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Letter shows Major Tom actually Captain Sensible


Rosa Silverman

AS A flamboyant, gender-bending rock star with an extraterrestrial alter ego, David Bowie gave little impression of being overly worried by practical matters.

But it appears the singer had his feet on the ground and knew when to ''keep it down''.

In a letter never before made public, he issues some surprisingly sensible advice to a teenage concert organiser on the eve of his chart hit Space Oddity.

Writing to a 17-year-old schoolgirl, who persuaded him to perform at her arts club, Bowie set out the ''obvious and not so ob. points on putting a Thing on'' before the 1969 gig.

''Ask landlord about the volume,'' he cautioned her before the event at Croydon's Gun Tavern in south London, where a group of countercultural youths had set up a branch of the Arts Lab movement.

''If he's a bit agitated, warn groups to keep it down BEFORE they get there,'' he wrote.

If the advice does not sound very rock'n'roll, this does not appear to bother Bowie. Drugs should not be allowed inside the venue, he insisted, instructing the organiser to ''keep the place COOL''.

''A girl on the door taking money is a lot more attractive than a muscle man. Have the muscle man standing or sitting nearby,'' he writes. ''Have a couple of guys handy to investigate complaints, pushers, etc.''

The advice came from one Arts Lab member to another, as Bowie was the point of contact for the Beckenham branch of the alternative arts movement that sprang up in the late 1960s.

Anxious to publicise the movement and its ethos, he suggested sending a letter to all the local papers ''pointing out its social implications, somewhere for the minority people (Hippies) to go, why you're doing it''.

He signs off: ''Good Luck and Peace to you all, David Bowie.''

The recipient of the letter, who did not wish to be named, is now 60 and working as an academic in York.

She said: ''I came across the letter when I was sorting through some old files recently.

''He wrote to me after I'd alarmed him during a phone conversation before the gig by letting slip that I didn't even know what a PA system was … He must have realised I didn't know what I was doing and been worried the night would be a complete shambles.''

She said she planned to keep the letter as a ''souvenir''.

Telegraph, London

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