THE SERIOUS MOONLIGHT TOUR

MAY 18th - DECEMBER 8th 1983

Musicians:

  • David Bowie: Vocals, Guitar, Saxophone

  • Earl Slick: Guitar

  • Carlos Alomar: Guitar

  • Tony Thompson: Percussion

  • Carmine Rojas: Bass

  • David LeBolt: Keyboards

  • Steve Elson/Lenny Pickett/Stan Harrison: Saxophones

  • Frank Simms/George Simms: Backing Vocals

Repertoire included:

Star | "Heroes" | What In The World | Look Back In Anger | Joe The Lion | Wild Is The Wind | Golden Years | Fashion | Let's Dance | Red Sails | Breaking Glass | Life On Mars? | Sorrow | Cat People (Putting Out Fire) | China Girl | Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) | Rebel Rebel | I Can't Explain | White Light/White Heat | Station To Station | Cracked Actor | Ashes To Ashes | Space Oddity | Young Americans | Soul Love | Hang On To Yourself | Fame | TVC15 | Stay | The Jean Genie | Modern Love | Imagine

By 1983 Bowie had been absent from the touring circuit for an unprecedented five years, and the pre-release publicity for Let's Dance promised a spectacular new show. Like the album itself, the Serious Moonlight tour was consciously designed to "normalise" Bowie for a mass audience. "I was getting really pissed off for being regarded as just a freak," he said in 1983. "I won't be trying to put on any pose or stance. You won't see Mr Iceman Cometh or weird Ziggy or whatever. I was just gonna be me, having a good time, as best I can...That was my premise for this tour: to re-represent myself."

As ever, strong visuals would be central to Bowie's latest self-reinvention. The set was originally entrusted to Derek Boshier, creator of the Let's Dance album artwork, who devised an extravagant design reminiscent of the Diamond Dogs set with multiple platforms and levels, rotating prisms revealing different backdrop designs on each facet, and a gigantic cartoon figure of Bowie with a guitar, striding across the stage on elongated legs. Boshier's ideas were rejected as too costly, and instead Bowie contacted Diamond Dogs tour veteran Mark Ravitz, who created a stage environment more elaborate than any since 1974, yet bold and simple enough to work in multi-thousand-seater venues. Four enormous fluted columns of translucent polythene dominated the stage, while giant neoclassical lintels hovered above them, suggesting a cross between a Palladian temple and Star Trek. "It's  kind of like some sort of new architecture," said Bowie, "combining classicism and modernism." To stage right was a giant hand, pointing upwards after the fashion of Michelangelo's Creation Of Adam (famously pastiched by the E.T. film poster just a few months earlier), towards a glittering crescent moon hanging stage left. At some of the major venues, like Milton Keynes Bowl and Madison Square Garden, a larger inflatable moon would hang over the audience, breaking open to shower the crowd with silver and gold balloons at the end of each show.

David Bowie - Serious Moonlight Tour 1983

​However, the main visual cues derived from the previous two tours, relying not on props but on a truly spectacular light show. Bowie's keynote was the same as it had been for years: "He said he wanted German expressionism," said lighting director Allen Branton, "and I went and bought all the books." Branton based his plot around 40 Vari-lites, computer-controlled lamps capable of panning, tilting, rotating and switching between any of 60 colour gels. Today Vari-lites are standard in every television quiz-show, but Branton's use of them in 1983 was a spectacular innovation for the rock stage. "Every show thus far, including mine, has generally hung them in the same horizontal plane, on the overhead light grid," he explained. "I wanted them on different planes. Turned on 90 degrees. Stretching their physical parameters." Adding conventional washes and internal lighting for the giant columns, Branton created set-piece landscapes: stark blue backlight for "Cat People", sultry reds and yellows for "Red Sails", flickering strobes and harsh green cross-beams and searchlights for "Scary Monsters". "Fellini, Ziegfeld and Steven Spielberg would all be proud of us," remarked Branton.

