My Life as a Bowie Fan in Philly

Yes we’re a comedy site, but we’re also somewhat of a community, and Bowie touched everyone. Nothing made that more clear than watching our feed– which is exclusively people in comedy– pour their hearts out all night and all morning, so we will gladly post some thoughts from members of our little village today. Sharon Dougherty has been writing for our site for years, and before we became exclusively a comedy site, even posted a story about the anticipation leading to the release of “The Next Day”, Bowies first album in a very long time giving newcomers a beautiful Bowie Primer. “Let All the Children Boogie: Bowie Returns.” It was before we started giving bylines but we’ve updated it to carry her name.  

She sent us this today and even though it may not fit with our format, we wanted to share it.

Oh God, I love Bowie. Nobody, nothing ever touched me the way his music did. And his lyrics were so amazing, they spoiled me forever. There were very few people who could write with the clarity and the confusion of meaning that he could.

I discovered Bowie in 1974, through a friend who had the Hunky Dory album. I fell in love, and bought everything I could. The “current” album I was able to get was David Live and I devoured it, in addition to Diamond Dogs, Aladdin Sane, Ziggy Stardust etc. I even got Piano sheet music so I could learn how to play all the songs and read all the lyrics and sing them myself.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but the rest of the world didn’t know Bowie as we were in the Philly area. In 1973 when Bowie toured to promote Ziggy Stardust, he sold out the Tower Theater. So he added another show and that sold out! So he said – keep adding shows as long as they sell out. He played 2 weeks in Philly, the first American city that fell in love with the man who is Bowie. So he had to live in Philly and he discovered how much he loved the city, the music and the people. He decided to do a live album on the Diamond Dogs tour and of course, he recorded at the Tower. That sealed our love affair, Philadelphia was in the title of the album!!

Then he decided he wanted to do a Philly soul inspired album IN Philly at the classic Sigma Sound studios. That was so cool, the local paper covered it, there was pictures in the paper; Springsteen came to visit (and loaned him Roy Bittan, the greatest piano player on some great Bowie songs); and John Lennon came too.

In high school, I used to stay up all night, and all I did was listen to those albums over and over. They weren’t just music, they were a part of my soul. Young American was awesome, then Station to Station came out and my world changed again!
My very first Spectrum concert, Bowie on the Station to Station tour – I can still feel that flutter in my heart when the music/train started, then he started singing ‘the return of the Thin White Duke” … Pure Joy – I honestly thought I was going to cry. I was in the same building as Bowie, he was singing live, dancing – it was incredible.

From that point on, I attended every show, bought every album, watched every TV appearance and always felt like he was ours – meaning Philly. He would always do Young Americans as an encore, I can picture him walking out on the 1978 tour (the one with the scary silent movie as the opening act). He smiled, pulled on his acoustic, and leaned in to the microphone and said “Now let’s sing Our Song”. He sang lead and we sang backing vocals. We were a big happy family. He even recorded another album, this time at the Spectrum, part of the Stage live album.

The day the Let’s Dance tour went on sale, we heard about it on the radio at 9 am, tickets went on sale at 10. I just happened to have $600 on me, don’t remember why, I think I was taking rent money to the bank. Oh well, let’s go to the Electric Factory box office on Vine Street instead. I think we were around 10th in line, I got tickets to all 4 shows, the last show in the second row. Even though it was a “commercial” show, I still loved every minute. Again, another “love note” to us – he wanted to do a live video of Modern Love so where would he do it – in Philly of course. So I’m in that video, in the crowd, where the balloons fall on our heads! It’s one of my proudest moments. I remember kicking through all the little star and moon balloons on the floor and went to pick up a few and said “ah, I’ll get some tomorrow”. I never got one because they never did the balloon drop any other night.

That fall, we went to London for the David Bowie World Convention. We have the framed poster hanging in the basement today!
Yes, I went to the Glass Spider show at the stadium, annoyed that he was trying to recreate Diamond Dogs, but happy that he had Peter Frampton and Toni Basil (again). I went to the hits show in the early 90’s and could tell he was phoning it in (which he admitted later) and the biggest disappointment at that show – he didn’t do Young Americans. I felt sad and a little rejected by him. He got too big for Philly finally.

I didn’t give up, I still bought every album and went to see him and saw his final show in the area, at the Borgata on the Reality Tour. What a joy!! He brought out old and new material, that show was a love letter to us – his real fans. He was relaxed and we could tell he was loving his music again. A few weeks later, he cancelled the tour due to a heart attack. That was the last tour he did.

RIP my friend. You profoundly affected me and I will always be grateful that my life was defined by your music.


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Sharon grew up in, and continues to live in suburban Philadelphia and has been a music and comedy fan forever, cutting her teeth musically on Bowie. Monty Python and other British comedies were her earliest passion - the Goodies, Young Ones, Fawty Towers, on and on. She was a regular at the Comedy Factory Outlet in Philadelphia and once did 20 minutes onstage with Harry Anderson. Right now she's loving @midnight for a daily TV fix of comedy (and nerds).

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