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That iffy arachnoid: when the Glass Spider became my very first David Bowie concert

On 3 July 1972, the three year old me and my parents had made the move from Clapham in south London, where we were lodging with my dad’s aunt, Cymraes (her name is literally Welsh for ‘Welsh woman’) to a brand new house (cost? A snip at £8,000!) in Bletchley, Buckinghamshire. Exactly one year to the day in 1973, David Bowie famously announced the death of his most revered alter-ego, Ziggy Stardust, at Hammersmith Odeon, a couple of miles from Clapham.

We lived at the unremarkable mid-terraced three bedder for seven and a half years, until, on 8 December 1979, we moved to the tiny parish of Little Woolstone. Exactly twelve months later, John Lennon’s death was announced by everyone, everywhere.

My very first concert was Dead Or Alive in Dunstable in 1984, which was a short bus ride from the village I was to stay with my family throughout the 1980s, my sister Stella having been born soon after arriving in Bletchley.

Despite having been born in the city, I didn’t feel quite ready for gig-going in London, the big bad smoke, for another three years. But when it finally happened in June 1987, I found myself at four huge concerts in the capital within a week: Tina Turner at Wembley Arena on the 17th, Bowie at Wembley Stadium next door on the 20th, Iggy Pop at Hammersmith Odeon on the 24th, and Peter Gabriel at Earls Court Arena on the 25th.

Sadly this wasn’t to be the celebrated show where Kate Bush made an unannounced appearance for Don’t Give Up (a song Bowie would later fete) – that was three days later. Cue the sound of grown men in their thousands waiting, either because they were there or like me, they weren’t. I would have liked to stay around for the 26th as well, but I had something distinctly non-musical to attend to back home: my 18th birthday. For me, the tickets were my ‘coming of age’ presents to myself anyway. What a way to leave childish things behind.

Of course, the most eagerly anticipated of this quartet of concerts was seeing Bowie in the flesh for the very first time. I’d bought my first DB record in 1984, but it wasn’t until my 16th birthday when my mum bought me a trio of his old 1970s albums that I was truly hooked. She asked me which three I preferred, and too young to know much of his ‘classic’ repertoire, I went for the ones with the most intriguing outlandish sleeves: Diamond Dogs, Pin Ups and Aladdin Sane, all the budget priced RCA International re-pressings from Virgin Megastore in Central Milton Keynes. It would fair to say that Diamond Dogs is the only one I’ve played consistently over the years, having veered towards the later art-rock experiments rather than post-Ziggy glam bam. However, this Toni Basil-choreographed global trek – the largest he ever undertook – was on the back of probably the worst Bowie album of all time, the deliciously mis-titled Never Let Me Down.

Nevertheless, my sister Stella and I queued up on the turnstile steps from 10am the morning of the gig. Somehow we endured it for six hours, despite the Wembley wizards trying to scare us away with repeated plays of Jonathan King’s Una Paloma Blanca over the PA. We wanted lager, not schlager, fools!

My only half-decent pic from the day. Stella and I had found ourselves close to the stage but moved back after several inebriated idiot lager louts made repeated attempts to invade the stage *before* even the support act, Big Country. As my sister was only 14, we wisely moved back

King would have an infamous run-in with Bowie around this time, with the Thin White Dame, who’d renewed his on-off love affair with cocaine on the tour, body-shaming the king of cheese with “You’re a fat shit” because he wrote something not entirely glowing about this very tour.

Many column inches and arachnoid dissection of the much maligned Pepsi-sponsored Glass Spider has taken place in the thirty years since its staging. Instead of all the wrong stuff, I’d like to concentrate on the good aspects of the show:















Steve Pafford

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