Serious Moonlight Tour 1983 Stage
David Bowie performing on the Serious Moonlight Tour 1983
Serious Moonlight Tour 1983 Stage

The initial fortnight's rehearsals in Manhattan were overseen by musical director Carlos Alomar, back on board after his absence from Let's Dance. In April David joined the band in rehearsal at Las Calinas, near Dallas. Alongside the Let's Dance personnel the new faces included sometime Village People and Billy Joel keyboardist David LeBolt, and saxophonist Lenny Pickett, whose arrival brought together the sax trio who would be dubbed The Borneo Horns in the tour brochure. The ten-piece band was Bowie's biggest since 1974, and in another throwback to the year of the Diamond Dogs it included two choreographed backing vocalists, Frank and George Simms.

Serious Moonlight would prove to be Alomar's favourite of the six Bowie tours he played - "it was the first tour where we did all of the hits," he told David Buckley, adding that he particularly enjoyed creating "all these fabulous horn arrangements so that every song sounded as if it had just been recorded." During the tour Bowie confirmed that Alomar's rearrangements were crucial to the show's identity: "Before, I've had up to three synthesizers onstage. The music had sort of industrial, mechanised-sounding connotations to it. That's another aspect that I wanted to lighten up on...The choice of musicians has helped, because they're not familiar with my music. So they've interpreted it more from a soul-based background. Inherently, there's a lighter-hearted characteristic coming through the music, than if I had used my original musicians who had it in their minds, 'Oh yeah, I know Bowie, he wants doom and gloom in here'."

Towards the end of the Dallas rehearsals, while the band worked with choreographer Chris Dunbar in advance of their departure for a final week of preparation at the Vorst Nationaal in Brussels, a crisis arose with the eleventh-hour sacking of lead guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan. The problem had nothing to do with Vaughan's ability: on the contrary, as rehearsal bootlegs reveal, his unique contribution to the band's sound was striking. Bowie later remarked that "Stevie was pulling notes out of the air that no-one could have dreamed would have worked with my songs." Unfortunately drugs and management problems were afflicting Vaughan, who was apparently at loggerheads with Bowie over impositions of choreography and costume, strictures against drug-taking on tour, and in particular the fee he was receiving. Vaughan claimed that Bowie's management had also reneged on a verbal promise that his group Double Trouble would support some of the British and American dates. A further can of worms was opened when, midway through the rehearsal period, the video of "Let's Dance" was released: Double Trouble bassist Tommy Shannon recalled that Vaughan, unaccustomed to the ways of pop stardom, was "furious" to see Bowie miming his guitar solo.

Bowie, who had already departed for Europe to undertake promotional duties when the crisis arose, would later say that he was "almost blackmailed" by Vaughan's "cartoon of a manager", explaining that half an hour before the coach was due to leave for the airport to take the band to Brussels, Vaughan's manager "demanded to renegotiate Stevie's fee, there and then, giving him a higher salary than any other musician on the tour, otherwise he would pull Stevie from the tour. As I was thousands of miles away in Belgium and with twenty minutes to go, our promoter took it upon himself to make a decision which would change the entire sound of the show."

Thus, with less than a week to go until opening night, Vaughan was dismissed. "When the rest of the party arrived in Belgium," Bowie later recalled, "Carmine Rojas, my bass player, told me that it was one of the most heartbreaking moments he had ever witnessed on the road, Stevie left standing on the sidewalk with his bags surrounding him. Carmine was convinced that Stevie had no idea that his manager was going to pull such a scam or, if he did, that this guy had convinced Stevie that he could pull it off." The rest of the band rallied against any controversy, Alomar telling journalists that "David has never made any money before, and on this tour there are a lot of people making sure that he's going to make some money. As far as our money situation, come on, that's just fine. Everybody's making over four figures [per week]." Despite the stance of Vaughan's manager, this was evidently no re-run of the David Live pay mutiny. (Vaughan, who was later reconciled with Bowie, tragically died in a plane crash in 1990).

