Steve Harley

& Cockney Rebel

DIARY 11/01/16

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I wanted it to be a clever, dastardly stunt. I didn’t want it to be true. David Bowie dead? I mix with people who were close to him. I never felt a hint of a serious medical problem from any of them. David, cancer? His friends were as loyal as he’d obviously asked them to be. That in itself speaks well of the man. My thoughts are with those who were his family and friends. I hadn’t actually spoken to David since Marc Bolan’s funeral. But the Beckenham days have always been with me, so a certain friendship, with the smallest of Fs, has endured. For now, many

of my own fans and friends will be feeling a terrible loss, and grieving hard for a man they never met. And that is understandable. We know artists through their work. Many of you will have felt you knew David through his music.

I formed the first, tentative Cockney Rebel at The Arts Lab, held Sunday nights in a back room at The Three Tuns pub, on Beckenham High Street. David ran it with Mary Finnigan and Angie, but when he went off seeking pop stardom with Space Oddity, I took my chance to play in his spot on several occasions. The first money I ever earned, apart from through busking, was £15 from the box office of The Beckenham Arts Lab. I had good friends that today I never see, never hear from. I’d like to hear from them. Where is Lesley? Where is Jilly? Today, of all days, I’d love to know. Have they followed my career through all these years and developments? I do hope so, because they were the loveliest of people and I miss them right now. Bromley girls. Beckenham Arts Lab devotees. They recognised David’s charisma in that pub’s back room. They built a shrine to him in the passage of our shared flat in Battersea in 1971/72.

I’m thinking of David’s dear friend, George Underwood who must be in pieces. And Birgitte, my Best Years cover girl, his fabulous wife. Kevin Cann, a special friend, a wonderful music author and Bowie’s loyal and dedicated archivist, too, will be reeling. I heard my friends Midge Ure and Marc Almond speak eloquently before my own phone appearance on BBC 5Live this morning. About the influence and impact David had been on their own young selves. Steve Norman, the Spandau guys, all of them…..Tony Visconti, one of the most approachable men on the planet, as well as one of the most creative, may have known all along. Recording Blackstar so recently, did they know?

Three Spiders lost to cancer.

I’d hate to think David suffered. Crikey, he really was up there, wasn’t he? Dylan, The Beatles, Elvis, Sinatra, Bowie – there will be others to add, but it won’t be a long list. I just hope he didn’t suffer.