I wrote this piece for Q magazine’s David Bowie special about 15 years ago. I’ve divided it up into three parts.

A whiff of hedonism lingered amid the dense fog of cigarette smoke inside the top floor suite of Detroit's luxurious Ponchartrain hotel. David Bowie sighed, dismissing Iggy with some reluctance, as I set up my cassette recorder on the coffee table, amidst the empty glasses, bottles and ashtrays. There was business to be done; another interview, another confession, or was it to be another stream of carefully prepared inexactitudes that would guarantee another headline. David pulled hard on his Gitane, drank his Michelob straight from the bottle and took a deep breath.
          “I'm broke,” he said, flicking his hand through his blonde hair and sending a stream of ash over his crisp white shirt. “I'm just doing this tour for the money. I never earned any money before, but this time I'm going to make some. I think I deserve it, don't you?”
It was March 1, 1976, and David was 19 gigs into what would become known as the Station To Station World Tour. He didn't look broke to me, not in the sense that mere mortals might use the term, as in having to borrow a fiver to go down the pub until the wage packet arrived on Friday. It was an expansive suite and trays of food and beverages had been discarded casually on pristine surfaces. The wardrobe contained designer suits and freshly laundered linen. A Mercedes 600 Pullman limousine waited downstairs for when David required transport. But the admission that Bowie was broke screamed ‘headline’ to me and I wasn’t about to question it. So instead of saying, “Pull the other leg mate, you’re a rich rock star, everybody knows that,” I said, “Tell me more, David. Tell me more.”
“The other tours were misery, so painful. I had amazing amounts of people on the road with me. I had a management system that had no idea what it was doing and which was totally self-interested and pompous…”
And so it went on, probably one of the best interviews I ever did and I barely needed to interrupt this flow of remarkable quotes, almost all of them worthy of headlines in themselves.
No doubt about it – Bowie gives good interview.

It began, somewhat preposterously, on November 12, 1964, on the Tonight programme hosted by Cliff Michelmore, with David, the leading light in the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Long Haired Men, being interviewed about how its members were taunted for the length of their hair. It was almost certainly a press stunt, a little light relief along the lines of the dead donkey, but it was valuable publicity at a time when this currency was thin on the ground for Davie Jones, the lead singer of the King Bees.
          In the four decades since that auspicious debut, few, if any, performers working in the rock field have enjoyed such sympathetic media treatment as David Bowie. With the possible exception of the flat period in the late Eighties that encompassed the Glass Spider/Never Let You Down phase and the ill-advised Tin Machine diversion, Bowie has had reporters eating out of his hand, and magazines of all types the world over clamouring to feature him on their covers. He belongs to a small, select group of superstars who’ve managed to successfully tame the media, and it’s no exaggeration to say this has sustained his career almost as much as his constant, chameleon-like talent for reinvention.

It wasn’t always the case. 
          “When I started he knew nothing about it,” says Ken Pitt, who although not David’s first manager was the first to give him serious guidance in the art of pop. Pitt had been a press agent before he got into management and was therefore in the perfect position to offer his client sound advice from the beginning. “He would always listen to me on the phone when I was taking about PR and giving advice to people. Also, he was very nosy… inquisitive, always looking at papers on my desk.”
          Pitt denies that he sat David down and lectured him on the art of giving a good interview – “He’s got to take the credit because he had a lot of natural charm” – but the older man’s wisdom in this area was clearly the primer from which David took his cue.
          “I certainly gave him advice from the very beginning,” says Pitt. “He was anxious about what to say. I would tell him exactly what the interviewer’s interests were, and I told him that whatever you do, don’t argue, don’t get into a heated conversation. I told him you’ve got to try to anticipate the interviewer, tell him or her what they want to hear, and adopt a different style according to the different types of media.”
          Pitt was not slow to realise that David’s charms might appeal to women and shrewdly lined him up for interviews with BBC radio DJ Anne Nightingale and with Penny Valentine, Disc’s star writer, whose intuitive eye fell upon David even before ‘Space Oddity’ became a hit. “She fell for him,” says Pitt. “It got around amongst journalists that he was a very bright boy, a lot of fun to interview.”

          Crucially, in the light of what came next, Pitt adds: “But I never put him up to saying anything that wasn’t true.”

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