Ironically, Vaughan was replaced by a guitarist whose last contribution to the Bowie story had also involved pulling out of a tour at the last minute. Earl Slick, who had toured with David in 1974 and played on Station To Station before parting company on frosty terms, was hastily contracted and flown out to Brussels on May 14th. "Everything was straightened out," Slick said of his former quarrel with David. "There was communication, a lot of joking and fooling around. In the old days I'd show up at the theatre and literally not see him except for the stage part. Now it's back to normal. Business as usual." Carlos Alomar put in frantic extra rehearsal time with Slick, who spent four days locked in a hotel room "with coffee pot after coffee pot", learning the 31 songs on the set-list.

Bowie had laid down the law to his band about drug-taking, and his personal regimen on the Serious Moonlight tour was a far cry from the coke-bombed madness of the mid-1970s. He began each day with two hours of aerobics and shadow-boxing. "This is a long tour and I want to be in shape," he told reporters. "I don't want it to be like the old days, when I felt it was almost my duty to end up a wreck. I thought that was what you had to do to be a substantial artist." He had also conquered his much-vaunted fear of flying: along with the new lifestyle came the ultimate touring accessory, a private 707 jet.

Although the show was more tightly choreographed than the 1976 or 1978 tours, Bowie had avoided intricate stagecraft in favour of broad strokes which, like the set and lighting, were well conceived for giant venues. There was a revival of 1974's skull-and-shades routine for "Cracked Actor". The four giant columns filled with smoke during "Station To Station", and Bowie sang "Ashes To Ashes" inside one of them as it rolled downstage. In the same number, the Simms brothers played ball with a giant inflatable globe, which then sat in a spotlight for "Space Oddity" before being kicked out across the audience during "Young Americans". For other numbers there were stunningly frenetic light shows, while "Life On Mars?", "Wild Is The Wind" and "Space Oddity" were delivered from points of stillness in a solitary spotlight. There was rudimentary choreography for "Fashion" (Bowie and the Simms boys acting as catwalk models), while "Let's Dance" was the cue for David to perform some shadow-boxing. For "Red Sails" he mimed climbing a mountain, while Lenny Pickett executed what Bowie called a "whirling dervish" dance suggested by the saxophonist during rehearsals. But these were the exceptions: most of the numbers were performed in a straight stand-and-deliver style, with David the unchallenged centre of attention.

Bowie devised his two-piece pastel suits with wardrobe designer Peter Hall, whose work he had admired in recent New York productions of La Bohéme and Zoot Suit. For most concerts David would begin in a powder-blue suit and striped schoolboy tie, changing during the 15-minute interval (usually between "White Light/White Heat" and "Station To Station") into a peach two-piece with a polka-dot bow-tie slung around the collar. Other outfits included a lime-green suit and a white naval jacket with gold piping. His handsome thirty-something features were highlighted by a candyfloss mop of peroxide hair. Hall also designed the band costumes, which Bowie described as "a slight parody on all the New Romantics...I thought it might be nice to make it look a bit like Singapore in the fifties." Hall cast each musician against a different cultural backdrop. "He saw Carlos as the Gandhi type, or actually more of a prince," said Bowie. The Simms brothers wore striped blazers and fedoras, Carmine Rojas a sailor's cap and sarong, and David LeBolt a coolie hat. The three-man sax section were dressed as a Cossack, an Alpine mountaineer and a safari hunter. Only latecomer Earl Slick appeared to escape Hall's attentions, sporting a standard rock-guitarist T-shirt and a Knopfler-style headband.

