I thought it might be nice to look back on a different kind of concert file today. With it being 20 years since the first airing on Australian radio network, Triple J, it’s a good time to look back at when Bowie appeared on the Sunday evening new music show called, and very much aptly, 1997 to speak with Richard Kingsmill about his then new LP, Earthling along with some general conversation that included the possibility of him coming to Australia during the year for concerts. Sadly, it would take another 6 years before Bowie made it back to Australia however, there is an interesting back story to his plans of an Australian tour in 1997.
During the latter months of 1996, Bowie’s people were in talks with the promoters of Australia’s Big Day Out promoters to bring him to our shores to headline the 1997 event that was to take place between a small window of the Australian summer in the January. The other headline acts for The Big Day Out in 1997 were The Offspring, Soundgarden, The Prodigy and Supergrass. The difficult task facing the promoters was how they were going to convince Bowie to play a greatest hits set. Sticking to his guns, Bowie refused instead preferring to focus on promoting his more recent material. Neither parties would budge on the matter and sadly, the Earthling tour would never see the golden shores of down under.
During this interview we hear Bowie talking of his desire to bring his tour to Australian shores later in the year though once more, the stumbling block with promoters would be his refusal to play a greatest hits show. He is quoted in the Triple J interview of his desire to tour Australia again.
“It’s looking good for Australia this year, I really think we’ve got some action and some people working together to make it happen this year.”
Negotiations had carried on through the end of 1996 and into March by which time, Bowie had pulled the plug on any potential shows in Australia which would be a great pity for all parties involved including his loyal fan base. During the interview, he also talks of his time living in Sydney and recording the second Tin Machine album in 1989 where he and Reeves Gabrels went into the Triple J studio in Sydney to play some Tin Machine songs live on air. In the end, Bowie’s refusal to come and play a set of hit songs in Australia will go down as a could have been moment of his career that will be lost in the fabric of time. For now at least, we can all speculate on what could have and probably should have been.