also putting in things like ‘Suffragette City’ which will please some people.

JR: Oaaa come on..

And on Monday we are having a crack at ‘Win’ from ‘Young Americans’.

JR: Woaaa yeah fantastic.

So, you know.. ‘Loving The Alien’, we are doing I think.

JR: I like that one.

So there are some interesting things we are doing.

JR: Now the new tour, the European tour is kicking off on October the 7th in Copenhagen and then you will be hitting the UK – Manchester.

Tell me, tell me.

JR: The 17th November.

When are we doing the Orpington Civic?

JR: Well now hold on a second David. I know why you are choosing the 17th November.

Why is that?

JR: You know why.

I haven’t got a clue Jonathan.

JR: Daviiiiiiiiiiiiid?

Because that’s your fifteen year marriage anniversary?

JR: No that’s August 23rd. Don’t be silly.

Is it? Hey listen congratulations on that, that’s fantastic.

JR: Thank you. Hey, you know 17th November, it’s my birthday.

Oh Jonathan, how awful of me to forget that.

JR: Don’t pretend you didn’t know, we know you built your calendar around it.

I ..actually yeah you guessed.

JR. Isn’t that sweet. David decided to kick off his UK tour on my birthday as a kind of gift for me.

I didn’t realise, that’s lovely.

JR: Don’ t say you didn’t realise. Don’t spoil the moment.


JR: I can’t wait for the new album. Presumably you have recorded most of it, or all of it now?

It is all finished, all mixed and we are actually in tour rehearsals right now and we have learned about….

JR: And which internet site can I go to to find a bootleg copy of it?

Actually you have a problem at the moment, but this week – I shouldn’t say this, it’s tempting fate isn’t it – this week there is nothing up there yet.

JR: Well fingers crossed because often they do sneak out early.

Don’t go to Kazaa.

JR: No well we won’t do that. I am really looking forward to it. You must be enjoying this at the moment because ‘Heathen’ was such a huge hit for you, deservedly so.

It was fantastic. Yeah. I can’t think of anything better at the moment. I am producing music that I really feel proud of. I have got a fantastic band and the tours that we have been doing have just been going down a storm.

JR: And of course home life seems to be going great as well.

Well the loveliest thing is we have just built a pigeon shed on top of the roof here which is really good.

JR: That’s nice.

So I am up here at the moment in the pigeon shed feeding the pigeons and I have got a little bunsen burner here so I can make coffee. But Moby’s place, which is just over the road about two streets away, he’s got me on to this thing – keeping pigeons.

JR: Do you send pigeons to each other?

Yeah we send song ideas. We kind of tie them to the legs of the pigeons and send them backwards and forwards.

JR: If you had a very robust pigeon you could send them over with an ‘Ipod’ strapped on.


JR: And then you could swap music that way.

That’s innovative Jonathan, that’s almost as good as abseiling.

JR: A different way of file sharing. Whatever happened to that giant glass spider you had on that tour. Where is that now. Is that still in storage somewhere?

That’s down in the basement (laughs).

JR: You should open it up and let the kids play with it. Go on, that’s for Alexandria when she is a bit older. Say ‘Dad’s got a glass spider downstairs if you are very good I will let you go and slide on it’.

It’s her birthday in a few days time.

JR: How old is she now about three?

She will be yeah. Three years old.

JR: Wow that’s gone so quickly hasn’t it?

It’s extraordinary isn’t it.

JR: Are you having another one? Have you got any plans?

No, no, she’s great, she’s absolutely fantastic. All we want.

JR: David, I couldn’t be happier for you, I really couldn’t. I am so enjoying the new music you are making now, and as always I am enjoying all your old stuff.

Do tell me, how is Ricky, because I hear from him occasionally?

JR: Ricky Gervais is fine. He is, as always, not the easiest man to look at for any period of time.


JR: Due to his just general grotesqueness. He looks rather like a sketch by Rowlandson doesn’t he, he’s got that kind of look about him .

He does somewhat yeah.

JR: It’s like he’s got the Breugel feel about him. But he’s a lovely fellow as you know.

Yeah I know, I like him very much indeed. I’ve turned on so many Americans to that series.

JR: It’s a big show over there now isn’t it?

They don’t get it immediately you know, they are not sure if this is supposed to be like ‘The Reality Thing’ (American accent) or whatever, but once they do…the whole band love it now.

JR: Are you watching other British comedy, other British TV at the moment?

Not really, that’s about it I suppose, I’m not really watching that much. I seem to be a bit too busy for all that.

JR: Have you seen the new series of Bo Selector?

No, I saw the first series (laughs) which I kind of liked bits of.

JR: Well the new series is even better.

I like the Michael Jackson sketch – very funny.

JR: I am curious because someone like you who lives in New York. Obviously you are tapped into a lot of what’s going on here.

I get to see everything and of course I listen to your show a lot because we can pick up, these days with the internet, any radio that we want.

JR: I was watching ‘The Man Who Fell To Earth’ the other day, as I often do, because I really love the film. The scene when you character is sitting there watching dozens of televisions, I was thinking – in actual fact, with what we have from the internet now, that’s not that far from the truth.

It’s not far from the truth. I mean, Nick Roeg really had some extraordinary ideas in that film that sort of came to pass. The cerulean photography, the idea of the sound on the chrome-looking ball, you know was a bit kind of anticipating the CD.

JR: It’s kind of CD-like isnt’ it yeah.

It had some extraordinary things in it.

JR: What a great film.

Listen, can I just….My mate George Underwood – you know George?

JR: George Underwood who designed the ‘Ziggy Stardust’ ..

He did the ‘Ziggy Stardust’ thing, he did the ‘Space Oddity’ album way back then. He’s got a show of his paintings at the Portal gallery starting on the 20th October, I just wanted to say that.

JR: And that’s here in London somewhere?

Yeah. That’s on the 20th October. Good luck George.

JR: That’s very kind of you.

He’s a great painter. In class one day, our English mistress – this was when we were like 10 or something or maybe a bit older than that – she said she didn’t like him at all because he was always like making jokes all the time and disrupting the class. She stood him up at one time, she said ‘Underwood, I want you to make a sentence using the phrase ‘herd of cows’. So he said ‘erm……… from Mars have never heard of cows’.


Ah lovely.

JR: I’m surprised you didn’t cut that up and put that in the lyrics.

It’s smashing isn’t it.

JR: David, we’ve got to go because we have got to play a track.


JR: ..and we’ve got to say goodbye. I’m going to see you in September. Are you going to come on the talk show?

I’d love to.

JR: That would be fantastic and hopefully we will be able to drag you back here as well. It’s always lovely talking to you. Thanks again for calling us and good luck with the new material when it comes out. We are really, really excited about it.

Thanks so much Jonathan.

JR: Have a great day.

Bye bye now.

JR: Take care David.


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