"..there's 12 notes, most people either go up or go down; in my case, sideways!"
Some records that stay in history are born out of many things. Naturally, there is the artist's fundamental input, first and foremost; then, almost due to, perhaps, astral alignments, more talented elements get added to the aforementioned alignments, at the right place and at the right time.
The late great David Bowie has always been, throughout his career, extremely good and wise on cherry-picking the right musicians for each of his records, just like it happened in 1973 for one of Bowie’s most loved and celebrated masterpieces, the jewel that is Aladdin Sane.
For an album that the worldwide press nicknamed "Ziggy Goes To America", Bowie was ready to take over the United States, on the back of the global success obtained by the Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars album, but wishing to add to Aladdin Sane an extra element of Avant Garde, to his tried-and-true Rock'N'Roll formula that established Bowie as one of the biggest music stars of the early 70's, back then.
And who better to fulfil the role of Avant Garde Supremo than the American pianist and composer Mike Garson, someone that, in the early 70's, had already gained a very solid reputation as improvisational Jazz artist, although not yet to the stature that Garson would have then achieved in the following years.
Garson, now universally recognised as one of the most talented and versatile pianists worldwide, provided to Bowie's Aladdin Sane just what the British singer/songwriter needed, adding to the album some key musical moments that heavily contributed to make the commercial fortune of the record, in a body of work that celebrates its half a century anniversary this year.
Bluebird Reviews had the privilege to discuss the making of Aladdin Sane and Garson's most vivid memories of working with Bowie, the Spider From Mars and the record's producer, Ken Scott, with the American Piano Supremo, in an exclusive interview where the pianist and composer speaks openly and warmly, among other things, about the impact that Aladdin Sane made on him as an artist and a human being and why the record is still, to these days, still very much loved by millions of people around the world.
BR - Thank you for talking to us, Mike, about the 50th Anniversary of Aladdin Sane. The time is late 1972 and while you are giving piano lessons at home, you received a phone call that changed your life forever from Tony DeFries, asking you to be in half an hour at the RCA Studios in Manhattan. When you got there, Spiders From Mars' guitarist Mick Ronson greets you, while Bowie and the rest of the Spiders are hiding, behind the glass, watching you playing, unbeknown to you. After you played just few bars of a song called Changes, Ronson stopped you abruptly, telling you that you got the gig and from that moment on, the rest is history, so much so that 50 years along the line, we are still here celebrating the greatness of Aladdin Sane. Have you got any immediate recollection of meeting David Bowie fpr the very first time and the impression you got of him?
MG - He looked like someone from outer space, in a way. Certainly very different from someone like me, in a midweek day, just wearing jeans and a t-shirt, while the whole band, including David, they were all looking like they were going to play at the Madison Square Garden, right in that moment. I remember his gorgeous red hair, the make-up and boots and he looked absolutely exquisite and so did the whole band. I thought "This is another world for someone coming from the Jazz world like me, I'm interested in seeing what it feels like". Everything you said before was exactly right, but I was only hired, initially, for 8 weeks only and just when I started to enjoy it, I made the decision of extending that period, with David's approval, for 2 years. So, 2 years to the date, I was done with him from then and then we didn't get together until 18 years later, when I made another decision, like "I want to go back with this guy". I felt I made the wrong decision, after those two years. Maybe it was due to the fact that I thought that, at that time, 2 years were a tremendous amount of time and I would have said my piece. But he did so much great work after we parted company, thinking that I would have loved to be on records like Station To Station, Low, Scary Monsters, Heroes... and I know what I would have played on those albums, in the same way I knew what I would have played on Blackstar, but David is David and things unfold the way they unfold. He never questioned himself for who he hired, when and where and I would always have to guess that he always made the right move, as a Casting Director. Because every musician he ever had worked with, at the time, whether it was Donny McCaslin or Gail (Ann Dorsey), Sterling (Campbell), Earl Slick or