the dick cavett show
Sigma Kid Marla Feldstein saw Dick Cavett get out of a car in downtown Philadelphia and screamed at him, "Do a show on Bowie!" Cavett allegedly turned and mumbled "OK."
On 2 November 1974 Marla and her crew attended the filming of the Dick Cavett Show in New York…. "He was so nervous, we kept clapping at everything to make him feel better. He does about an hour and sings Young American, 1984, Can You Hear Me and Footstompin'."
The show was broadcast on 4 December 1974 by NBC in America. Following an introduction from the show's host, David performed "1984" and "Young Americans." This was followed by an interview with Dick Cavett and then David performed "Footstompin'." The other number - "Can You Hear Me" - was not televised.
DC: He burst on the scene a few years ago in a dazzling explosion of bizarre costumes, make-up and glitter with an opus called the Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars – if the audience would hold for a minute, I’m explaining this for the squarejohns at home. He’s the only person I know who has appeared the same year on the best dressed men list and the worst dressed woman list… someone’s idea of a joke! Rumours and questions have arisen about David such as – Who is he? What is he? Where did he come from? Is he a creature of a foreign power? Is he a creep? Is he dangerous? Is he smart? Dumb? Nice to his parents? Real? Put on? Crazy? Sane? Man? Woman? Robot? What is this…? His fans have seen him do almost anything but sit and talk which they will see tonight. It will be a first for them. In this concert tour, here is still another David Bowie. Ladies and gentlemen… David Bowie!
DC: We have a very vocal group here tonight. Not only you, but the people out there. It's strange to see you off your feet like this. Welcome, nice to see you.
DB: Thank you.
DC: So, you've got a lot of explaining to do.
DC: I feel like interviewing...I almost feel like I should interview you like that character that Peter Cook does. You know, "What is all this prancing about the stage and trappings and all of that?" But you don't have the trappings that you've had in the past, you're a little more conventional.
DB: Yeah, at this moment.
DC: What happened?
DB: We did the Diamond Dogs tour and took it from New York to Los Angeles and I felt that that was enough, really. Rather than come back with the same thing, I wanted to give myself an opportunity just to work with the band.
DC: Yeah. So a lot of the glitter is gone that we associate with you and you've got an entirely new person now. Is the offstage Bowie likely to surprise people? I've had the weirdest reactions from people who know you're going to be on. Some of them say that they'd be scared to sit and talk with you, some people said that you would bite my neck, a very peculiar kind of thing.
DB: It's what you want really, isn’t it? And what do you think I'm like?
DC: Well, I've only met you over the phone and a little bit backstage and to me you seem like, I hope this doesn't insult you, a waiting actor.
DB: That's right, that's very good.
DC: I mean… what are you drawing? (Cavett comments on David playing with his cane).
DB: It’s therapeutic.
DC: Some people thought… there’s a lady who said "I don't know if I'd want to meet him, he would make me very nervous. I have a feeling he's into black magic and that sort of thing." And other people see you as just a very skilful performer who changes from time to time from one thing to another.
DB: Yeah. Well, both of that is… I'm a person of diverse interests, but I’m not really very academic but I glit from one thing to another a lot.
DB: It's like flit, but it's the Seventies version.
DC: One letter later in the alphabet. This incredible picture (Cavett shows the album cover of "Diamond Dogs") it's very striking the first time you see it. The first time this album appeared in a record store window, I could see it actually stopping traffic on the sidewalk. This is the picture that you sent to the draft board obviously.
DB: Ha ha. I’ve only just got that.
DC: How did that come about, that whole idea and that very painting?
DB: Let me see. Well, it's an artist from Belgium called Guy Peellaert, who did a book called "Rock Dreams" that I nicked. Well, I didn't nick the book, but I saw the book at Mick Jagger's house and I nicked the idea of doing a cover.
DC: What does nicked mean?
DB: Oh, stolen.
DC: Stole the idea. Does this make you nervous, to sit without your band and everything just to chat a little bit?
DB: Um... oh, let's carry on talking. Don't ask me that. Otherwise I'll wonder, you see. I'd rather not know if I'm nervous until...
DC: Okay, I won't worry about that. Where's the kick for you David in performing… in performance when you're onstage?
DB: That's it. Complete, really.
DC: The being there?
DC: The entrance… I can imagine that it would be a very exciting profession. I mean to stand there with that. There are people in the world who've never stood on a stage – those of us who have forget this - I mean to stand on a giant stage like that, with a band behind you. At rehearsal today I stood in for you, I mean the feeling of standing there with that sound coming behind you is very exhilarating.
DB: An incredible feeling and I got a lot of fulfilment from working in productions like Diamond Dogs or the Ziggy Stardust. But it was one of putting together lots of bits and pieces, and loose ends, and directing the whole thing and remembering a thousand things at once. So that was one kind of fulfilment. But now that I'm working with just a band and singing, which is something I haven't done for years, just stand and sing my songs. I'm finding a new kind of fulfilment. I'll go back to doing productions in...
