Longtime David Bowie pianist Mike Garson recently gathered several former Bowie collaborators for a tour to celebrate the legendary British singer’s music. He has dubbed the tour “Celebrating David Bowie.” He and his band mates, including guitarist Earl Slick and bassist Carmine Rojas, among others, are currently on the U.S. leg of the tour. Ahead of a South Florida performance, we had a chance to catch up with Garson in Minneapolis via phone, as he took a day of rest between shows.
“I have hundreds of stories,” he teased, though many can be read in this series of posts on our site.
One thing we asked him about is how Bowie came to the spontaneous decision to perform what will now always be his longest live show of his career in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the same city where Garson and the band will play on (From the Archives: David Bowie’s longest ever performance happened in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, 1997).
“David never wanted to hang in a comfort zone,” says Garson. “He was always pushing his own and everyone’s. It sort of started as joke. I don’t know, one of us said, ‘Let’s do everything we know.” He pauses to laugh, “and he took him seriously.”
We were at that show, and briefly met the legendary singer, as he spontaneously also decided to meet fans who arrived early for a meet and greet, after the band stepped off the tour bus ahead of a soundcheck. Bowie was certainly in a great mood that day, and he cracked jokes about the length of the show toward the end of the night.
Garson didn’t see it as exceptional. He said Bowie had found a very happy place after his marriage to supermodel Iman. “Once he married Iman and had a daughter he was a happy guy,” says Garson.
They wed in 1992. Only three years after the wedding Bowie was co-headlining a tour with Nine Inch Nails. Bowie and his band, which included Garson, were supporting the singer’s album 1. Outside. Meanwhile, Nine Inch Nails were at their pinnacle, in support of The Downward Spiral.
“One day, Trent came over to me, and Trent at that part of his life was in a darker phase,” Garson recalls, “and he says, ‘David is just too happy for me. I like that other period in the ’70s.’ I remember thinking, well, the time will come when you’ll be happier too, and he is now. He’s married and he’s got kids. I went to his 50th birthday party last year, a surprise party. David loved Trent and told me to be aware of him and work with him, which I did.”
During this era of collaboration between Reznor and Bowie, the pair did interviews together or on their own, promoting their admiration for each other’s work. Somewhere I either read or heard Reznor first heard Bowie’s Scary Monsters album while growing up in Ohio. He said he got it in the mail as party of the penny album club, and was surprised to find it frightened him.
The pianist counters with a story about Bowie’s son from a previous marriage to Angie Bowie, filmmaker Duncan Jones. He says, Jones told him he remembers, when he was a child, hearing “Aladdin Sane,” a track that could be Garson’s most famous moment with its winding, angular piano solo. “Duncan, who’s David’s son, told me in the mid-90s, when he grew up, and he heard ‘Aladdin Sane,’ he had nightmares every night,” he says.
You can read much more of my conversation with Garson in the Miami New Times:
Celebrating David Bowie happens at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, March 14, at Parker Playhouse, 707 NE Eighth St., Fort Lauderdale; 954-462-0222; parkerplayhouse.com. Tickets range from $33 to $158 for VIP packages via ticketmaster.com.