Legs and Joey Ramone around the time this story takes place. Photo by Tom Hearn
[Editor's Note: Hi, millennials! We'd like to interrupt whatever Vine you're working on and introduce you to our friend Legs. Maybe you've heard of him—he's responsible for a little book called Please Kill Me, which is the best book on punk rock ever written. Noisey was filming with him a few weeks ago, and we convinced him to do a little writing for us. Enjoy!]
In my ongoing attempt to rebuild my vinyl collection, I was recently perusing a Brooklyn hipster record store and came across the new David Bowie album, The Next Day. I've been enjoying quite a few lesser-known Bowie cuts lately, so I decided to throw caution to the wind and really get wild. I bought the record.
This is a real feat for me, as I've never bought a record on faith alone. I'd been hearing good things about the record, and I was curious to hear what an artist like Bowie had to say at the end of his career or—if the rumors are true about his having cancer—at the end of his life.
While I was paying for the record, I was reminded of Mick Jagger’s famous quote about Bowie: "Never wear a new pair of shoes in front of him." Jagger's implication was either that Bowie was a notorious thief (of ideas, trends, or the latest fashions), or that he’d run right out and get it in order to claim ultra-hipper-than-thou-trendsetting status." Yeah, be the first one on the block with a new, red-rooster, unisex cut and ten-inch, sparkling, platform shoes!
That’s what Bowie's career was truly about, but that doesn't make him any more or less of an artist in my book. He created the future in front of our eyes, even if it resembled a cheesy 50s sci-fi movie. The best people steal from great inspirations—it was just a bit funny that Bowie was so desperate about it.
I had a run-in with Bowie at Andy Warhol's Factory back in 1976 or early 1977 that proved Jagger's quip. The Factory was amazing. I’d never been anyplace where the term art was so furiously questioned, examined, discussed, and beautifully created on such a regular basis. I'd become friends with Warhol after interviewing him for PUNK magazine. I used to bring the new issues by for Andy's "expert critiques." Andy used to stand over a desk, furiously thumbing through our latest magazine, whining, "Oh, you've got so many brilliant ideas! I don't have any ideas! This is so wonderful, I wish I could have ideas like this!
I forget who told me Bowie was going to be at the Factory, but when John Holmstrom, the editor-in-chief of PUNK, heard the news, he packed me off with a cheap cassette recorder and told me not to come back to the "PUNK Dump," (our cave-like offices at 10th Avenue and 30th Street) without a David Bowie interview.
What I didn't know was that this was Bowie's second summit meeting with Warhol, after their disastrous first meeting in 1971 when Bowie was just starting out. He’d played Warhol his new song “Andy Warhol,” and Andy said absolutely nothing. He just pulled out his Polaroid camera and said to Bowie, "I really like your shoes!"
David was crushed. But that day at the Factory in the mid-70s, Bowie was a genuine rock ’n’ roll star. He’d proved himself to be a viable commercial entity of comparable status with Warhol, an equal. Like I said, I knew nothing about this at the time.
There was a crowd of people surrounding Bowie when he walked through the Factory to the backroom where Andy was waiting for him, surrounded by his own coterie of supporters. It was more like a gang war than a private meeting. All the hangers-on were topping themselves with one-liners, vying to be noticed for the history books. I'm sure Andy was relieved to have so many people around because he seldom had much to say, ever.
I waited by the receptionist's desk, up front, for 45 minutes to an hour, for Bowie to remerge so I could ask him for the interview and be on my way. It was excruciatingly boring, as all the gay guys who worked for Andy were too important to talk to me. Real fucking snobs. I tried hitting on the only girl in the place, Catherine Guinness, the heiress to the Guinness beer fortune, who was mildly amused by my efforts but wasn't interested. Like I said, boring.
That same day, Marty Thau had just given me the new Suicide record he’d produced. I couldn't wait to get to some girl's apartment or the Ramones loft on 2nd Street to play it, since I didn't have my own place, and Holmstrom monopolized the stereo at the Dump with Lou Reed's shitty Metal Machine Music, the worst record in the history of noise.
Anyway, Bowie finally came out of the backroom surrounded by his minions, who seemed to have doubled in size behind the closed door. As he was bidding Andy a fond farewell, I slipped over to him and said, "Mr. Bowie, I was wondering if you'd be willing to do an interview for PUNK…"
Without speaking, Bowie grabbed the Suicide record out of my hands and his entourage swept him down the hall, into the elevator, and outside to a waiting limo, which presumably swept him off to the next fabulous event. I didn't even have time to say, "HEY, YOU FUCKING POOFTER, GIMME BACK MY FUCKING SUICIDE RECORD!”
I did get back at Bowie though. A few weeks later he came to CBGB with Bianca Jagger, which wasn't that strange. What was strange was that it was on some off night in the middle of the week when some shitty band was playing and the only people there were me, Cheetah Chrome, Joey Ramone, Robin Rothman, and some diehard drunks.
Ha, you ain't at Studio 54 now, asshole, I thought as I watched David and Bianca traverse the piles of dogshit on the floor that Hilly Kristal's Saluki's had deposited. Then I went outside and stole the hubcaps off his limousine. I fucked that up though, and read in the New York Post the next day that their limo got a flat tire on the way home.
Which brings me to my review of Bowie's new album, The Next Day. It's OK. It's a double album, and one side of it's really boring and the other is really good. Since it doesn't have any of the songs printed on the label I can't tell which side is which. The good side has some song about some girl from a small town that he can't believe "is the boss of me." It’s also got another really great song where the lyrics are "blah, blah, blah," which he probably stole from Iggy.
Nice to see that some things never change. Hey, David, if you're reading this, please give me my Suicide album back before you croak. I love that record!