It all resembles the plot of a yet-to-be-written musical. Avid mod and aspiring singer Geoff MacCormack – who moved in the same circles as modernist ‘faces’ like Marc Bolan and Mickey Finn – was selling advertising space for a London construction newspaper when an old school pal ‘phoned him and urged him to work with him. The date was January 1973, the caller was David Bowie, and the job entailed joining his band, as singer, percussionist and dancer. He said “yes”.
Within weeks, MacCormack was sailing to New York with the flight-phobic Bowie. He remembered to pack his camera, so “the party that lasted for three years” was recorded in endearingly intimate “holiday snaps”. While always one to adopt a pose, the feeling here is of an unguarded Bowie – almost as though these are shots from a family photo album. The sense of two mates – one of whom just happened to have become a rock star – having riotous good times is palpable. So much so, that a seasoned music journalist became tearful on seeing these photos.
Fortunately, MacCormack knows a decisive moment when he clocks one, and has a natural eye for composition; that’s why these images withstand repeated viewing. Genesis Publications certainly agreed: they published MacCormack’s photographic travelogue, From Station to Station: Travels with Bowie 1973 – 1976, in May 2007. An impressed Bowie provided an archly playful foreword.
These engaging photographs may now be bought from Geoff MacCormack, and below he gives us the story behind each image.
This was taken in a Japanese restaurant in Los Angeles. As I remember, David and myself were fairly wired, yet this shot belies this. Although originally taken in black and white, this image has the feel of an early 1940’s movie star, hence the sepia finish I settled upon.
When I was (quite rightly) dropped from from my role as Bowie body double (in The Man Who Fell To Earth) for, well, looking completely and utterly different to him, it turned out to be a veiled blessing. I took advantage of the free time and the sublime New Mexico light and picked up my Nikon. This image of David is one of my favourites. I particularly like it for its raw honesty.
David sleeping off a long night of boozing somewhere in Siberia in 1973. We drank cheap Riesling and beer (Peeva) with a bunch of soldiers we’d met the night before. They were friendly and inquisitive as to what life was like in the West. We asked them what they did in the army: they said they were in the construction unit. You can just make out the bleak Siberian landscape through the window.
David listening to direction from Nicolas Roeg on the set of The Man Who Fell To Earth. I remember going to take the shot with the director in it but , thankfully, changing my mind at the last moment.
I’m in make up with David Bowie, and we’re larking around taking shots in the mirror. I wish I could claim design over this little gem, but in truth it was a happy accident. Obviously, I took the shot (it isn’t cropped), but I don’t recall engineering the image. All I can say is it is my fortuitous fluke.
Heading back to London from Japan the long way [on the Trans-Siberian Express], I’d only just acquired a Nikkormat camera which Japanese photographer Masayoshi Sukita got me (trade price); the attraction being its ease of use for a novice. It was my first decent camera. Not knowing the camera, I at least pride myself on getting the composition right. The other thing I love about this shot is that, although David clearly strikes a pose, the image is still unguarded and natural. David reciprocated by taking one of me in exactly the same spot. Believe me, mine’s better.
I love this completely unguarded shot of David. This shot was taken at the end of a particularly long and gruelling day of interior shooting under hot lights. I took this in-between the camera’s rolling, with only one light source and no flash. I like the combination of Bowie’s hair tone and the orange glow given off by the lamp.
This shot was taken while recording the Station To Station album; David is seen here working out guitar parts. I was the only backing vocalist on these sessions, so the voices you hear on, say, ‘Golden Years’, are just Bowie’s and mine.
David chose this image from The Man Who Fell To Earth (1975) for publicity posters in the late seventies. I love the lines of this image – there seems to be a seamless energy drawn in by the shielded source of fire. I feel some guilt for being the one who turned him onto the Gitane cigarette he’s lighting. In my defence (and his), we did smoke this brand for aesthetic reasons; both of us being enamoured of Max Ponty’s delightful artwork, which depicts a gypsy dancing girl shrouded in a plume of smoke.
David in Ziggy makeup in 1973. This shot was taken at the Hammersmith Odeon before the last show of the tour. David was reading a review, and I sneaked this shot with a zoom lens which I already had on the Nikon so as not to disturb the quiet moment. To this day, I find it remarkable how serene he is only moments before showtime.
This shot was taken early on, inside the ‘Trans Siberian Express’. Our dress code rapidly fell away after about two days into the long journey. The jacket David is wearing is a Freddie Buretti original (David’s personal tailor). With his bright red hair and unconventional clothing, Bowie didn’t exactly blend in with austere surroundings of Siberia/Russia.
We were given a list of dos and don’ts when we arrived in Siberia to board the ‘Trans Siberian Express’ – what we could and couldn’t photograph – so David was breaking a whole stack of rules by filming the event, considering the amount of military hardware on show. That’s why he’s looking a little furtive.
Geoff MacCormack (pictured right), was more than just a photographer. He was also backing vocalist and percussionist on the ‘Aladdin Sane’ and ‘Ziggy Stardust’ tours. he was also a mime artist on the ‘Diamond Dogs’ tour, and backing vocalist on the ‘Young Americans’ jaunt.