This charming two-page note written by a 30-year old David Bowie to his friend and confidant Tony McGrogan in September ’77 with his shopping list of records, shows he was keeping his finger on the pulse of rock.
Bowie made it his business to be fully informed about the current music scene, and in this handwritten note on graph paper to Artistic Relations and RCA employee Tony McGrogan on 22 September 1977, he displays some playful penmanship as he lists some interesting and hot new releases he wanted picked up for him:
I would be grateful if you could get one of your R.C.A “Go-fors” to get me these following records from, I guess, a
PINK Penk Ponk– Pan … (oh, yes! PUNK) record shop. (Before I leave for swizzleland tonight).
Instantly humanising the guy, the letter was written from Tony’s house in Coulsdon, Surrey where Bowie had stayed for three days to attend the funeral of Marc Bolan, who had tragically been killed in a car accident on 16 September 1977. Bolan’s funeral took place on 20 September. It was a crazy time for our hero. To get an idea of where Bowie was at:
July – August: recorded “Heroes” album at Hansa in Berlin and commenced mixing at Mountain Studios, Montreux, Switzerland (to be released in October 1977).
7 September: appeared on Marc Bolan’s TV Show Marc, which was to be Bolan’s last public appearance before his death nine days later. Broadcast on 28 September.
9 September: Iggy Pop’s Lust for Life released on RCA records, co-produced by Bowie.
11 September: recorded Bing Crosby’s Merrie Olde Christmas television appearance singing Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy with the American crooner.
20 September: Bowie flew from Switzerland to attend Bolan’s funeral service at Golders Green in London.
23 September: “Heroes” 7″ single released on RCA.
After the service Bowie had Tony Mascia and Tony McGrogan drive him past his childhood home at 40 Stansfield Road, Brixton, then on to Haddon Hall in Southend Road, Beckenham, before adjourning further south to Surry to avoid any media intrusion. The following day he was due to fly back to swizzleland (?) but as outlined in this letter, he needed a wake up call, and this 30 year old man does not know what time banks close:
If this is not poss: then get me up at 12: and we’ll get them ourselves. also what time do banks close as I want to cash some trav: cheques.
It’s an interesting list of LPs and singles, as well requesting The Entire [Stiff] Catalogue (singles & albums) inc Elvis Costello. A lot of these albums were released in 1977 and are mostly punk/new wave records, a genre Bowie would fully explore over his next two albums. He also specifies two Not Punk (V. Important) albums, and spells “definitely” incorrectly, before signing off.
Among others, Bowie’s into the now canonised The Stranglers LP No More Heroes, The Clash’s ‘Complete Control’ single, The Damned’s Damned Damned Damned debut, an early Talking Heads single off their 77 album, and John Foxx-era Ultravox, who had only one album out at the time, and let’s not forget The Snivelling Shits ‘Terminal Stupid’ single!
Elsewhere we have Jean Michel Jarre’s seminal Oxygene, Mink DeVille, Van Der Graaf Generator and Bob Marley. Bowie also asks about Tony Wilson’s predominantly punk focused ITV programme “So It Goes” which had just interviewed Iggy Pop the week before Bowie wrote this note.
P.S. thank you for the cigs!!
P.P.S. Definately get me up at 11:30. I have lost my passport. (oh! christ!)
Click image to enlarge
NB: The man had exquisite taste. I wonder which ones he found. And the fact that he had written this note on the eve his greatest ever song hitting the shops (“Heroes” was released on 23 September) is rather impressive, however the 7″ would reach only #24 in the UK singles charts for reasons that aren’t clear.