An Exclusive Interview with David’s lifelong friend Geoff MacCormack

May 8th, 2023 | by Nick
An Exclusive Interview with David’s lifelong friend Geoff MacCormack
Interviews
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Geoff MacCormack accompanied David Bowie on various tours in the 70s, as a backing vocalist, percussionist & dancer. He contributed to various albums, from Aladdin Sane to Station to Station, and co-wrote ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll With Me’ on Diamond Dogs, as well as ‘Turn Blue’ with Iggy Pop on Lust For Life.

During this period, Bowie avoided air travel, leading MacCormack and himself, who were childhood school friends, to travel the world by sea, land, and train. This unique mode of travel provided MacCormack with ample opportunities to capture intimate, candid photographs of Bowie.

They remained close friends for six decades. Geoff very kindly agreed to be interviewed by DBN…

 

Above left, “David on board Amtrak, taking a photograph of me, taking a very blurred photo of him!” 

Above right, “A snap I took of David in (very windy) Madeira”.

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DBN: During periods when you weren’t busy taking photos, writing or performing, did you take the opportunity to reflect on the fact that you were traveling the world with David Bowie? 

GM: It wasn’t until we got back to the UK part of the tour that I realized, in our absence, how big David’s profile had risen.

Above, Mick Ronson whilst recording Pin Ups at Chateau d’Herouville, France.

What are your memories of Mick Ronson? And the other Spiders?

I really liked all the spiders.  I think they realised that Hutch and I plus the two brass/woodwind guys were just there to bulk up the sound, even where we were positioned, at the side of the stage, confirmed that it was, very much, David and The Spiders show!

 

Above left,  June Woodmansey  Mike Garson, Mick Ronson & Woody.  Taking a break whilst visiting Stonehenge during the 73 UK tour. 

What was the atmosphere like at the Ziggy Hammersmith show after David announced on stage that it was the last show we’ll ever do? Woody & Trevor had no idea beforehand.

There was confusion. To be honest, although I knew David was going to retire Ziggy, I had no idea that I would have any further involvement in touring and performing with David. Had I known, I would have felt guilty and uncomfortable.

Above, David Bowie, Ava Cherry and Geoff MacCormack watching a Faces show from the side of stage at MSG, February ’75.

How did your nickname Warren Peace come about?

I was just hanging out with Ava (Cherry) and David, and it just came into my stupid head. Oddly, the same name was used by a music journalist and a character in an American teen movie called Sky High.

 

Above right, “As David, at the time, wouldn’t fly, our return trip to the UK obviously involved a sea crossing.  I took this shot of David as he realised he was kind of ‘flying’ on the hovercraft”. 

What were your impressions of Russia and Siberia?

Actually, it felt less alien than Japan, where we’d just come from. We liked the people, whom we found warm and friendly. Mostly, there was an underlying feeling of fear and oppression. The images we shot are a constant reminder of the bleakness of some parts of Siberia and Mother Russia in the 1970’s.

Above, David in silk Kansai Yamamoto 2 piece, taken in Chicago 1973.

You were one of very few people who stayed with Bowie from his glam period to his soul period and everything in between. At the time, did you feel that he was moving incredibly fast?

The big change was Diamond Dogs. The show was extremely complex. Also, it was brave of David to embark on something as demanding as a staged show with mechanical sets and lots of movement with two backing vocalists using props, mime/dance. The most treasured memory I take away from the show is the amount of trust that Bowie bestowed upon Gui Andrisano (the other Diamond Dog) and myself being such an important part of the show.

Above, Mike Garson, Stuey George (David’s security), a fan, David Bowie and Geoff MacCormack, © Paul Burgess.

What are your memories of The 1980 Floor Show? It’s great to see it’s recently been uploaded to YouTube in superior quality.

It was ‘Beyond Camp’ and beyond my camp threshold!

 

Above, The 1980 Floor Show, London, October 1973.

Did you co-write any other songs with David besides Turn Blue & Rock ‘N’ Roll with Me, that remain unreleased?

No, they were both happy accidents. I never made a play to write with David, I’m not that pushy!

Your new book, Rock ‘N’ Roll With Me is superb, what are your favourite photographs in it?

I don’t have one image which is favourite. The book cover is definitely one of my favourites as he looks so on top of his game and confident.

Above, David recording vocals on Station To Station at Cherokee Studios.

Which did you enjoy more, the Diamond Dogs Tour or the Soul Tour?

Diamond Dogs. Hands down!

Was it traveling with David which prompted you to document what was happening for posterity or were you always interested in photography?

I’ve always thought that good cameras (and to a degree, guns) are extremely sexy, something about the buttons and dials with all their precision. Also, the pointing and shooting —–  Ooh La La!

Above, David writing lyrics on the floor whilst recording Station To Station.

What are your most memorable moments from the recording sessions?

The backing vocals for Golden Years, David’s voice packed-in and I had to finish them off. I helped arrange it too!

  

You have taken some incredible shots of David when he was filming The Man Who Fell to Earth, you were originally going to be his body double weren’t you? What are your memories from the film shoot? It’s my favourite Bowie film of all time. What’s yours?

Yes, It’s mine too. It was a really, happy time. We were all healthy and David was completely focussed. He knew this was a unique opportunity to do something that was, not only a great project but almost designed for him. We (David, Me and Coco) were staying in a ranch style home. The whole episode was pleasurably memorable.

 

Do you remember the first time David played you his music?

I clearly remember him playing me Space Oddity. He was living down the road to me in South Kensington. I thought, well done pal, you’ve nailed it!  —- Unfortunately, he didn’t have a strong enough follow up.  He wasn’t going to let that happen again!

Above, David at the mixing desk with Station to Station producer Harry Maslin.

What’s your favourite Bowie album? And single?

Station to Station. —– “Heroes”.

‘David Bowie in the Soviet Union’ exhibition of Geoff MacCormack photographs opened April 1st – October 22nd at the Wende Museum, Culver City in Los Angeles, do you have any plans for other cities? Preferably in the UK?

I sometimes do ‘not for profit’ cultural shows. The Brighton Museum was one, I did another in St Petersburg and this in Los Angeles.  I’ll probably do more, hopefully in the UK.

 

                                                                                   Above, Geoff by David Bowie.

Did you see David’s brilliant musical ‘Lazarus’? (I saw it in NYC & London, inc the filming, adored it) What did you think of it?

Apart from West Side Story & Oliver I don’t like musicals, they make me, sort of, cringe!?

 Above, Geoff & David at the Marina Abramović show, MoMA, NYC,  2010.  © Jo Clark.

You were close friends for 60 years, if you had to describe David in one sentence, how would you?

Silly — Clever — Brave!

Many thanks to Geoff for taking the time.

All photographs © Geoff MacCormack unless otherwise stated.

Geoff’s stunning Bowie prints are available to buy via his website

Follow Geoff on his socials: Instagram & Facebook

Interview by Nick Vernon, exclusively for David Bowie News. © 2023.

Edited by Nick Vernon.

 

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