Ronson, Woody (Woodmansey) or Trevor (Boulder), David always had an instinct, about hiring the right people. The fact that I landed, after eight weeks, on 600 concerts and working, years after, on 20 albums, it was something that I would have never thought it was gonna happen. I had even more shows than, say, Carlos (Alomar), who was a tremendous impact, musically speaking, on David, so much so that, in fact, he wrote a hit like Fame with David and Lennon. I didn't have that kind of luck but, hey, I had Aladdin Sane, an album that history has proven stayed with people and still does. With history, occasionally, it takes some time for some to realize the cream of the body of work of someone like David, with 30-something albums on his belt and to me, there is in my mind no question at all that songs like Aladdin Sane, Lady Grinning Soul and Time, for example, are pieces of music that will stay forever in history, on David's Aladdin Sane. Of course, there also other great fun pieces, on the record, like Watch That Man or others but those three I mentioned before, for me, that's real art and so is, in my eyes, a piece like The Motel (from the 1. Outside album) 25 years later, as I feel a song like I'm Deranged is or Bring Me The Disco King, from the Reality album. I could probably find 10 other songs that are very special but, at that time in 1973, I gave the best of me that I could possibly give. What's always omitted, I feel, it is that neither Bowie nor the Spiders or DeFries made me who I am, as a musician. They gave me an opportunity of a lifetime, sure, especially David, but if I hadn't done the prior 20 years of gruelling practising of every style in the world, I would have not lasted through those first five bands, from '72 to '74. David kept changing bands but I was the only one who stayed, on Diamond Dogs, Pinups and Young Americans. Every time, there was a whole different band and I still was there. Not because we were friends, which we were, by the way, but because I had the ability to morph and change like him, because we had the same mindset, in terms of not resting on our laurels, not being complacent and loving all different genres, like Classical, Jazz, Pop, Rock, whatever it was that felt right, at the time. Back then and being young and a little naive, I thought of us as two of the most different people that there could possibly be around, from lifestyles to any other aspect of life. I was a classical Jazz musician, he was a Rock guy, but, as a matter of fact, our creative process was closer than anyone he worked with, I feel.
BR - Mike, we recently discovered that, apparently, Aladdin Sane was initially supposed to be produced by Phil Spector, rather than Ken Scott, before eventually Spector turned down the offer. How was your overall working relationship with Scott, throughout the making of the album?
MG - Frankly, I owe him my life. I mean, the guy mixed and produced that album with David incredibly well, the way the piano sounds, on the album, it is frighteningly phenomenal. He most certainly is my favourite producer! (smiles) He's such a big part of the album; the way he mixed that out and how he compressed it, where he placed the microphones.. You know, people like Ken, engineers and producers, they're unsung heroes and thank God it wasn't Phil Spector there. He's a f****ng insane person who kills people, you know, why would I want him? For Aladdin Sane, I really feel that the universe brought it together, in many magical ways. The other genius of the album, I felt, it was Mick Ronson, for just throwing me the chords, playing a little acoustic guitar here and there, asking me to try this and that, giving very simple but effective directions. Those three songs I mentioned before, Time, Lady Grinning Soul and the album's title-track, they were all one take, to my recollection, or maybe two. To better describe the album in its entirety, I feel that "Zeitgeist" would be the right word, because, as much as I could take credit for my fingers, my playing, my virtuoso abilities and my harmonic and melodic knowledge, my avant-garde knowledge, classical knowledge, well, none of that means anything, because I've done that 10,000 times before with people on hundreds of records and concerts, without getting the right accolades or recognition. This very important album of Bowie's musical history, for me, it feels like a series of infinite factors that brought the whole album together; Trident Studios, the Bechstein piano, Ken Scott, Mick Ronson, Woody, Trevor, Bowie, 1972 and what he was doing, the avant-garde aspect of the album that I brought to it.. Did you know that, on the album David Live, the solo on Aladdin Sane has got even more notes than the original in studio and nobody has ever mentioned it in 50 years, so, in that instance, it's the same pianist but perhaps just not as inspired? (smiles) Well, the