More than any previous Bowie tour, the set-list was unashamedly a greatest hits package aimed at acquainting the new mass audience with Bowie's back catalogue. With only four tracks from Let's Dance included, the sense that Bowie was touring a new album was slight. As usual, those fortunate enough to attend the earlier dates were rewarded with the fullest sets. "Joe The Lion" and "Soul Love" didn't make it past Brussels, "Wild Is The Wind" and "Hang On To Yourself" were scrapped over the next few days, and lost before the end of the tour were "TVC15", "I Can't Explain" and "Red Sails". Halfway through the US leg the set-list was reshuffled, promoting "Look Back In Anger" to curtain-raiser while the opening "Jean Genie/Star" medley was relegated to the encores. Looking back on the tour in 1987, David said that "I was really pushing it, trying to do all those Ziggy things...it was fine for the first few weeks, then I thought, God, I wish I'd dipped into more stuff from Lodger and maybe some of the "Heroes" things, Low even. I'm not doing "Star" again. That was quite hard."

David Bowie performing on the Serious Moonlight Tour 1983 - Skull and Shades
David Bowie performing on the Serious Moonlight Tour 1983 - Powder-blue suit and striped schoolboy tie
David Bowie performing on the Serious Moonlight Tour 1983 - White naval jacket with gold piping
David Bowie performing on the Serious Moonlight Tour 1983 - Peach two-piece suit with polka-dot bowtie

Bowie was in superb voice, although during his five-year touring break a lifetime of smoking had finally caught up with his higher register, necessitating the re-pitching of melodies like "Life On Mars?" and "Golden Years". He picked up his acoustic guitar for "Space Oddity" and "Young Americans", and occasionally played saxophone for the final encore "Modern Love". The instrumental arrangements were a mixed bag: Earl Slick's recreation of "Station To Station" and his hard-edged solo in "White Light/White Heat" were magnificent, but elsewhere the overpowering sax section threatened to outstay its welcome. Nobody could fault the appropriate and lovely sax interludes in "Sorrow" and "Young Americans", but the use of saxophones to replace the edgy guitar intro of "Breaking Glass" or the bassline of "Scary Monsters" made for an uncomfortable listening experience. Bowie's flirtation with that bane of 1980s pop, the over-produced horn section, would continue to bedevil his next couple of albums.

After Bowie's flying visit to Cannes to promote Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence, The Serious Moonlight tour opened in Brussels on May 18th. The NME's Charles Shaar Murray raved about "the best-staged and best-lit concert I can remember", remarking that "every moment of the way, Bowie's staging supports, enhances, underlines and comments upon the music...the arrangements for the tour demonstrate that Bowie is at least as interested in revitalising his music as he is in simply reproducing it, as he did on the Stage tour." Murray concluded that "Not on the basis of his legend or his publicity, but on the strength of this show, Bowie is the finest white pop performer alive."

From Brussels the show moved through a handful of dates in Germany and France before flying to Los Angeles to headline the third and final day of the US Festival in San Bernardino, where the 150,000-strong audience was by far the biggest Bowie had ever played. Also on the bill were Van Halen, Men At Work, Stevie Nicks, The Clash, U2 and The Pretenders. Bowie's widely reported $1.5m booking for the festival broke industry records for the highest flat fee paid to a solo performer for a single concert, and was instrumental in brokering the Serious Moonlight tour in general: "That opened up some places to play, especially in the Far East," David revealed, adding that it also "paid for a second set to get built," enabling the road crew to leapfrog ahead. Although good for Bowie, the US Festival was a disaster for its organisers, who were faced with untold losses and the consequences of a serious riot on the hard-rock-oriented second day, resulting in two deaths and 145 arrests.