DC: You will?
DB: Oh, yeah. I just wanted to go out and sing my songs as a singer-songwriter for a bit and then…
DC: We have to take a break right now for a message but we’ll be back, back, back, back. Stay with us.
DC: David, what kind of student were you in school?
DB: As I say, not very academic, I suppose I was considered arty.
DC: Did you go through college or to college?
DB: Yeah, I went to a technical college near London and had an art course for people from twelve upwards who couldn't do anything else much like maths or physics or something, so I took art.
DC: You know that Jagger studied economics?
DC: And I mentioned that once when he was on and some of his fans were disappointed to hear that. He was at the London School Of Economics and it ties into something he said in an interview he did with William Burroughs, which I thought was interesting if it's in fact true.
DB: Oh, don't believe it!
DC: Everything ties in with something else you said, which is, “Don't ask me any questions because I'll say something different every time." But taking a chance here, taking a stab in the light, you said that there were lives of the rock stars who are really not as strange as the lives of their fans. It's an interesting point that the fans sort of envy the stars, but in effect the stars would conventionalise and envy the fans. It strikes me as odd the idea that, you know, that fans are out shoving, I don't know, nutmeg under their cuticles or something and trying to be really freaky, and you and Jagger are sitting around discussing economics before the Anschluss and Benelux nations or something. Am I exaggerating?
DB: No. He speaks economics and I don't understand him.
DC: But is this in fact true that the… what is your private life like?
DB: I want to… can I take this off? (David takes off his coat).
DC: Oh yeah, do.
DB: Thank you. Alright. What I meant is that when I first started, I could get out and about a bit and I used to go to clubs and dance. You know, that was quite easy and I sorted out what I wanted to wear and what I wanted to do. But later on when things became slightly cocooned.
DC: Slightly what?
DB: Cocooned. I was kind of, you know, in there somewhere. I found that I was seeing what everybody else was wearing when they used to come to the shows. And I thought they’re kind of out of it a bit. So, it ends up that I kind of get influenced by people that come to see me. I mean, canes, you see. I saw a person with a cane once, of course but then someone started bringing them to the gigs and I really like them, so I started using one. So it wasn't me, it was them.
DC: You've been influenced by your audience in your style?
DB: Yeah, I think you are a lot.
DC: How do you dream up your latest manifestation? You know what I mean? Do you…?
DB: Which one particularly?
DC: In any case. Do you sit with a sketchpad? Do you work from your own dreams? Do you have visions?
DB: No, I travel. I'm in a very lucky position of not wanting to fly so I take a ship or train or something.
DC: You won't fly?
DC: I read that you took the Trans-Siberian railway somewhere. That's a long way.
DB: Yeah, it was right through Russia. From Lhotka through to Moscow and from Moscow, Warsaw, East Berlin - got chucked off there, threatened to send back to Moscow.
DC: Why won't you fly?
DB: It scares me, you know.
DC: Afraid that the plane will come down when it isn't supposed to?
DB: I don't like the feeling of going up. It always feels like something running very fast and then like going to the edge of a cliff and jumping and hoping it will get to the other side.
DC: I like that though.
DB: Well, it should be like if it just goes up like that, like a saucer.
DC: Why do rock stars tend to have premonitions of doom? It seems to be a theme in their work and in their lives.
DB: Ah, cause they're pretty nutty to be doing it in the first place anyway. You know, they’ve got very tangled minds, very messed up people.
DC: Do you ever try to picture yourself at sixty?
DB: Oh, no!
DC: Somebody said the idea of a reunion of the Beatles in their seventies when they come tottering out on the stage. Someone holds a guitar up in front of them while they pluck it. What… this is a rather personal question, is that your real hair colour?
DB: Of course it isn't. I've never said it. No, I'm a blonde, I’m a blonde, I’m a blonde.
DC: When you walk around New York and a hardhat says, "Hey sweetheart…"
DB: I drive around New York!
DC: Good idea. What do your parents do for a living?
DB: Well, my father's dead and my mother has a small flat and I think she's got a day job.
DC: Does she have trouble explaining you to the neighbours who say, "Are you any relation to that?”
DB: Ah, I think she pretends I'm not hers. No, she's…she doesn't talk much, you know... she doesn't... I don't think we really... we were never that close particularly. We have an understanding.
DC: Is that true that your real name is Maniptuous Beatlegas?
DC: Is it really? You didn't want that revealed?
DB: I was waiting for you to reveal it.
DC: Oh, I'm sorry if you didn't want that out, but... What is black-noise?
DB: Black-noise is something that Burroughs got very interested in. It's a... the one facet of black-noise is that everything… like a glass if an opera singer hits a particular note, the vibrations are that of the metabolism of the glass and it cracks it, yeah? So a black-noise is the register within which you can crack a city or people or... it's a new control bomb. It's a noise-bomb, in fact, which can destroy... why do you ask that?