difference was that, on the album, that song was just magical, while the others, it was just great piano playing. Nobody can really explain why magical things happen, at a certain point in history and stay there for a lifetime and beyond. When I was called5 0 years ago at that audition, I couldn't possibly imagine or consciously understand what was happening or what I was creating. To me, it was just another recording date where, you know, I made a few bucks. I think I had a good solo but, ultimately, the winning factor of the record it's the collective effort that David's creativity instigated, plus the brilliancy of Ronno, the Spiders, Ken Scott, myself and anybody who was involved on the album. I might have mentioned this before, in other interviews, but I can never forget running, one day, into a girl in London who said she was about to commit suicide in a very tough stage of her life. Then, according to her, when she heard my piano playing on Aladdin Sane, she fortunately changed her mind.. I mean, that's ridiculous, if I knew something like that had happened, because of my piano playing and at 20 years of age, I don't think I could have handled that kind of pressure. I'm an entertainer, I'm an artist, I'm only making music for the community. But that's the power, I guess, when music has a clean intention, to be just great with the intention of bringing joy, you know.
BR - The recording of Aladdin Sane, as an album, was very fast. Being you "The new guy" in the band, how much room for musical freedom was granted to you by Bowie himself, also given the direction of the album and the fact that you were coming from a more avant-garde musical world?
MG - Probably 90% of what I played was just improvised, with freedom beyond freedom. One of the reasons David was a genius, it was because he never micromanage anybody. He might give you an overall vision, but ultimately, he'll let you go with your own musical guts. That's why each artist or musician that he ever hired, he would never tell them what to play and how. Why would he hire Carlos and tell Carlos how to play, after he played with people like James Brown or why would he hire me, after I'd played with John Coltrane's drummer Elvin Jones? It's like, people like David recognise your gift and they want, through your skills, to put that whipped cream on the cake in their music. If they start micromanaging, which I've had many artists trying to do to me, both famous and unfamous, well, it's a rather unenjoyable moment for any musician. If the notes are coming to me and they're channelling from another space, let's say, God's universe and I've done my homework, so it flows through me and someone is jacking the f***k out of me, saying "do this, do that" it interferes, as my composer friend from Argentina once said, with the "cable company". When that cable line is connected, it's going through and someone's yakking at you and then I get pi**ed off and they think I'm an arrogant ar****le, when all I am just attempting it is to find the music, I'd most certainly have a go at him saying to shut the f**k up, otherwise he can go and hire a studio musician who can change at will or do anything he wants. I remember once Mick Ronson said to me "You'll get white toast", with people like that. It'll be absolutely fine, when somebody trusts me, because they will get 120% from me, if there's a purpose and a meaning connected with it. If they don't trust me and try to micro manage me, then you can rest assure that I actually go to minus 20%, in that case. I become not even a musician anymore, because all the energy, love and art, it all get sucked out of me. Believe you me, at 77, I think I must have turned down 100 shows, this year, because they had no meaning for me. But then, I might hear something that has a meaning and boom, I'm there.
BR - Mike, we remember The Jean Genie being the first track that was recorded from the album. In our recollection of the song, though, there wasn't any piano part at all, in that song. Do you remember to have taken any part at all, in the making of it and, in your opinion, might that song have been, say, a leftover from the previous Ziggy Stardust album?
MG - No, you are correct. I must have played that song 100 times live with David, but I never recorded that track indeed.. Yeah, good question. I mean, it's a great rock song. And it could have been a leftover, sure, but I couldn't possibly tell you that for sure. It was a hit and there's even a mistake in it by Trevor, the bass player, you know. That mistake became iconic and every band that I played with, over the last 5 years with the Alumni project, had to work really hard to recreate that mistake that Trevor made, funnily enough.
BR - Do you have any recollection if any of the songs you played on in Aladdin Sane did require more than a couple of takes to make the final cut on the album?
