Drugged-Up David Bowie was Managed Like Elvis, says Earl Slick
Longtime David Bowie guitarist Earl Slick recalled the drug-fuelled environment that led to their split in 1976, saying the late singer was being manipulated rather than managed at the time.
While everyone in the band that recorded Station to Station had been using drugs, Slick said that he and Bowie were by far the worst.
“David had gone levels into insanity,” he told the Guardian in a recent interview. ‘[B]ut the rhythm section – Carlos Alomar, George Murray, Dennis Davis – didn’t imbibe anything close to the silliness that David and I did. Had they been as fucked up as we were, that record would have sucked. But we spent a lot of time together, me and David, just doing my guitar overdubs and stuff, and we were able to work in that condition quite well. We were in our 20s. You can do serious damage to yourself in your 20s and still make records. I’d only been doing [drugs] for seven or eight years. You couldn’t do that amount of drugs for 25 years and think you’re going to make records.”
As plans for the tour were coming together, Slick encountered problems with his contract that he was unable to resolve. He didn’t discover that management had been the reason until he rejoined Bowie in 1983. “He found out that they had not let me talk to him, and I found out he had had no idea what was going on,” the guitarist said. “It reminded me of the Elvis thing, man. The guy was so fucked up, and everybody around him was taking advantage of his money and keeping information from him that they didn’t want him to know.”
The last time the pair spoke was a few months before Bowie’s death from cancer in 2016, as Slick was preparing his own Station to Station tour. “I ran it past him, and he said: ‘Great idea, Slicky. Have fun.’” He reported that he hadn’t realized how ill his bandmate really was, although he’d noticed changes as they worked on 2013’s The Next Day. “[He] didn’t look so good, didn’t look himself, but he was prone to depression, and that’s what I thought it was,” Slick said. He recalled: “We were sitting in the control room of the studio, listening to ‘(You Will) Set the World on Fire,’ and David says: ‘Man, that track would be great live.’ I looked at him, but before I could even answer, he goes: ‘Don’t even think about it.’”
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