Bowie returned to Europe for three nights at Wembley Stadium which had sold out within 24 hours, followed by further dates in Britain and the Continent. By now the tour was a massive success, but that didn't stop the British music press crying foul (in fact, it probably encouraged them). "This new, very visible Bowie says much to us about the rewards of mediocrity that maintain rock's motion," said the previously enthusiastic NME, while Sounds dismissed David's new act as "the thinking man's Frankie Vaughan...musical fish and chips". Melody Maker explained that "The concerts confirmed what those singles with Queen and Bing Crosby should have already told us. The man who sold the world can now be safely filed away under family entertainment. And all the family is buying." The tabloids were more accommodating, The Sun perceiving in Bowie "the mystique of Bob Dylan" and "the sheer animal excitement of Mick Jagger", while the Daily Express commended the show's "utmost style", noting that " For the first time in his thirteen-year career, Bowie played Bowie straight." The UK concerts were so over-subscribed that further dates were added in Edinburgh and Milton Keynes, a story repeated throughout the tour. Booking agent Wayne Forte later explained that regional promoters had initially underestimated Bowie's popularity: "It was a hard sell in Europe, especially outdoor dates. Promoters felt David wasn't an outdoor act and was a reserved-seat act for an older, well-dressed audience...And then things went crazy. The promoters went wild. They wanted the biggest stadiums."

While in Britain Bowie visited Madame Tussaud's, who had just unveiled his waxwork - at the time he was the only rock singer other than Elvis Presley and The Beatles to be so commemorated. Press coverage focused on the peculiar demands of selecting not one but two different matching eyeballs, while David declared himself "really pleased" to be positioned next to George Orwell.

Providing support during various legs of the tour were UB40, Icehouse, The Beat, The Tubes and Peter Gabriel. The Paris gig on June 8th - attended by "China Girl" star Geeling Ng among others - was marked by a rather silly incident in which the famously outspoken Kevin Rowland of Dexys Midnight Runners announced during the band's support set that "David Bowie is full of shit!", dubbing him "a bad Bryan Ferry". Not surprisingly the band was booed off. Rowland told reporters, "We only agreed to the show because France is an important market for us, not because I have any respect for Bowie." He later went on to record the theme for the BBC sitcom Brush Strokes.

June 30th saw a special gig in aid of the Brixton Neighbourhood Community Association, held in the presence of Princess Michael of Kent at by far the smallest and most evocative venue of the entire tour: the 2800-capacity Hammersmith Odeon, where Ziggy Stardust had announced his retirement ten years earlier almost to the day. Tickets for the show, which at a steep £25 and £50 included a compulsory donation, sold out immediately, raising an eventual total of £93,000 for the charity. Wild reports that the gig would see the rebirth of Ziggy and The Spiders were unfounded; the show proved to be a standard but intimate Serious Moonlight set, stripped of the scenery that simply wouldn't have fitted in the venue. Members of the support band Amazulu joined David for the final encore of "Modern Love".

The Hammersmith gig did see another reunion of sorts. Tony Visconti, who had been passed over as producer of Let's Dance, had been invited to the Edinburgh gig two days earlier with a view to correcting the sound balance after reviews had criticised the acoustic quality of the concerts. "My immediate response was 'Why don't you get Nile Rodgers to do it?'" admitted Visconti later, "But I got off my act and flew up to Edinburgh. I stomped around in the field and made a few notes...and I confirmed their worst fears about the sound - it was appalling. They said, 'Okay, will you come to the benefit concert at Hammersmith Odeon and put it right?' I went to the rehearsals and they just literally let me have the board so I did the sound that afternoon...David jumped from the stage and I asked him what he thought of it. 'Sounds great,' he said, and 'Will you do the rest of the tour with me?'..but the answer was basically 'No,' I just couldn't drop all my plans for the year." This was to be the beginning of a long professional estrangement between David and arguably his most talented and empathic producer, a break which many consider crucial to an understanding of Bowie's creative unsteadiness over the next decade. After Hammersmith the two lost contact, apparently because of Visconti's willingness to talk to journalists about subjects David considered private. The air was finally cleared in 1998 when, to the rejoicing of many fans, they began working together again.

