It was wonderful to see the indefatigable David Stopps being interviewed on BBC News today publicising his campaign for a statue of David Bowie under the arches in Aylesbury Market Square. The BBC were in Aylesbury today interviewing sculptor Andrew Sinclair and Friars promoter David Stopps for a piece on the Bowie statue developments. Watch this space for news of the crowdfunding campaign which will hopefully be launched in October and which we’ll be supporting on the Skibbereen Eagle. Bowie was here in Aylesbury before he hit the big time and chose to launch both his Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust albums here which are moments in Pop history we should be proud of. It was here that the world first saw his incarnation of Ziggy.
David Stopps as promoter of the Friars Club booked Bowie and many others for Aylesbury’s famous Friar’s Club. Much Pop history was made in Aylesbury from local band Marillion’s Market Square Heroes to Peter Gabriel of Genesis breaking his ankle when he leapt off the Friars Aylesbury stage in 1971. he still has two pins in his ankle that were put in at the Royal Bucks hospital. In an article he says “I got the best two screws of my life at Friars Aylesbury”.
David Bowie was remembered last January when he died in Aylesbury’s famous Market Square. Bowie was important to Aylesbury and Aylesbury was important to Bowie. The first song on the Ziggy album, Five Years, references Aylesbury: “Pushing through the Market Square/ So many mothers sighing/ News had just come over/ We had five years left to cry in.”
Aylesbury has a lively music scene spawning groups such as Marillion, who also referenced the Market Square in “Market Square Heroes” and musician John Otway. But Aylesbury’s most famous contribution to Pop music was through the iconic Friars Club, often described as the “Music Club which rocked the world.” Ask anyone what Aylesbury is famous for and they will probably say: “Ducks and Friars.” Originally founded in 1969, and still going strong today, Friars became famous for its great atmosphere, iconic bands and infectiously enthusiastic audience. Friars is universally acknowledged as having played a role in the careers of David Bowie, Genesis, Mott The Hoople, The Jam, The Clash, The Ramones, Tom Petty, Split Enz, Kraftwerk, Fleetwood Mac, Dennis Brown, Gregory Isaacs, Blondie, Talking Heads, The Buzzcocks and many more …
There is a huge connection between Bowie and Aylesbury. He debuted two of his most iconic albums here. Some say Ziggy Stardust is the most important album of the 20th century. The iconic Friars Music Club where many legendary musicians cut their teeth and honed their acts in the 70’s and 80’s. When Bowie died there was a celebration under the arches organised by David Stopps and others with great music, video projections, a small exhibition of Friars memorabilia and the opportunity to sign a book of condolence, and the petition in support of a statue of David Bowie to be erected in the Market Square.
— #inAylesbury (@InAylesburyTown) January 16, 2016
David Stopps commented “Someone once said to me that Aylesbury is famous for three things – ducks, the Great Train Robbery and Friars Aylesbury. We should celebrate this.” Bowie played Friars Aylesbury four times – three gigs at the Borough Assembly Hall in the early 70s and one at the Civic Centre in 1977. Neither venue now exists. The Borough Assembly Hall was located behind the Green Man in Market Square and Mr Stopps said its stage would have been where Next is in Hale Leys.
In 2014 Bowie sent David Stopps a text message to mark the launch of the Friars exhibition. It read: ‘Memories are everything apparently, and I have only great ones of the fabulous Friars. have a wonderful night”
Bowie made his world debut of Hunky Dory at Friars Aylesbury on 25th September 1971 and formed what were to become The Spiders from Mars in the Friars dressing room that night. Three months later on 29th January 1972 he chose Friars Aylesbury to perform the jaw-dropping world debut of ‘The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars’. In July 1972 he came back again with the fully developed Ziggy persona and played arguably the best Friars gig of its 47 year history. 50 US journalists were flown in to witness the event.
RCA records paid $25,000 to fly the “cream” of America’s rock press over to see the label’s up-and-coming star David Bowie perform at the Friars Club, Market Square, Aylesbury, England, in July 1972. The record company hoped the scribes from Rolling Stone, CREEM, New York Times, Andy Warhol’s Interview, and the New Yorker, would be sufficiently impressed to spread the word about Bowie back home. It certainly worked as Bowie, along with his Ziggy line-up of Mick Ronson (guitar), Trevor Bolder (bass) and Woody Woodmansey (drums), delivered a blistering set, which been a source of mythical tales and innumerable bootlegs ever since.
Also in the crowd that fateful night were Freddie Mercury and Roger Taylor of Queen, who were just starting off on their career. Taylor later recalled the gig for MOJO magazine in 1999:
“…Freddie and I saw the first Ziggy gig at Friar’s Aylesbury. We drove down in my Mini. We loved it. I’d seen him there about three weeks before in the long hair and the dress. Suddenly you saw this spiky head coming on stage. You thought, wha-a-at??? They looked like spacemen.”
The band’s appearance was not just a shock to the audience as Bowie later explained:
Woody Woodmansey was saying, “I’m not bloody wearing that!” [Laughs] There were certainly comments, a lot of nerves. Not about the music – I think the guys knew that we rocked. But they were worried about the look. That’s what I remember: how uncomfortable they felt in their stage clothes. But when they realized what it did for the birds… The girls were going crazy for them, because they looked like nobody else. So within a couple of days it was, “I’m going to wear the red ones tonight.”
David Stopps is leading the campaign to have David Bowie and his connection with Aylesbury commemorated by a statue in Market Square. “There is already the example of the Ronnie Barker statue outside the Waterside Theatre but he had very little connection with Aylesbury. He started his career in Aylesbury –ironically at the Borough Assembly Hall too. But he had no special connection – and Bowie absolutely did.” Mr Stopps said the statue should reflect his Ziggy Stardust phase.
His campaign for a statue has been backed by the Aylesbury Society’s honorary secretary Roger King, while the Bucks Herald’s Back in Time columnist Karl Vaughan said: “I feel more strongly than ever that a permanent piece of artwork should be put up somewhere near the site of the Borough Assembly Hall or Civic Centre in memory of not just David Bowie but all the acts who made Friars the place to be. This must happen.”
Let’s hope that Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars land in Aylesbury’s Market Square soon.
Five Years – “Pushing through the Market Square …..