DC: I mean is it a real thing? Is it something...?
DB: Oh yeah, it is. It was invented in France.
DC: Could a tyrant use this to...?
DB: Well, until last year you could buy the patent for it in the French patent-office for about the equivalent of three, four dollars.
DC: And it would wipe out a...
DB: It depends how much money you put into it. I mean, a small one could probably kill about half the people here. But a big one could destroy a city or even more. I mean...
DC: It's a weird idea, isn't it?
DB: Well, it's not my idea, so...
DC: Let's not give the instructions on how to do it. Can you recommend a good book to your fans?
DB: This week? Apart from yours?
DC: Oh, do I have a book out?
DB: Yeah. Oh no, I walked into that.
DC: I wondered if you... the last thing I read you said that Kerouac was important to you. But that's a long time back.
DB: I daren’t say I’m reading Machiavelli though.
DC: You're reading Machiavelli?
DB: No! What am I reading at the moment?
DC: What would we find on your coffee-table, in your apartment in...?
DB: At the moment mainly pictures. I bought Diane Arbus' book of photographs. A photographer that I like very much.
DC: Could I ever do a walk-on in your show. I've got to know what it feels like to stand on stage in a big production thing like that.
DB: In a production? Well, if I had a part for you, yeah.
DC: Yeah. Maybe if I were to bring out a cup of tea and a good book.
DB: If it's your book.
DC: Oh, I forgot about that. You do mime...?
DB: Are you going to ask me about my book?
DC: You have a book?
DB: Well, funnily enough...
DC: A book coming?
DB: Yes. I'm writing a novel.
DC: You are?
DB: Yeah, based on the Trans-Siberian Express.
DC: Oh, really?
DB: Uh-hum. Now you can ask me the next one.
DC: I'm glad to know that. How do you say your wife’s name? I've seen it printed Angels and Angela. Which is the typo?
DB: Angela... Angie.
DC: Her real name is Angela?
DB: It's Angela.
DC: Is she a model?
DB: Is she what?
DC: Is she a model or an actress or... I saw a really attractive picture of her.
DB: No. She was an intellectual that went to school in Switzerland and has a vast capacity for knowledge and runs around and does theses on everything.
DC: Yeah. And how do you say your son’s name?
DC: Your son's name is Zowie Bowie?
DC: Is it true that Frank Zappa has a child named Moon Unit?
DC: Can you imagine? Growing up… kids in a tough neighbourhood, "Hey Moon Unit!" We will take a break here and we’ll be right back.
DC: You know somewhere someone is writing a learned paper in a university called something like... Jagger and Bowie prophets of a pluralistic society.
DC: Prophets of doom. Do you read this stuff? You see critics write very elaborate intellectual analyses of your work and other peoples. Does this put you to sleep?
DB: Um… the bad ones, I always read the good ones.
DC: Yeah. Do you want to be understood? You know what I mean. Like Ziggy Stardust was...?
DB: There's absolutely nothing to understand. I mean...
DC: … was concerned with famine in the world and so on and prophecies of the world running out of food...
DB: Oh dear. I'm a storyteller and a storywriter and I decided that I preferred to enact a lot of the material I was writing, rather than perform it as myself. At this moment I am performing as myself but I will continue in the future, after I've done what I wish to do at the moment, return back to writing stories and I will enact them again and I don't care what anybody says. I like doing it and it's what I shall continue to do.
DC: Oh, I'm not stopping you.
DB: No, I just... you know, it's not... nothing that I do is on any kind of intellectual slant.
DC: You got no mission?
DB: No, it's just... oh...
DC: Can you do anything about they’re ripping London apart? I've been there about seven times - we talked about this the other night – and you told me the appalling news that they've torn down Whistler's House, the artist. Is Buckingham Palace a McDonald’s stand yet? I can't believe what they're doing. Do you have a lot of influence...?
DB: Not since I bought it.
DC: I was going to say you have influence and money. Can't you...?
DB: No, you can't do... no one has any influence. I mean everything has been sectioned off into separate pieces of property and no doubt now that the socialist government has nationalised or is going to nationalise ground, more of it will come down and...
DC: What do you think of...?
DB: I don't know. I haven't made any decision on it ‘cause I know a lot of families that need houses. As much as I like a lot of the architecture, you know. I don't know... I can't general... oh don't ask me about politics and, I mean, what do I know?
DC: Did I say politics?
DB: But that's what it will become you see, because I mean it's... it's all politics... motivation of finance, it's politics isn't it?
DC: Okay. You're going to do another number. However, if you do it now it’ll be interrupted by a commercial which will be appalling. So, why don't we take a break? We’ll be right back and thank you for coming here.
DB: It's been a great pleasure. Thank you.
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