Adrian Belew: How I Ended Up Playing for David Bowie
By Covington native Adrian Belew.
In 1978 I did my first tour of Europe as "stunt" guitarist and singer for Frank Zappa's band. The night we played in Cologne, Germany unbeknownst to me Brian Eno was in the audience. Brian knew David Bowie was looking for a new guitarist for his upcoming tour. He called David after seeing our show and told David he should come see the guitarist for Frank's band.
The next night we performed in Berlin. There was a part of the show where Frank took an extended guitar solo and most of the band members, including myself, left the stage for a few minutes. As I walked to the back of the stage I looked over at the monitor mixing board and saw David Bowie and Iggy Pop standing there. Wow! I couldn't believe it!
So I walked over to David Bowie, shook his hand and said, "I love what you've done, thank you for all the music". And he said, "Great, how would you like to be in my band?" I motioned back towards Frank and said, "Well, I'm kind of playing with that guy." David laughed and said, "Yes, I know, but when Frank's tour ends my tour starts two weeks later. Shall we talk about it over dinner?"
David said he would meet me back at our hotel and sure enough when I arrived back at the hotel David Bowie and his assistant Coco Schwab were sitting on a couch in the lobby. As I walked past them they whispered to me, "Get into the elevator, go up to your room, come back down in a few minutes, and meet us outside. we have a car waiting." It was like something out of a spy film.
When I came back down and went outside there was a black limousine waiting. The driver opened the door and I got in the back with David and Coco. David immediately launched into all this plans for his upcoming tour, the songs we would play, the staging, and so on, and how much he loved my guitar playing! It was so exciting! He said they were taking me to one of his favorite restaurants in Berlin.
How many restaurants are there in Berlin? 25,000?
We arrived at the restaurant, went in the front door, and who should be sitting at the very first table but Frank Zappa and the rest of the band! So the three of us sat down with Frank and the band. David, trying to be cordial, motioned to me and said, "Quite a guitar player you have here Frank."
And Frank said, "F••• you Captain Tom." (note: Frank had demoted David from Major Tom to Captain Tom.)
David persisted, "Oh come on now Frank, surely we can be gentleman about this?"
Frank said, "F••• you Captain Tom."
By this point I was paralyzed. David said, "So you really have nothing to say?"
Frank said. "F••• you Captain Tom."
David and Coco and I got up and went back out the front door. Getting in the limo David said in his wonderfully British way, "I thought that went rather nicely!"
To read why Adrian Belew is a member of the Northern Kentucky Music Hall of Fame, please go to www.adrianbelew.net. Thanks to Rick Robinson for reaching out to Adrian to secure permission for this republication.