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Last Updated: Monday, 8 January 2007, 08:27 GMT
Sixty things about David Bowie

By Jody Thompson
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

To mark the 60th birthday of David Bowie, here are 60 facts about the iconic singer, actor and artist.


David Bowie
Boys Keep Swinging: Bowie's career spans five decades
1. David Bowie was born David Robert Jones in Brixton, London, on 8 Jan 1947. He shares the same birthday as Elvis.

2. Bowie's family moved to Bromley when he was six years old.

3. He went to Bromley Technical High School, now called Ravenswood School.

4. Rock guitarist Peter Frampton was Bowie's friend at school - his dad was head of the art department. He's gone on to play guitar with Bowie many times during his career.

5. His right pupil is permanently dilated - due to his friend George Underwood punching him in the eye while the pair were still at school. The fight was over a girl.

6. Underwood and Bowie remained good friends with Underwood doing artwork for some of Bowie's earlier albums.

7. He started playing the saxophone when he was 12 years old.


Bowie with his Rolls Royce during the Ziggy Stardust era
8. His first ever release was Liza Jane / Louie Louie Go Home in June 1964, under the name of Davie Jones with The King-Bees.

9. He later changed his name to Bowie to avoid confusion with Monkee Davy Jones.

10. Bowie is pronounced to rhyme with Joey.

11. At the age of 17, he was interviewed on a BBC programme as the founder of The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Long-haired Men. He complained: "It's not nice when people call you darling and that".

12. Around 1967, he wrote songs for actor Paul Nicholas of Just Good Friends fame, who was then recording under the name Oscar.

13. He released his debut album, the self-titled David Bowie, in 1967 after playing in a host of pub and club bands.

14. 1967 also saw the release of a single, The Laughing Gnome, which many fans argue is the worst song he has ever recorded.

15. When Bowie suggested that his fans should vote via phone which tracks he should play for his 1990 world tour, The Laughing Gnome was the most requested. He didn't play it.


Bowie in 1975
A gaunt Bowie in 1975
16. Bowie's first hit in the UK - 1969's Space Oddity - was used by the BBC in its coverage of the moon landing.

17. The fictional character of Major Tom has appeared in three Bowie hits - Space Oddity (1969), Ashes To Ashes (1980) and Hallo Spaceboy (1996).

18. Bowie's first US Number One was his single Fame in 1975. It was co-written by John Lennon and features the late former Beatle on backing vocals.

19. Model Twiggy features on the cover with him for his 1973 album Pin Ups.

20. Around the time of Bowie's 1975 Young Americans album, Chic founder Nile Rodgers auditioned to play guitar in Bowie's band. He didn't get the part.

21. But Rodgers later produced the biggest-selling album of Bowie's career, 1983's Let's Dance.

22. Bowie is believed to have sold in the region of 140 million albums over his career.

23. He was voted Number Four in the recent BBC Culture Show public vote to discover Britain's Greatest Living Icons. Above him were Sir David Attenborough at Number One, Morrissey (2) and Sir Paul McCartney (3).


Bowie wowed Glastonbury in 2000
24. Bowie was hit in the eye by a lollipop while on stage in Oslo, Norway in 2004.

25. Toni Basil of Oh Mickey fame worked as Bowie's choreographer on his Diamond Dogs tour in 1974. She later worked on his Glass Spider tour of 1987.

26. In 1970, when Bowie briefly formed The Hype, everyone in the band dressed up as super heroes. They were booed off everywhere they played.

27. Director Nicolas Roeg cast Bowie in his first leading role, as a stranded alien in The Man Who Fell to Earth, in 1976.

28. He is to be the voice of a character in an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants this year.

29. In the 1986 Jim Henson movie Labyrinth, Bowie plays Jareth The Goblin King.

Zoe Wannamaker and David Bowie
Bowie and Zoe Wannamaker in a BBC production of Brecht's Baal
30. He has most recently appeared in The Prestige, alongside Hugh Jackman and Scarlet Johansson.