David Bowie's Madame Tussaud's Waxwork
David Bowie - Madame Tussaud's ' 1983 Eyeball Selection'
David Bowie - Madame Tussaud's ' 1983 Eyeball Selection'

The mammoth American leg followed from July to October in a wave of unprecedented Bowiemania. The New York Post considered the show "flawless", while the New York Times found Bowie "subtler, more ferocious, more moving and more dazzling - intellectually and sensually - than anything the art world's most celebrated performance artists have come up with." Week after week the ticket grosses topped Billboard's box office statistics. David was on the cover of Time magazine, and post-show parties were the toast of the celebrity circuit, attracting names like Michael Jackson, Cher, Raquel Welch, Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler, Prince, Tina Turner, Susan Sarandon, Sissy Spacek, Henry Winkler, Irene Cara, Donald Sutherland, Tom Conti, sundry Rolling Stones, Joe Jackson, Nile Rodgers, Ian Hunter, David Byrne, Richard Gere, Paul Newman, John McEnroe, Dustin Hoffman, Grace Jones, Bryan Ferry, Elton John and Yoko Ono (at the last of the three Madison Square Garden shows David dedicated "Space Oddity" to "a little boy called Sean," the late Mr Lennon's youngest).

The Montreal Forum show on July 13th was broadcast on American radio, and "Modern Love" from the same gig was later released as a B-side. The accompanying video was shot in Philadelphia on July 20th, the same that a girl invaded the stage during the band introductions, grabbed hold of David and inadvertently smashed his acoustic guitar before being escorted off. "I want to apologise for my mother," Bowie deadpanned to the crowd. Two months later on September 11th and 12th, the full-length Serious Moonlight video was shot by David Mallet at the 11,000-seater PNE Grandstand in Vancouver. There were plans to release a live album mixed by Let's Dance engineer Bob Clearmountain from the various recordings, but the idea was dropped.

Those lucky enough to see the show on September 4th, the second of two nights in Toronto, received the biggest treat of the tour. "We have got a very exceptional surprise for you at the end of this evening, and I'm not going to tell you anything about it," teased David while introducing the band. After the first couple of encores he announced, "I was walking through a corridor in Toronto last night, and I ran into somebody I haven't met for eight years, and I said, what are you doing tonight?...I'd like to introduce one of the original Spiders From Mars - Mick Ronson!" Relations between Bowie and his legendary guitarist had been nonexistent since 1975, when Ronson had spoken out in disparaging terms about Bowie's wayward lifestyle in Los Angeles. Now based in Toronto, Ronson had decided that a reconciliation was due: "When I heard the show was on in Toronto, I called up Corinne and asked for some tickets," he recalled. "I saw David, and the first thing he asked was if I wanted to play. I told him I couldn't...But by the next evening I just thought, sod it, why not? So I went down to the Grandstand and we did "Jean Genie" and it was great. Earl Slick lent me his guitar, and I'd heard him playing solos all night so I thought, 'Right, no solos, I'll go out there and thrash.' So I did, I really thrashed that guitar, swinging it around my head and banging into it, and afterwards David told me it was Earl's prize guitar and all the while I'd been playing he'd been petrified! Poor Slick, I didn't know."

In October the tour moved to Japan (where Nagisa Oshima attended the first night), in November to Australia and New Zealand (where the Toarangtira Maoris honoured David with a tribal ceremony at which he performed an exclusive new composition, "Waiata"), and ended with four December dates in the Far East, taking in Singapore, Bangkok and Hong Kong. These last four concerts weren't officially part of the Serious Moonlight tour, which had its last night proper in Auckland on November 26th, where the 74,480-strong audience was the largest ever recorded for an Australasian concert and was believed to be the greatest single gathering of people in New Zealand's history: one in 50 of the country's population was at the Bowie gig. During the encores Bowie was joined on stage by James Malcolm, the boy who had played his brother in Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence. The nuclear arms race was dominating the world's headlines, and Bowie ended the Auckland concert with an impassioned oration ("I wish our world leaders would stop their insane inability to recognise that we wish to live peacefully!"), and, with Malcolm, released two white doves into the sky before the final encore.