MG - For me, sure but I couldn't speak on behalf of The Spiders, about your question, because I wasn't in the studio all the time. One thing I can tell you, which you and BR's readers may find interesting, it is that David and The Spiders had these big, massive speakers, in the studios, sometimes mounted on the wall and when the band played, trust me, they really molested the music, because it was so incredibly loud! I mean, really loud, but in a wonderful way. But, man, every night the speakers would blow out, because of the loudness of the music (smiles) and the next night there would be new speakers. And when those blew out too, there would be some new and so forth, because the speakers, literally, couldn't handle the volume. That aspect just shows you the intensity of David and the band playing and how they were trying to create a certain feeling and emotion with the music. The making of David's Aladdin Sane, in a way, had a lot to do with our touring, on the Ziggy Tour. I'd be with him sometimes in the limousine, going from city to city and you could easily perceive his thinking, his hearing, his writing, the creativity of a genuine artist. He just was absorbing America, which, of course, to an Englishman, looks like the epitome of whatever democracy or greatness stands for. But at that time, you know, people looked up to America. We, as Americans, also looked up to the Beatles and in some of the English music, back then. Rolling Stones were looking towards Little Richard, David himself was looking towards Little Richard, Fats Domino and many different aspects of the whole American songbook. So, here's a guy like David, writing an album about America and then he continued to do so in years to come, when we got to the Young Americans album, a year and a half later.
BR - In the recording sequence of Aladdin Sane, if we are not mistaken, after The Jean Genie, the next songs to be recorded were All The Young Dudes, which Bowie gave to Mott The Hoople, followed by Drive-In Saturday. But the real turning point of the album, it was undoubtedly the album's title track. Is it true that, according to to some sources, for the Aladdin Sane's song, David asked you to improvise on 2 chords, an A1 and a G1, with you nailing that epic solo that ended up on that song after only a couple of attempts? Also, how much, perhaps unconsciously, awareness did you have, at that point, that you were making music history that, after 50 years, still resonate so strongly with millions of people around the world?
MG - I don't think you could get a great performance if you had that thought. We could discuss it now, but, if you were thinking that at the time, then the music would suffer. Back then, on the first version I played a Blues solo and David said that it was too common. Then I played a Latin solo and he said the same thing. So he asked for an Avant-Garde solo, because he knew that I could play that. He used to talk to me at dinners often, about what I was doing on the Jazz scene. He was a guy that was curious about almost everything, so I told him I played a lot of Avant-Garde music in the 60s. He said "Could you do something like that on the record" and I made the joke "Well, that's why I'm not working Saturday nights!" and that's why he said "Leave it to me". So, in the end, it was the third take that made it, but it was, effectively, the first take in that way of playing. The other two attempts were like throwaways.. But when I played that solo, the amount of energy and intention that emerged, well, that incorporated everything I practised the prior 20 years. It was a magic moment and there's not a day that has gone by, since the Internet came about, that I don't get a call, an email or a text about that solo.. Which is almost unheard of, 'cause it's 50 years ago and normally an artist, think about Mozart, or Beethoven, they lived to, I don't know, 35, 40, 45, 50 years of age, so you don't really get to see the recognition. If I had died 10, 20 years ago, how would I know what does it feel like living the 50th anniversary of such a seminal album? I have certainly been more blessed than, say, David, Ronno and Trevor, in that respect. It's indeed a blessing that I'm still around to experience the joy that the album brings to a lot of people. That solo was such a special moment.. I must have played it hundreds of times and although it would sound always good, it would never be like that moment.. a moment that makes a difference in music history, just like when Beatles recorded Yesterday or Lennon wrote Imagine. If the inspiration for those songs would have arrived to the artist a minute earlier or a minute later or even a year later, it would have never been the same.
