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"I was out of my gourd": David Bowie duetting (and flirting) with Cher might be the most 70s thing you'll ever see

David Bowie and Cher
(Image credit: Getty)

In 1975, David Bowie had decided to become a soul man. The days of Ziggy Stardust were long gone and Glam rock was a distant memory.

But in 1975, he was unsure of where to turn. “Plastic soul” was the direction he chose, and he scored a top 10 hit with a cover of Eddie Floyd’s Knock On Wood in 1974. The album Young Americans followed in 1975. 

He moved to LA, where he met Glenn Hughes, then singer for Deep Purple and a soul singer who had transitioned to rock. Bowie was in the middle of going the other way and the two hit it off. Bowie moved into Hughes’ place in Beverley Hills. 

But they hadn’t just bonded over soul music. Oh no.

“By early 1975 we were both into coke – a lot,” Hughes told Classic Rock. “We were fiendish and paranoid to hell. With the filming of The Man Who Fell To Earth on the horizon, [Bowie] was seeing things in the sky and drawing them on my windows in crayon.”

Once, says Hughes, Bowie was so high that he thought Satan was in the swimming pool: “He had me in there fully clothed searching for the devil. He was out of his mind.”

The craziness continued through the filming of The Man Who Fell To Earth, and into the recording of Station To Station in LA in the fall of that year. 

In November he was invited on to The Cher Show. Cher had recently split from Sonny Bono and was carving a solo career. The two had never met before. In some ways, they never really met that day either.

“I think any television performance of that period I was out of my gourd,” Bowie said later (opens in new tab). “I remember she was this long, tall bird with black hair. She’s got very piercing eyes, a rather doleful expression.”

He sang Fame (opens in new tab), the song he wrote with John Lennon for Young Americans, and also performed two separate duets with Cher. One, Can You Hear Me (opens in new tab), is kinda lovely. 

The other is batshit crazy.

It starts with Young Americans, switches suddenly into Neil Diamond’s Song Sung Blue, then Harry Nilsson’s One, then it's a bizarre and cheesy whistle stop tour of songs by the Crystals (Da Doo Ron Ron), the Chantels, Buddy Holly, the Beatles, Bing Crosby and more.

In just a few short years, he would become sainted as the Godfather of punk, goth and new wave. But in November 1975, David Bowie was in danger of becoming just another light entertainer. 

So what did Cher think?

“She seemed kind of remote,” recalled Bowie, “and I’m not surprised… I was probably this crazed anorexic figure walking in. She wouldn’t even know what to make of me.”

Cher herself remembered it more fondly. “OMG,” she tweeted (opens in new tab) when asked about it in 2017. “HAD TINY CRUSH. HE WAS FLIRTY… I WAS A LITTLE FLIRTY 2.”

David Bowie and Cher

Cher's memories on Twitter. (opens in new tab) (Image credit: Twitter)

Tom Poak has written for the Hull Daily Mail, Esquire, The Big Issue, Total Guitar, Classic Rock, Metal Hammer and more. In a writing career that has spanned decades, he has interviewed Brian May, Brian Cant, and cadged a light off Brian Molko. He has stood on a glacier with Thunder, in a forest by a fjord with Ozzy and Slash, and on the roof of the Houses of Parliament with Thin Lizzy's Scott Gorham (until some nice men with guns came and told them to get down). He has drank with Shane MacGowan, mortally offended Lightning Seed Ian Broudie and been asked if he was homeless by Echo & The Bunnymen’s Ian McCulloch.