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‘David was terrified’: the inside story of how Bowie met John Lennon

A new BBC interview with producer Tony Visconti retells the awkward encounter that led to the creation of David Bowie and John Lennon’s US No 1 Fame

John Lennon and David Bowie at the 1975 Grammy awards.

David Bowie and John Lennon first met in scenes more reminiscent of an awkward children’s playdate than a summit of two of rock’s greatest ever stars, according to a new interview with music producer Tony Visconti.

Speaking on the programme Bowie: Dancing Out in Space, airing on BBC Radio 4 and 6Music on 10 January to mark five years since Bowie’s death, Visconti, who produced 11 of Bowie’s studio albums, tells the story of how the pair met in a New York hotel room, ahead of their collaborations on Bowie’s 1975 song Fame and his cover of the Lennon-penned Beatles song Across the Universe.

“He was terrified of meeting John Lennon,” says Visconti, who was asked by Bowie to accompany him and “buffer the situation”. He added:

About one in the morning I knocked on the door and for about the next two hours, John Lennon and David weren’t speaking to each other. Instead, David was sitting on the floor with an art pad and a charcoal and he was sketching things and he was completely ignoring Lennon. So, after about two hours of that, he [John] finally said to David, ‘Rip that pad in half and give me a few sheets. I want to draw you.’ So David said, ‘Oh, that’s a good idea’, and he finally opened up. So John started making caricatures of David, and David started doing the same of John and they kept swapping them and then they started laughing and that broke the ice.

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