BR - There's still some people today that says that, despite the album's many hits and the global success that the album achieved, Aladdin Sane felt, at time, a little bit rushed in its writing and recording, maybe because David was impatient to start touring the States and perhaps making his ultimate mark over there. I was wondering if you, at any point, had the feeling that, during the making of the album, there was a sense of urgency coming from David to finish the album ASAP.
MG - Yeah, absolutely. But it was what it was and it was perfect because of that, in my opinion. You know, Steely Dan did albums that took six months in the studio or even a year and even David himself, as the years went by, took quite some time himself, to work on some of his albums. This one just came flowing out. I felt it couldn't help him working that fast and it's the beauty of albums like that, I guess. To me, it falls in the top 3% of the greatest Rock albums of all times and in David's vast discography of 30 some odd albums he did, it's probably in the top five. He released so much great stuff, throughout his career but there's something that's deeper, about that album.
BR - Mike, let's talk about a little bit about the song Time, defined by many as the standout track of the album. It's an incredible way to take, in our opinion, early Jazz of the 20's and the 30's, incorporating elements of French cabaret, plus, as the album's producer Ken Scott said in an interview, including Beethoven's interpolations and taking the whole to a more contemporary kind of level. The way your piano was playing. Ronson's guitar, Bowie's vocal delivery and lyrics, they all worked together in perfect harmony. Do you remember whether the song had a laborious process in its recording, especially in assembling all the musical elements and David's vocals together?
MG - I don't remember any effort on it. It just flowed. For my part, I don't think that it took me more than 10 minutes. That is where the miracle lies, because David expressed to me that he wanted to have this older Jazz style, with some of that French and German cabaret elements and a touch of Avant Garde. So here I am, playing what's called Stride Piano, which was from the 30's and 40's, where I play an octave in the left hand, boom, go up and then you play the chord in the right to "boom cha boom cha", so it would sound normally like corny old Dixieland music. But then I twisted it and at the end and in the middle section of it, I'm playing like almost a Gospel Funk creative thing on just the G7 chord, which has nothing to do with the first part, but works for the song perfectly. And then again, because David and I are both serious chameleons, he was accepting of that, as I was too. One of the things you have to understand, and I didn't think of it exactly this way but subconsciously, I probably did, it is that I played the piano on that album the way I thought David Bowie would play the piano on the album, if he could play as well as me. So I guess I played through his head. And that is the reason why perhaps it sounds so good, that track. Because I don't generally play that way, like I did on Aladdin Sane or Time, just to be clear. If you come to a gig of mine, you might hear those elements, because of my style, but that's not where I default at all. I think that any good relationship does that, in terms of being able to be in somebody else's mind. I guess we just don't always acknowledge it.
BR - Did you find yourself at total ease, given your Jazz and Avant Garde background in letting loose so very nicely and wildly on a very 50's Rock And Roll kind of tune like The Stones' Let's Spend The Night Together?
MG - Totally, because I grew up with 50's and 60's Rock. The real answer to the question about "ease", which is a very good question you're asking, it is that to get to the point of "ease", you have to be a f****ng master of the language, meaning that you've practised so much that, by default almost, it turns into "ease". I could tell you all of last week's practising that I did, because that's the closest in my mind and it would have been the same way when I was, say, 17 years of age or 22, with the amount of repetition and drilling and struggling to master the instrument, which was not ease. It was difficult and frustrating, just as it could have been last week and 50 years ago. Now, the secret is, when you can own that, because you know the language so well, like speaking English or Italians, for instance, somewhere along the line, the teachers taught us the alphabet, or they taught us a verb or an adjective. Well, what happens is, that we don't think about that. We may get an idea, an intention in our head and we say it. Well, I can do that at the piano better than I could yak away at speaking and I'm pretty good at speaking! (smiles) So the "ease", the job of the artist, it is to be like a magician, not a musician who's just flying in from heaven and lands and you feel total ease. But the misunderstanding, is the amount of work that that artist did, to get to that place, be the artist called Prince, or Bowie, or Dylan, the thousands of notes they write or lyrics, the countless hours and months in studios, or the senior lessons, the guitar lessons or, in my case, the piano lessons and the amount of concerts that I would have played or the hundreds of mistakes and embarrassments. When I had my first concert at 7 years of age, they had to take me off stage, because I kept repeating the piece and I didn't know how to get to the ending. It was the 32nd piece and 20 minutes later, I'm still playing it and the teacher had to lift the chair up and remove me from stage.. Those experiences, believe me, make a mark on you. You know what I mean? So, to get to that point of that famous word you just said, "ease" was not easy and still, occasionally, it may get to the point of not being easy. Like a concert I did in March, with my friends from the Free Flight, with whom I had not played for a while. I didn't think I'd be ready for the show. Maybe, three quarters of things I played were at ease, but there were a few that weren't at ease and the audience felt it and so could I. And that is a disservice to others and to yourself, as an artist when you have not practised, just like you have your questions for me today. If you didn't do your homework, we could still do it, but it wouldn't have any depth.
