While hitchhiking around England and Europe in 1967 when I was 19 I had the pleasure of meeting and living in the same flat with David Bowie.
Following is an excerpt from my book:
We emerged from the tube and were standing by a bus stop, back packs on our backs, and the guitar in tow. Obviously looking lost and confused, we were approached by a couple blokes who had noticed the guitar.
“Where you from?” they asked
“Minnesota” we replied half embarrassed that we weren’t from some place like LA or New York. “In the USA” we added when we saw the blank look on their faces.
They were friendly guys meaning no harm and seemed genuinely interested in what we were up to. We told them we were planning on hanging out in London for a couple weeks and were looking for a hostel. A quick glance at each other and they said:
“We’ve got a flat right over there” pointing across the street, “you’re welcome to stay there with us for a few shillings a day”
We thrived on adventure so we told them we’d check it out.
It was a cramped little flat with three guys living there already. We would have to sleep on a couch and a mattress in the back hall. They were musicians and I have to say we took to them immediately. We agreed to pay their price and share the flat for a couple weeks. The walkie talkies are still there.
They were members of a band called the Riot Squad headed up buy a guy named Bob Evans. He was a driven man who wanted his band to be right up there with the Beatles, Dave Clark Five and the Rolling Stones. Bob didn’t live there, just the two guys we had met on the street and the lead singer, a guy who they introduced us to as: David Bowie. This was in 1967 and as if I have to mention, no one had ever heard of David Bowie. I am not musical in any stretch of the term. I can’t sing, no one in my family can sing or play any type of instrument. At Christmas we all were issued Kazoos and drove each other nut in just minutes. Peter, on the other hand loved music and had talents in playing guitar, singing and writing music. He fit right in with this group of musicians and quickly became one of them. In retrospect it seems funny that David Bowie, yes, the David Bowie would have such interest in Peter’s work and his songs. David had a reel to reel tape recorder and he played his latest songs for our thoughts. He was working on Sky Pilots and Major Tom. I still remember looking at this guy in a purple shirt with collars that went on for ever playing music that was weird. He’ll never make it. Actually we never had that thought because we thought we would all make it big somehow. We didn’t know the meaning of the word: pessimism.
Peter and David spent a lot of time together exploring each other’s work and noting both similarities and differences. I like to think that my friend Peter made a difference in David Bowie’s music; I know David made a difference in Peter’s. David Bowie, of course became one of the most famous musicians in the world and Peter went back to playing in his living room.
We truly enjoyed our time staying with the band in London. They had a bus and we would load it up with all their gear and head out to gigs. It was great being with the band making it easy to meet people and have a feeling of purpose being at where ever their schedule brought them. We stayed about two weeks in their flat becoming comfortable with them and the little things like a pay for a hot shower. To take a hot shower you had to go out into the hall (it was OK to wear clothes out in the hall) put a couple shillings in the meter and you would have hot water for a few minutes.
Adventure called and we were called to move on. We not only said goodbye to our new friends, including David Bowie but Mike also. He stayed on there for a while then wandered by himself. We came to the conclusion we had brought too much stuff including the walkie talkies so we left a bag in the back closet fully expecting to come back for it sometime. That was more than forty years ago and I doubt we’ll get back for it. Peter and I took the subway as far as we could, heading north towards Scotland.