31. In 1969, Bowie formed his own mime troupe, Feathers, as well as an experimental art ensemble.

32. Bowie appeared as Pontius Pilate in Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ.

33. Among his oddest film roles are: The Shark in Yellowbeard and a sinister FBI agent called Philip Jeffries in David Lynch's Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.


Iman and Bowie
Bowie's wedding inspired songs on the Black Tie White Noise album
34. David is 5 feet and 10 inches (178cm) tall, according to most sources.

35. Bowie declined the CBE in 2000 and a knighthood in 2003.

36. Bowie married Somalian supermodel Iman in 1992. They have a daughter Alexandria Zahra Jones, born in 2000.

37. Iman has a Bowie knife tattooed on her ankle in tribute to her husband.

38. Bowie's schizophrenic half-brother Terry killed himself in 1985.

39. Nine years older than David, Terry was the inspiration for songs including Aladdin Sane, All The Madmen, The Bewlay Brothers and Jump They Say.

40. In 2004, Bowie underwent emergency heart surgery in Germany to treat a blocked artery.


David Bowie
Bowie has released 26 studio albums
41. Bowie co-produced some of the best tracks on Lou Reed's legendary album Transformer.

42. His hit Ziggy Stardust is about Vince Taylor, who wrote Brand New Cadillac - later covered by The Clash.

43. David recorded a version of Space Oddity in Italian titled Ragazzo Solo, Ragazza Solo - which literally means Lonely Boy, Lonely Girl.

44. The Lodger album's Move On track is a backwards rewrite of his All The Young Dudes.

Bowie in the BBC's Perfect Day video in 1998
45. He has been in 10 bands - The Konrads, The Hooker Brothers, The King Bees, The Manish Boys, The Lower Third, The Buzz, The Riot Squad, The Hype, Tin Machine and Tao Jones Index. (Some of these have performed under other names).

46. Bowie's song The Man Who Sold The World has been covered by Lulu and Nirvana.

47. Bing Crosby recorded his last ever single with David Bowie. Their duet version of The Little Drummer Boy was recorded for Christmas 1977. It was a hit five years later.

48. Bowie wrote the soundtrack for the 1993 dramatisation of Hanish Kureishi's novel Buddha Of Suburbia.

49. Bowie plays sax on To Know Him Is To Love Him from Steeleye Span's Now We Are Six album.

50. He plays just about every instrument on Diamond Dogs - including the famous guitar riff on Rebel Rebel.


David Bowie
Bowie has had three UK number one singles
51. He was the final guest on Marc Bolan's ITV music show, Marc, in 1977. Bolan was killed in a car crash in south west London shortly afterwards.

52. Steve Strange, recently of BBC's Celebrity Scissorhands, was in the video for Bowie's 1980 Number One hit Ashes To Ashes.

53. Bowie's favourite current bands include Arcade Fire and TV On The Radio.

54. Mary Hopkin of Those Were The Days fame sings the "doo doo doo" backing vocals on Sound And Vision.

55. Almost a decade before The Cocteau Twins popularised the approach, Bowie sang in a completely self-invented language on the 1976 Low album track, Subterraneans.

56. His image appears on every single one of his album covers - except the UK release of The Buddha Of Suburbia.

57. He is mentioned in Kraftwerk's song Trans Europe Express ("Meet Iggy Pop and David Bowie - TRANS EUROPE EXPRESS!") and Backside by the Strawbs ("The boy stood on the burning deck, his back against the mast. He did not dare to turn around till David Bowie passed").

58. In 1997 David Bowie broke new ground, yet again, with the internet-only release of his single Telling Lies. A year later, he launched his own internet service provider, Bowienet.

59. Bowie draws, paints, sculpts and writes in his spare time. His favourite artists are Tintoretto, John Bellany, Erich Heckel, Picasso and Michael Ray Charles.

60. David got just one O Level, in art.

In pictures: Bowie's golden years
04 Feb 04 |  In Pictures


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