John Lennon wrote a David Bowie chart-topper and sang back-up on it
David Bowie discusses John Lennon’s sense of humour in 1999
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David Bowie and John Lennon first met in 1974 in New York City. After hitting it off, the pair planned another meet-up and a jam session to get their creativity flowing. A year later, in 1975, Bowie and the former member of The Beatles recorded one of the star’s biggest ever songs from his ninth album, Young Americans. On this day, September 20, in 1975, Bowie’s track reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100.
Lennon, alongside musician Carlos Alomar, teamed up with Bowie to write a new hit titled Fame.
Speaking in 2003, Bowie explained: “When we were in the studio with John Lennon, I asked Carlos: ‘What was that riff you had?’ And it went from there.”
After working out the music, Lennon spurred Bowie on to write about one of the struggles in his life at the time.
Bowie went on: “We’d been talking about management, and it kind of came out of that.”
Bowie continued: “[Lennon] was telling me: ‘You’re being shafted by your present manager’ (laughs).
“That was basically the line. And John was the guy who opened me up to the idea that all management is crap.”
Lennon also provided some backing vocals for Fame.
Most notably, his voice can be heard in the final moments of the song, singing “fame” repeatedly in different pitches.
Fame was a smash hit for Bowie and reached number one in the US Billboard Hot 100 charts.
It became the star’s biggest hit at the time and was number seven on the 1975’s best-selling singles of the year.
Lennon didn’t just help Bowie create the song of a generation, but he also spurred him on to take ownership of his own creativity.
Bowie continued: “I started to realise that if you’re bright, you kind of know your worth, and if you’re creative, you know what you want to do and where you want to go in that way.”
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Lennon also gave Bowie some stern advice about being a songwriter as they became closer friends.
Bowie once recalled: “I asked John one day: ‘How do you write your songs?’ He said: ‘It’s easy, you just say what you mean, you put a backbeat to it.’
“I said: ‘What do you think of my kind of rock ‘n’ roll?’ He said: ‘It’s great, but it’s just rock ‘n’ roll with lipstick on.”
Bowie eventually went on to describe Lennon as “his greatest mentor”.
Bowie and Lennon weren’t always the best of friends, however.
At first, Bowie was extremely nervous to be hanging out with a member of the Fab Four.
He recalled in 1999: “I think we were polite with each other, in that kind of older-younger way. So John was sort of: ‘Oh, here comes another new [rocker].’
“And I was sort of like: ‘It’s John Lennon!’ I don’t know what to say. Don’t mention the Beatles, you’ll look really stupid.”
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