The so-called "Bungle In The Jungle" tour that followed was a last-minute addition born of David's enthusiasm to play the Far East - the carrot after the Western tour's stick, as he himself termed it - and was reckoned as a financial loss from the outset. The majority of the road crew were dispensed with and the set, costumes and Vari-lites were abandoned, but nevertheless the pared-down show was seen by 70,000 people over the four nights. Bowie's Far Eastern travels were commemorated by Gerry Troyna's fly-on-the-wall film Ricochet. In Singapore both "China Girl" and "Modern Love" had been banned from radio play as potentially subversive, and the police imposed a 60-foot gap between stage and audience at the concert. The Bangkok gig coincided with the King of Thailand's birthday, marked by fireworks at the end of the show and a dedication delivered by George Simms, a formidable linguist who had previously added to Bowie's German and Japanese addresses by announcing shows in French, Swedish and Dutch.

The final Hong Kong date, December 8th 1983, was the third anniversary of John Lennon's death. Earl Slick, who had played lead guitar not only on "Fame" but on Lennon's 1980 comeback Double Fantasy, suggested marking the occasion with a one-off rendition of "Across The Universe", to which Bowie replied, "Well, if we're going to do it, we might as well do "Imagine"." The rapidly rehearsed one-off performance of Lennon's classic was introduced before the encores and, needless to say, was ecstatically received. A film clip of "Imagine", shot by Gerry Troyna's Ricochet crew, appeared online in 2016.

In every conventional sense the Serious Moonlight tour was a massive success, consolidating Bowie's new mainstream audience and generating the sort of revenue that can only be boggled at - David is said to have referred to the tour in private as his "pension plan". The 97 concerts were attended by over 2.6 million people, reflecting not only the success of Let's Dance but also the fact that Bowie was, for the first time, appealing to a generation of fans equipped with nostalgia and disposable incomes. It was by far the biggest rock tour of 1983, breaking house attendance records wherever it went. Bowie became the first artist to sell out four consecutive nights at the Philadelphia Spectrum, while massive sales at the 16,500-capacity LA Forum prompted the Californian Angels baseball team to threaten a lawsuit over "disruption" of their ticket sales at the Anaheim Stadium, which was four times larger and which, as the coup de grace, Bowie proceeded to fill a month later. Japanese hair salons were besieged by demands for the peroxided "Bowie Cut", while in Europe wholesalers were mystified by a rush on the sales of women's red shoes to wear - and fling - at the concerts.

But in the long term the tour was a mixed blessing. In the very act of propelling Bowie to living-legend status, it created a millstone around his neck. "I was something I never wanted to be," he later admitted. "I was a well-accepted artist. I had started appealing to people who bought Phil Collins albums. I like Phil Collins as a bloke, believe me, but he's not on my turntable twenty-four hours a day. I suddenly didn't know my audience and, worse, I didn't care about them." In later years Bowie had a tendency to overplay the notion that he was a cult artist before 1983 (not strictly true, as demonstrated by his top ten hits, record-breaking album sales and sell-out concerts at Madison Square Garden and Earls Court a decade earlier), but there can be no doubt that the Serious Moonlight tour brought him an unthinkably massive audience of a kind unlike any he'd had before. In making the mistake of trying to give this audience what he thought it wanted, Bowie would soon falter badly. Contrary to popular belief not everything he did during the remainder of the 1980s was useless, but it would be a long time before he returned to his natural habitat on the creative fringe.

The Complete David Bowie by Nicholas Pegg

The Complete David Bowie

by Nicholas Pegg

New Edition: Expanded and Updated

"This is the best Bowie reference book one could ever hope for"

Tony Visconti

David Bowie's Serious Moonlight Tour in New Zealand 1983
David Bowie's Serious Moonlight World Tour poster 1983