BR - At that point of Bowie's career and being new to the artist and his band, you might have known not very well David as well as you might have done later, in years to come. Still, we were wondering whether, during the album's recording process, did you ever have the feeling that Aladdin Sane's lyrics were (at least most of them) representative of Bowie's state of mind, back then, with all those recurring imagery of debauchery, occasionally exasperated hedonism, references to human decadence, depicted especially in songs like Time or Cracked Actor, for instance?
MG - You know, one of my weaknesses or, maybe, a strength, that I'll never know, it was that I never even listened to lyrics at that time. I just felt the music and I managed to find the vibe. As a consequence, I'm not an expert in that area. I know some of Aladdin Sane, as a track and a title, had something to do with his brother, who had mental illness and committed suicide. So there's that and the debauchery and all the stuff you're talking about.. I guess it was a sort of preview for Diamond Dogs, wasn't it? David Bowie is really just a reflection of society, or the dark sides of it on those moments, you know. If you tried to sugar-coat something like "love is beautiful and blue" and this and that and you keep writing that, perhaps some people might be good with it, but, you know, life isn't quite like that. So, he kind of said it like it is and, by saying it and accepting it, that is the first stage towards getting to true love. But you have to be willing to confront the evil and the dark side of the soul to be able to get to those places, you know. I much prefer, when I create music, these days for example, to have the essence of the love and the healing and the music. But I've been through so much to get there, so I know that it's not fake.
BR - One of the tracks of the album that you're particularly close to, of course, is Lady Grinning Soul, with that fabulous melodramatic piano intro of yours and I know for a fact that the song is very close to your heart. At what stage of the recording process of Aladdin Sane the song was presented to you, Mike, do you recall? Also, did David, at any point of your professional and personal relationship ever confessed to you why he never played that song live?
MG - I shall answer to your last question first, if that's OK with you.. I was fascinated but it never came up in conversation. I used to joke around, thinking that song might have been just too high for David's voice to sing live, maybe the notes were too high or maybe he didn't want to deal with it. But I never fully understood why he never played that song live, ever. It's, in my opinion, one of his greatest songs but, hey, that's David for you, you know! He knew when to create a scarcity, knew when to create an abundance, you know, he knew when to perform, when to disappear from the scene for 10 years... I mean you're talking about the highest level of artistry we had in the 20th century, comparable to your Michelangelo's and your Da Vinci's, but in music or your Bach, Chopin or Beethoven, because he had the ability not only to write interesting music and have depth in his music, but he also was able to make his music commercial. Those goals are hard to achieve.. I have hundreds of classical pieces of music that are great, but no one will hear them for 100 years, because I didn't know how to commercialise them. He knew how to commercialise and, at the same time, well, compromise with his artistic integrity. I mean, he was brilliant administratively, business-wise, accounting-wise, PR-wise, marketing-wise, concert-wise, managerial-wise, lawyer-wise and so forth. But he learned all that the hard way, because he was also bankrupted for 10 years! (smiles). My dad always told me that there's no such thing as a free lunch. So we all go through some stuff, to get to the other side. Hopefully, some don't get to the other side and do it another time. But you know, it's nice to be able to get through some of those hard times. There's no one who escapes that, you know. When the song was presented to me, I cannot honestly remember it. I only did, maybe, three recording sessions, for the whole album and, at that point, I was living in Sussex so I would drive in to work. I remember, one day for 3 hours and another day still for 3 hours and the next day again for 3 hours.. I think that was it. I wasn't there through the mixing stage of the album with Ken, David and Mick. I know they were putting the drums and bass on some of the songs, on some of the stuff I played live with the band.. Perhaps, somebody that may answer to your first question better is one of Bowie's most known historians, Nicholas Pegg, I just played the music, you know. (smiles). In the end, there's 12 notes, most people either go up or go down; in my case, sideways (smiles).
