Odd Couples: How John Lennon Helped David Bowie Tackle ‘Fame’
Those who have collaborated with a Beatle are unlikely to forget it.
David Bowie, who first met John Lennon at a party thrown by Elizabeth Taylor in 1974, once asked him what he thought of his glam rock - to which Lennon reportedly replied: "Yeah, it's great, but it's just rock 'n' roll with lipstick on!"
"I was impressed," Bowie later recalled. "As I was at virtually everything he said. He was probably one of the brightest, quickest-witted, earnestly socialist men I’ve ever met in my life."
In 1975, Bowie, at work on his ninth album, Young Americans, invited Lennon to Electric Lady Studios in New York to play guitar on his cover of "Across the Universe." Bowie was understandably apprehensive about sharing a studio with one of his biggest influences.
"David was freaking out because he was so nervous," background singer Ava Cherry remembered. "He really admired John Lennon, and that day David was like a little kid. And then John comes in the door and John had those granny glasses on, right? And David looks and me and says, ‘He really does wear those granny glasses!’ He really liked the fact that Lennon had the whole Lennon look."
Lennon, for his part, was quite happy to be recording the song, given that he was never fully satisfied with his version. "People say I used John Lennon on the track," Bowie told NME in 1975, "but let me tell you … no one uses John Lennon. John just came and played on it. He was lovely."
"Across the Universe" was just the beginning. A new song began just as the first one was finished being recorded ... and it eventually went to No. 1.
Watch the below video from our "Odd Couples" series for the whole story.