My cheese and wine with David Bowie…and the Hot Rods

It was 1977, Do Anything You Wanna Do was whizzing up the charts, and we’d been invited onto Marc Bolan’s show up at Granada TV in Manchester.

We’d had to get the 7am train from London and were hungover and grumpy – our rhythm guitarist Dave Higgs didn’t even bother showing, having been on an all-nighter at Feelgood House on Canvey.

Our moods didn’t improve as the day went on – Record Mirror hack Tim Lott had managed to rub us up the wrong way and it became evident that Marc, bless his cotton socks, was utterly untogether and skipping about on another planet.

Somehow Generation X managed to get their bit recorded, and we skulked about whilst the crew spent hours fiddling with lights and camera angles whilst Bolan and Bowie messed about jamming for what seemed like hours – bloody pop stars!

Well, I was secretly completely in awe but as a surly teenager wasn’t about to let on. Finally, Bowie sang Heroes live to a backing track and then to our utter disbelief it was down tools – 7pm.

“Sorry lads, you’ll have to come back again next week,” quoth the producer. Bowie couldn’t believe it - we couldn’t believe it.

”What the fuck’s going?” he yelled, but that was it - home time for the crew. Were we happy bunnies? No we were not. Altho’ Marc had ended up being a complete sweetie to us we’d had bugger all to eat all day except crisps and BBC cheese sandwiches, and were slumped on the train resigned for the long haul back when who should walk thru’ the corridor but DB.

“Ah – Eddie and the Hot Rods! Sorry about all that – haven’t seen Marc for ages – you must be really pissed off. Unbelievable, eh? I’m just off to the loo – you hungry? Got some food and drink back there if you’d like!”

Us, mumbling: “Er, yeah alright…”

Paul Gray (right) with Eddie & The Hot Rods in 1977

Paul Gray (right) with Eddie & The Hot Rods in 1977 (Image credit: Getty Images)

So he comes back with this entourage of two black statuesque ladies and a hamper full of Sancerre, French cheeses and smoked salmon sandwiches and plonks himself next to us. I’d only ever had Blue Nun before, and as for smoked salmon… ”Sorry I don’t know you all,” and he goes round shaking our hands, lordly and utterly charming.

“Help yourself boys,” he beams…and for the next three hours regales us on such diverse subjects as the Sandinista situation in South America, black holes in space, recording Low and working with Iggy in Berlin – I had to pinch myself. Jean Genie was one of the songs I grew up with that made me want to be in a band, and Low was a post-gig Hot Rods favourite when the partying got underway back at the hotel - we listened to it incessantly. Our manager, Ed Hollis, had often stated to us that Bowie’s was the career to emulate - keep moving forward, keep ‘em guessing - and here we were breaking bread with him.

There are those rare times in life when you know that a moment is utterly special and will never be repeated. This was one of them, and to this day, he’s the only person I’ve ever asked for an autograph – on a cardboard British Rail paper plate. “For Paul with thanks, Bowie 77”. A Starman, indeed.