Garson with Bowie on stage, 1972 circa.
BR - Mike, we are aware that, throughout the years, you maintained an excellent relationship with all the members of the Spiders From Mars, even after they were no longer part of Bowie's musical vision, particularly Mick Ronson, with whom you worked on Ronno's first two solo records. I was wondering what is your favourite memory of him over the years, humanly and professionally.
MG - He was the ultimate unsung hero. The support that he brought to David when they sang together, it was listening to one person. The harmony, the voice, the beautiful look of both of them, Mick's arranging abilities, his piano playing ability, his string writing abilities.. Mick was a musical genius on a whole other level and he brought that to David, back then. And then, when he found me, I was able to simply just sit on top of that, because both David and Mick gave me such an infrastructure that you couldn't really play a wrong note. I don't think that anybody could possibly play a wrong note, in that studio. Songs like Hey Jude were recorded there, Rock Gods like Queen recorded there. I know that the history of the place and the notes played, they were stored, somehow, in that piano there and I just sat down, playing and the notes seemed to come out almost magically... Now, if I tried to do that on an oboe or a saxophone, it wouldn't have sounded so good. So I'm not denying that I practised my ass off my whole life but, once that work was done, I was able to make the magic in that space and as I was saying early on, it was all these infinite factors that none of us could ever know or plan, that made the musical alchemy present on Aladdin Sane. David was like a forensic scientist or somebody going into my head, with forceps, finding anything I had practised in the prior 15/20 years and he found them all in my head! If you sit and listen and reflect on some of the album's songs, Lady Grinning Soul sounds one way, Time sounds another way, Aladdin Sane or Let's Spend The Night Together another way.. These were all individual areas of music that I put, say, in 2000 hours before I met him, not knowing I'd be doing it on his album. But they were things I drilled on a daily basis, from 7 in the morning till 7 at night and then I would go to a gig and play it because I was learning my craft. I was a little lazy, as a kid, maybe I was doing two hours a day practising but I ended up in the army band, in the mid 60's and my job was to play the piano. As a consequence, I would end up practising eight hours a day, had I not been in the army. Which is not a big thing, to me, because I don't believe in shooting people, that's why I went in the band (smiles). But if I didn't have that discipline, I'd probably just be a lazy bum sitting around now.
BR - Before we part company, Mike, one final question we would like to ask you, it is about what would have, in your opinion, Bowie done without Mike Garson's incredible piano playing and who would have Mike Garson been, without David's presence in his life and career.
MG - Great question. David would have still made it for sure, he would have had Let's Dance, Ziggy, The Man Who Sold The World, Changes, Life On Mars and many more, so I can't take credit for that. But the certain magic that I brought to him lasted his whole life and you hear it in many songs, like in the 1. Outside album, for example, but that's a whole subject in itself. Hopefully, this answer what you just asked. I'd perhaps be a great pianist still struggling to make a living, working with many artists and doing pretty much what I was doing the other day, making very little money in a club and having fun. I was so privileged meeting him. We were buddies and I owe him my life.