“Music is the glue that binds our shared history.” That’s Geoff MacCormack talking about the structure of his new book, David Bowie: Rock ‘n’ Roll With Me, a collection of his photography and memories of his childhood friend and musical collaborator, one David Robert Jones — aka David Bowie. MacCormack’s book includes a handful of candid photographs of Bowie, along with an insider’s look at Bowie’s music and touring in the 1970s.
“David’s and mine were parallel historically in as much as we shared the all important early influences at the birth of rock ‘n’ roll,” MacCormack tells InsideHook. “Later, we went different directions in life and musically which made the conversation even more interesting, but those early awakenings of, say, Little Richard and modern jazz from our elder brothers never left us.”
MacCormack can be heard on several of Bowie’s albums, including Station to Station and Aladdin Sane, sometimes under the name Warren Peace. He also co-wrote a number of songs, including the single that gives the book its name, as well as the Iggy Pop song “Turn Blue.”
As someone who played in several iterations of Bowie’s touring band, MacCormack also memorably describes some of the artists Bowie was taking in live on nights when the band wasn’t playing. This includes descriptions of Bowie and MacCormack seeing everyone from jazz legend Charles Mingus to a young Bruce Springsteen.
“[I]n 1973 we encountered an unknown to the world Bruce Springsteen at Max’s Kansas City in New York,” MacCormack recalled. “Another time in 1975 we got to sing live backing vocals to one of our teenage Soul hero’s Bobby (Blue) Bland at The Troubadour in West Hollywood.”
Not all of the memorable tour stories here have to do with music or musicians, however. One of the most intriguing sections follows Bowie and company heading back home to Europe after a Japanese tour via the Trans-Siberian Railway.
“The trip was totally unique, we’d never heard of anyone who’d taken that trip, it was a complete unknown proposition,” said MacCormack. “In fact, neither David nor I had been to Japan before we left there for Siberia, we just fronted it out with a smile on our faces — very important — and a friendly attitude toward our immediate future. This, fortunately, was enough to take us over the line!”
As the photographs in David Bowie: Rock ‘n’ Roll With Me attest, MacCormack has a fine eye for images and details. “I started my own website just before David passed, so half of what’s on the site now is what I started with,” he explained. “We — my wife Jo and I — started to do a couple of small shows in 2018; then in 2020, we had an invitation to do a huge show at the Brighton Museum Gallery. This prompted us to look deeper into my collection.”
Years before, MacCormack had covered some of the same moments in time with a 2007 book, From Station to Station: Travels With Bowie 1973-1976. In our conversation, he explained the difference between the earlier work and this one. “The book in question was sold as a limited-edition of 2,000 copies. Genesis Publications specialize in beautifully crafted books which are, in essence, luxury collectors’ items,” he said. “These books are now valued at thousand of dollars rather than the original hundreds.”
Timing and logistics, he said, are what explains the gap in years between this book and its predecessor. “I had always planned to do something more accessible to everyone,” he said. “This was also something that Bowie fans had continually requested over the 16 years since the Genesis book. What I also wanted to do was to expand the story from the three years on the road to before and after that period while keeping the feel of a quality publication. This I feel we’ve more than achieved. I would have released something earlier but with David’s passing it didn’t feel right until now.”
And now David Bowie: Rock ‘n’ Roll With Me is out in the world — perhaps the closest you’ll get to being on tour with Bowie in that era without a time machine and a backstage pass.