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SOUTH CREAKE: ‘We jammed with Bowie’

DAVID BOWIE                                                              
 
A photograph from an early David Bowie biography:  Bowie, left, during a session at the Beckenham Art Lab which he founded.   Nick Haywood is on the extreme left of the group with his then wife, Rose, next to him

DAVID BOWIE A photograph from an early David Bowie biography: Bowie, left, during a session at the Beckenham Art Lab which he founded. Nick Haywood is on the extreme left of the group with his then wife, Rose, next to him

The recent news of the release of David Bowie’’s first single for ten years, ‘Where are we Now’ has brought back memories for South Creake businessman, Nick Haywood.

It was 1968 and Haywood was studying painting and graphic arts at Ravensbourne College of Art in Bromley, Kent, while renting a big house in nearby Beckenham with six friends.

Bowie was a frequent visitor to the house where he and Haywood’’s musically inclined housemates would play folk music together.

Bowie was a local boy who, although born in Brixton, had moved to nearby Bromley when young and was educated at Bromley Technical School along with his friend, Peter Frampton, later to make his own mark on the pop charts.

Haywood recalls: “Although we and Bowie played together our musical preferences were slightly different.

“His stuff was very soft and folksy –– it was the time of people like Donovan – while we preferred hard-edged acid folk.”

“Bowie had already released a novelty single called the Laughing Gnome in 1967, which was anything but a folk song.

“It was derided by some at the time but became a hit after he shot to fame with his hit album Space Oddity in 1969 and his reincarnation as Ziggy Stardust three years after that. He had an amazing capacity for re-inventing himself, going all the way from soft folk to Ziggy Stardust.””

A side effect of that shared household was that hard-edged acid folk really took off for several of Haywood’’s housemates who later formed a band called Comus, which although members changed over the years, is a progressive folk band now described as the Holy Grail of acid rock. Like Haywood they gravitated to Norfolk, still exist, and are scheduled to perform at the Norwich Arts Centre in April.

Haywood continues: “Bowie was very hungry for success. He was far more driven than the rest of us who mainly regarded our music as more of a hobby activity. For example, he’’d often go up to Abbey Road looking for session work.””

After some months Haywood moved even closer to Bowie when four of them – Haywood and his first wife Rose, and Bowie and Mary Finnigan - shared a house together in Beckenham. It was very much a commune-based era,” remembers Haywood.

For Haywood his art college days around Beckenham and Bromley were an exciting time musically, but the late 1960s was not a time of great monetary success for Bowie.

“The last time I saw him when I left college he was driving an old Fiat 500, so he was still near the bottom of the ladder,” said Haywood.”

Now, Haywood is more removed from the music scene though he can choose from one of ten electric and acoustic guitars he still owns when he plays the occasional local gig.

But his arts’ training helps him in his Burnham Market business, The Classic Shed Company, where he designs as well as makes mainly garden furniture.

But life for Haywood might have been very different: “If only I’’d sat down with David at the time and suggested I became his manager,”” he said with a wry smile.

 

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