Falkirk musician toured and recorded with David Bowie

David Bowie at the SECC in 2003
David Bowie at the SECC in 2003

It’s Kingston Polytechnic in South West London and the date is May 6th 1972.

It’s just two months since I turned 18.

“How’s your gig situation over the next few months man?” asks the skinny ginger guy in the turquoise jumpsuit and the quilted silver boots. “Not too groovy, we’ve only got two definites at this stage.”

“Well, how would you feel about coming on tour with me as the opening act – I’ve got a new album coming out soon and it’s going to be big. Think. You’ll be getting to punters who’d probably never consider seeing you.”

It doesn’t take too much thinking about. A quick confab and its done and dusted. What I can’t fathom is why he’s asked us, five hairy Scots teenagers in denim and leather to open for him and his four-piece backing band.

No make-up, no sparkly stage suits, we just belt out traditional tunes and songs with not-at-all gay abandon in between telling long, humorous stories to introduce them. So I ask him. “Because you’re entertainers” he says. “You’re fab musicians, you get them laughing and then up on their feet dancing. I want them to be ready for me and I think although we’re very different, you’re pretty cool.”

It isn’t great money but we’ll be busy from mid-May until July 18, our final gig with him at Friars Club in Aylesbury. We only miss two dates, the Greyhound in Croydon where Roxy Music play support and the Civic Hall in Dunstable where the Flamin’ Groovies open the show.

Meanwhile we’re driving overnight in our battered blue Transit from Southampton to Aberdeen to fulfil a prior commitment. When we get back, I’m asked to play electric violin on a track that’s earmarked as the next single.

So on June 26, 1972, after a leisurely lunchtime pint in the beer garden of the Red Lion with my guitarist mate Mick, I lay down some screaming double-tracked electric violin on what will become the top 10 hit, John, I’m Only Dancing at Olympic Studios in Barnes.

My lasting memory of that ground-breaking tour, the “Ziggy” tour, is playing at a sell-out “Save the Whales” benefit concert at London’s Royal Festival Hall. After our set, then one by our Glaswegian mates The Marmalade, the compere, DJ Kenny Everett, introduces the man who would go on to be one of the most influential artists of his era.

And as the tributes continue to pour in to someone who in 50 years sold 140 million records and redefined popular music, Kenny’s words suddenly re-surface. “Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the second greatest thing ... next to God ... David Bowie!”