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    Tags: The_Holy_Holy_Tour, Liverpool_Philharmonic_Hall, David_Bowie, Woody_Woodmansy, Tony_Visconti, Glenn_Gregory, Sarah_O'Hara

    Bowie, Ziggy and The Man who fell to Earth: An interview with Woody Woodmansey

     

    Above: Woody Woodmansey

    All Photographs used with permission by Hush Hush PR

     

    Ahead of the Holy Holy Tour, Sarah caught up with Woody Woodmansey to talk Liverpool, Ziggy Stardust and The Man who fell to Earth.

     

    The Holy Holy tour will visit Liverpool’s Philharmonic Hall in February 2019, featuring Woody Woodmansey, Tony Visconti and Heaven 17’s Glenn Gregory on vocals:

     

    “Tony [Visconti] had just done an album with Glenn and he said Glenn Gregory would do a fantastic job. I asked if Glenn could come along to rehearsals and he was amazing. We didn’t want someone to sound like David, or try to sound like David; we wanted someone who understood the songs and could put them across. With Glenn, I don’t think anyone else could do it like Glenn. Vocally he’s amazing”.

     

     

    Performing The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars and The Man who Sold the World, Woody explains how a Q&A at the Institute of Contemporary Art in London was the first in a series of events that led to The Holy Holy Tour:

     

    “The Institute of Contemporary Art on the Mall in London and they said, would you come to do an interview in front of three hundred people. It was a really great night with some great questions and it was a good laugh. It was when the ‘Bowie is’ exhibition first launched and they were doing a Bowie Week and putting a band together. It was the drummer from Blondie, members of Spandau Ballet, the guitarist from Boomtown Rats and a member of The Alarm. It was a really good band and they were playing the early Bowie songs.

     

    I got on with them really well and they invited me to Latitude Festival where they were performing and asked me to sit in on two songs. I thought it would be really fun, so I went along and performed ‘5 years’ and ‘Ziggy Stardust’. The audience response was incredible and I missed it”.

     

    Following Latitude Festival, Woody performed with the band during more gigs before deciding to tour The Man who Sold the World:

    “I decided to do The Man who sold the World, which was the first album Mick Ronson and I played on with David. We never actually went out on the road and toured that album; it just came out, then we had a break and Hunky Dory was the next album we did.

     

    I thought, right I have to ask Tony [Visconti] to do this and I wasn’t sure if he would as I knew he was very busy with other projects as a Producer. However, I’d just finished telling him about it and he said ‘Great, wherever you’ll be playing I’ll be there’. I thought wow, that’s amazing!

     

    He told me, ‘David and I have spoken about it a lot that we really regret never touring that album, so it’s a dream come true for me”.

     

     

    Following a show at London’s Shepherd’s Bush Empire, Visconti mixed the concert into a Live album and played it to David Bowie:

     

    “Tony said he [David] was grinning ear to ear all the way through it and said ‘Oh wow, we would have sounded like that. My career might have taken a different path if we had actually gone out live with this album’.

     

    During their tour in America, Woody and Tony also called Bowie from a show in New York as a surprise for his birthday:

     

    “When we toured the East Coat of America, we performed in New York. Halfway through the show, Tony gave David a ring and we had him on speaker phone. We played a very bad version of Happy Birthday and got the audience to sing to him down the phone and he said ‘Oh wow that was fantastic, thank you for that. Ask the audience what they think of Blackstar’, which had just come out that day. They loved it and he said ‘oh wow, thanks for ringing, have a great time on the tour and catch you later”.

     

    However, this would sadly be one of the last times Woody would speak to him, as Bowie passed away a few days later:

     

    “We were in Toronto a day and half later. It was 5.30am and my phone was going crazy. I eventually picked it up and it was my son calling from England, saying ‘I’ve just seen it on the news, David has died’. It was surreal and I just couldn’t believe it”.

     

    We talk about Bowie and how his legacy lives on through the music, continually inspiring new musicians and resonating in people’s lives day to day:

     

    “We often do meet and greets after the shows and there’s so many people there. It’s incredible. They tell you what the music meant to them and that they listened to the songs growing up and it’s fantastic. Lots of fantastic stories”.

     

    Woody too has many fantastic stories of his own and as we chat, he reminisces about living with David in the early 70s:

     

    “We lived at David’s place for about a year together. He would be in the lounge with the guitar, I’d be making toast and he’d just come in and say ‘what do you think of this?’ or ‘Woody I’ve just finished this, come and have a listen’. It just seemed every song at that time was fantastic and all very different”.

     

    One such song was the iconic Life on Mars; a lyrical and melodic masterpiece containing one of music’s most memorable chord changes:

     

    “He [David] was definitely different, even in the way he put chords together in the songs. Even experience guitarists when they’re learning the songs, they go ‘wow, that’s amazing’. It’s just one chord change that no one else would really do”.

     

    Taken from one of my favourite Bowie albums (the brilliant Hunky Dory) Woody explains that the piano outro on ‘Life on Marswasn’t actually supposed to feature in the song!

     

    “We’d done one take that was pretty good, then we thought we could do a better one. We did a third one and to save tape, as it was all recorded on tape back then and not have loads of versions to keep going through, Ken Scott the Producer had rewound the tape, but had rewound it earlier than the last take we’d done before we started recording. So when we finished ‘Life on Mars’, there happened to be a telephone booth in the studio for studio musicians to ring out on. No-one ever rang in. We knew we’d done a good take and then unexpectedly the phone rang! We listened to the take and then as the last part of the tape played, an earlier take came in and it [the piano outro] was there on the tape and David said ‘Oh I really like that, let’s leave it in”. That was made part of the song - it was one of those happy mistakes”.

     

    Now over four decades later, the band’s chemistry remains in Woody’s memory as he rehearses the songs for The Holy Holy Tour:

     

    “My style has probably changed quite a lot since those days, but it was like remembering the essence of what we played and how we did it and even embellishing it a little bit more.

     

    It was good and we worked really well as a band. Mick and Trevor and I has played together a few years beforehand, so we knew each other’s playing and everything. There was a chemistry there”.

     

    The Holy Holy Tour visits the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall on Saturday 9th February 2019.

     

    Tickets are on sale now.

    By Sarah O' Hara

     

     

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