In the mid 90’s, I was running an Australian David Bowie fan club and in regular contact with his then label, BMG.
At one point, the rep at BMG asked me to write an article for the industry newsletter and you can read the finished product below. From my faded memory, I was afforded the princely sum of $50 and a couple of compact discs for my efforts. I no longer have the remaining articles in this series and I went onto writing more erotic fiction for small change in the years to come.
Enjoy my dastardly attempt at being a serious journalist below. A little cringeworthy but a good laugh none the less.
Just the Power to Chart – Part One
David Bowie’s Australian chart records – by David Townsend Newman
In the modern world of rock and pop it is likely an artist will tour the great southern land known as Australia on the back of solid record sales. In the 1970s this was the way of life for most of the major recording stars of the day. The one great exception to the rule was David Bowie, who by his own admission to a fear of flying held off the trip to Oz until close to the decades end.
By 1978 Bowie had amassed a great number of hit singles and LPs on the Australian charts which started in March 1972 with the release of Hunky Dory peaking at #39. Surprisingly The Rise & Fall Of Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders From Mars, released in the UK in June of the same year, didn’t hit Aussie record stores until September ’72. One of the reasons behind this was the already delayed Hunky Dory and the added attraction of a genuine assault on the Christmas market. Well, the plan worked. Ziggy peaked at #11 and spent a total of 79 weeks sliding up and down the Australian charts on the back of the Dane’s follow up records.
On the singles front, Bowie’s Australian attack started with the magnificent Starman released on August 14th 1972. The song faired some modest radio airplay peaking at #37 whilst maintaining a solid run of 25 weeks on the Oz charts. Around the time of Bowie’s arrival in Australian record stores, our charts were dominated by the likes of Carly Simon, Perry Como, Col Joy and Helen Reddy with her smash hit, “Ï Am Woman”. The album of the year was by a local artist by the name of Dawn. This gives a good indication that Australia was not yet ready for a cross dressing British pop tart like Bowie.
Over the period of 1973-77 Bowie gradually worked his way into the minds of the record buying public with a string of solid hit singles and LPs. Following the success of The Rise & Fall Of Ziggy Stardust and The Spider From Mars, RCA Australia went for a major push on Bowie in 1973. Commencing, February 12 with the release of both Space Oddity and The Man Who Sold The World. Strong sales saw the former reach #21 whilst the overtly strong MWSTW fell just short of the TOP 40. The Action didn’t stop there though. In May the follow up to Ziggy, Aladdin Sane hit the racks and fell straight into #7 before sliding out soon after. The Jean Genie didn’t quite hit it off with the record buying public only scrambling to #42 during a 14 week chart sleep over.
Bowie’s reputation as an album artist was slowly etching into the stone by 1974. Two massive hit records in Diamond Dogs and David Live were followed by four singles during the year which began with the release of The Laughing Gnome and ended they year with Knock On Wood from David Live. Rebel Rebel released on March 25 was the only stand out performer reaching #28 whilst the other single releases barely raised a sweat. The Diamond Dogs tour of ’74 was said to have been considered for a trip Down Under however, with Bowie’s new found enthusiasm for “plastic soul” the tour never left the shores of the United States as Halloween Jack continued his mission of success on US soil and perhaps his most detached from reality sound yet as a plastic soul boy.
In part two we’ll look beyond Bowie’s soul period and into his reclusive move to Berlin and beyond.