When I was asked to perform David Bowie's The Man Who Sold The World live it was 16 May - my birthday - and little did I know I was about to get the best birthday present ever! I was walking back from picking my boy Louie up from school; he was running around shouting loudly with his friend James, Consequently I didn't hear entirely correctly what was being asked of me.
I thought there was going to be a one off concert in London and Tony Visconti wanted me to sing one song, the title song from the fantastic album The Man Who Sold The World. "I've always loved that song" I replied, "I'd love to sing it, which other singers are doing the other songs"?
No one else, said Tom (Tom Wilcox who was putting the whole show together) "Tony and Woody want you to sing the whole album live, and if you're up for it a few more songs for the second half of the show".
"Really", are you sure I replied, "I can't be David Bowie"!
I'd met Tony Visconti six months or so earlier, he had produced an album called International Blue which I had co-written and sung four songs on. A beautiful sounding album, it had been an amazing experience to finally meet and work with a long time hero Tony Visconti. What I didn't know was at the same time Tony was in discussion with Woody Woodmansey to play The Man Who Sold The World album Live for the very first time.
I suppose the fact that Tony was mixing my voice during these negotiations might be the reason that he came up with the idea that I might be able to stand on the stage and somehow be able to perform these songs!
I'm incredibly honoured to think that Mr Visconti should have thought such a thing but after agreeing to do it as I put down the phone I felt 40% excitement and 60% abject Terror... I can't be David Bowie.
So it was really happening, I was now deep into learning 24 David Bowie songs, did I mention that fact that the few extra songs for the second half of the show happened to be more than were in the first half of the show!
Anyway I'm not the best at remembering lyrics, just ask any Heaven 17 fan, some even bring lyric sheets to the concert and hold them up! (Cheeky Buggers) But, I was determined to learn all these songs completely; if I was to be able to do these songs any justice at all I needed to know them inside out.
For the next three months I listened to nothing else at all, no other music, no radio, no TV, no audio books, nothing but the Bowie songs I had to learn. By the way if I'd have suddenly fallen ill at this time both my wife and 12-year-old son were fully conversant with all the songs and could have stepped up at a moments notice! Our whole household was on full Bowie alert.
My fear melted away as rehearsals started, the band were amazing, it sounded incredible, shit, it even sounded like the record! I loved it. I sang my little heart out, for four days, eight hours a day I sang my little heart out! End of rehearsals, first gig at the Garage in London the next day and I could hardly speak! Perhaps I should have maybe tried not singing full on for so long, but it was all so bloody exciting!
The first gig came and it was brilliantly chaotic, there were so many people squashed into the venue and it was so hot that some were fainting and had to be carried out, how old school is that?
In fact at some points during the gig, there were almost as many people on stage as there were in the audience, there were more special guests than a Royal Variety Performance. I could barely find enough room to throw a Bowie shape (probably for the best that). It was though, a fantastic success, one of those "I was there" moments. It was probably a little raw, it was maybe a little by the seat of the pants and I'm pretty sure it was illegally loud but we had done it, we had performed the album, The Man Who Sold The World in it's entirety live for the very first time.
The after show party was a blur, I think I had a couple of drinks then melted away and got a cab home, I had three more gigs to do and I was having such fun but I couldn't go party animal mad just yet... but soon!
We had an absolutely fantastic time for the remaining gigs, the band got tighter, the sound got better and better and we finished with a totally memorable sold out night at The Shepherds Bush Empire, walking out on that stage that night I really felt the power of that amazing album, it had been an important part of my musical awakening and upbringing and I felt honoured to now be a small part of it's history. I might add at the after show my wheels finally did come off!
A perfect rock n roll end, to a perfect rock n roll experience.
So that was six months or so ago and I'm sat here now writing this with a new The Man Who Sold The World tour only six weeks away. More dates, more fun, same player shoots again... I couldn't believe I had been asked to do this gig in the first place, I couldn't believe how much it sounded like the original album, I could not believe how much fun it was and I can't believe I get to do it all again and this time we even get to go to Japan...
I'm certainly not David Bowie but I'm having a fantastic time singing his songs.
Tony Visconti & Woody Woodmansey's The Man Who Sold The World is released by Maniac Squat Records on 1 June.
Friday12th Isle of Wight Festival
Sat 13th Oxford, O2 Academy
Sun 14th Bournemouth, O2 Academy
Mon 15th Bristol, O2 Academy
Wed 17th Norwich, Arts Centre
Thurs 18th Liverpool, O2 Academy
Sun 21st Leeds, O2 Academy
Mon 22nd Hull, The Welly
Wed 24th Dublin, Olympia
Thurs 25th Glasgow, O2 ABC
Fri 26th Newcastle, O2 Academy
Sun 28th Colchester, Arts Centre
Mon 29th Birmingham, O2 Academy
Tues 30th London, O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire