Woodmansey, born in 1951, came from the Yorkshire village Driffield, with its one main street of shops. Although he lived in such a small place, Woody says he was always interested in the outside world. There was an American air force personnel base at Driffield and he had a couple of American friends.

He was good at school and passed the 11-plus exam in 1961 to go to grammar school but, highly irregularly, was sent to a secondary modern school because he had been losing interest in education and was goofing around.

He was standing on the edge of a farm machinery repair depot in 1964 when he heard raw music coming from an old windowless building on a bit of wasteland. It was five local lads who called themselves the Roadrunners, rehearsing. He started watching them practice regularly, and the impact of their music, long hair, bell-bottom jeans and cool confidence mesmerised him. Already a fan of the pop and rock music that was sweeping Britain on radio and television, this was the up-close epiphany that made him decide to join in.

He bought a terrible cheap drum kit from a Salvation Army shop and started learning, discovering a natural talent, then started to play in a couple of local bands. In 1966, his downward academic slope led to his being forced out of school. As he departed, he told his headmaster that he was going to be a pop star and appear on “Top of the Pops” on TV, a weekly must-see for any generation-gap adolescent. The head replied: “You’re a moron, Woodmansey – and you always will be. Get out.”

Come 1970, the phone rang. “Is that Woody?” said a voice. “I’m David Bowie.” Bowie, who had been struggling for years in unsuccessful pop groups, needed a drummer and wanted him to move from Yorkshire to London. Mick Ronson, another Yorkshireman and a former bandmate of Woodmansey’s, had recommended him. The problem was, Woody had just been offered a job as second-in-command to the foreman at Vertex, a spectacles factory in Hull. It was a golden opportunity for a 20-year-old.

Bowie was keen for an answer. So was the factory. It was a Saturday, so Woody said he’d call Bowie back on Monday. At that time it wasn’t a particularly good offer – in early 1970 Bowie seemed like a one-hit wonder. His “Space Oddity” had made the top five singles chart in the UK in 1969 but the follow-up, “The Prettiest Star”, stiffed.

Woodmansey says his friends wouldn’t have known who Bowie was, but Ronson was like a brother and if he thought Bowie had potential, that was important. Woody called Bowie on Sunday morning and said “I’m in”. His parents went crazy. Mum burst into tears and Dad shouted: “Are you bloody mad? You’ve just been offered a foreman’s job at Vertex!”

A week later, Bowie opened the door to him at Haddon Hall, a large Victorian house that Bowie rented in Beckenham, south London. The singer had light-brown curly shoulder-length hair and was wearing a rainbow T-shirt, a necklace, bangles, tight red corduroy trousers with a sparkly belt and blue slip-on shoes with red stars that he’d sprayed on.
Woody kept the beat for Bowie during his meteoric rise to stardom in the early 1970s, playing on four seminal studio albums – “The Man Who Sold The World”, “Hunky Dory”, “The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars” and “Aladdin Sane” – and two live albums. Bowie and the Spiders played about 200 concerts and conquered Britain, the US and Japan in a tumultuous three and a half years of Ziggymania, going from playing to 40 punters at the Three Tuns pub in Beckenham to sending thousands of fans into a frenzy.

With Trevor Bolder added to Ronson and Woodmansey, the arty Bowie had three no-nonsense Northern boys in his band, and it was difficult for them at first to adapt to the outrageous and rather feminine stage clothes that Bowie wanted them to wear. It was decided that Bolder would look best in blue, Ronson should wear gold . . . and that only left one colour.

“I’m not too sure about pink,” Woodmansey said, warily. “I know what you mean,” Bowie replied, thoughtfully, “but it takes a real man to wear pink and pull it off.” Woody gave in.



Bowie also introduced them to make-up for the live shows, which the Spiders were again unsure about until they found out the seductive effect it had on the girl fans, after which they had no problem with it. In fact, it quickly reached ridiculous levels: “Who’s nicked my fucking mascara?” Ronson demanded as they prepared for a show one night. “Don’t look at me,’ Bowie yawned. “I haven’t got it,” Woody said. Ronson stomped off, in his gold outfit and lady’s shoes, to accuse Bolder.

Spider From Mars: My Life With Bowie” is full of anecdotes to satisfy Bowie fans. The Bowie book industry has hit overdrive since his death but Woodmansey is a genuine insider. He recounts how Angie Bowie introduced herself to him: “Hi, I’m Angie Bowie. I’m David’s wife, and I’m a lesbian.” There was the time Bowie took the band to see the “Nutcracker” ballet so that they could experience how lighting could enhance a live performance. Likewise, they all went shopping to Liberty in London to select fabrics to create some of the costumes that were so much a part of the band.

The arrangements of songs, the naming of albums, the lyrics, the mime, the hairstyles and makeup are all covered in fascinating detail for a first-hand account of life with Bowie. It was mind-blowing while it lasted, until July 3, 1973 when Bowie shocked the audience – and the Spiders – at the end of a concert in Hammersmith Odeon, London, with the unexpected announcement that “not only is it the last show of the tour, it’s the last show we’ll ever do”.

Four days later, on July 7, Woodmansey got married. Ronson was supposed to be best man and Bowie had said he would come too but they didn’t show up. About an hour and a half after the ceremony, Woody got a phone call from Bowie’s manager telling him he was out of the band, referring to an incident six months earlier when Woody had refused to do the remaining dates of Bowie’s second US tour unless the Spiders got a pay rise.

The three Spiders had discovered that the extra musicians were actually earning more, and there was a nasty confrontation. Bowie, whom Woodmansey would later learn was strung out on cocaine throughout the tour, had said: “You’re just a fucking backing band. I could have made it with anybody.” But they got the extra money and seemingly carried on as before.

But now, for Woodmansey, the great adventure was over. Put on “The Man Who Sold The World” or “Hunky Dory” or “The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars” or “Aladdin Sane”, or all of them, and start reading – the hours will fly by.

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