David Bowie & Morrissey: “Cosmic Dancer” (live)
During the summer of 1991, a few of my high school friends and I attended the first 12 dates of Morrissey’s North American Kill Uncle tour, zig-zagging across the left side of the country from San Diego to Houston and back to San Dimas. These were peak Morrissey fanaticism years in the USA, even though Kill Uncle wasn’t the scorcher many had hoped for. (That wouldn’t come until the following year’s Your Arsenal.) Still, it was Morrissey’s first return to the States since the Smiths broke up, and his new rockabilly band looked fresh and new, yet rogue and dangerous. It was an exciting time to be a Morrissey fan.
There were two things during those three weeks “on tour” that stand out in my mind:
One: The full-tilt chaos that ensued at the San Diego Sports Arena the seconds after Klaus Nomi’s “Wayward Sisters” ended as Morrissey and his band walked onto a stage for the first time in America. The roar of the crowd dizzied my vision -- you could feel the body being pulverized by the force of the audience roar. At one point, we were told the concert would not continue unless the raucous behavior was toned down. It could’ve been The Who in Cincinnati all over again.
Two: The moment when all 14,000 people in the Inglewood Forum realized that the guy walking towards Morrissey while he was singing “Cosmic Dancer” was David Bowie. Morrissey’s new one-off Parlophone single captures this moment about 3 minutes into the song when Bowie joins in on the second verse. You could feel the rafters rumble when Bowie appeared.
Bowie was the surprise guest that director Tim Broad was referring to when he told me and my friends to expect something different that evening.
“There’s going to be a surprise tonight,” Broad said as he and his camera crew found us* pre-gaming in the Forum’s parking lot.
We met Broad in San Diego and Costa Mesa earlier that week, and had become friendly with him and his small camera crew. Broad had directed videos for the Smiths and Morrissey so his word carried weight. He was someone to be believed.
But I had forgotten what Broad said all throughout that evening’s concert until I heard a second, deeper voice accompanying Morrissey on Marc Bolan’s “Cosmic Dancer” -- a deep cut by American standards. “Ah, this is it,” I thought. “The surprise.”
By the time Morrissey and the deep mystery voice asked, “Is it strange to dance so soon?”, the entire audience saw Bowie walking slowly into the center stage spotlight. People around me screamed, “Who is that?" and “Is that Bowie?” Shock and awe had set within seconds.
After that, things became a blur. Once the locals confirmed it was indeed Bowie, the Forum erupted again. Broad’s leaked footage of the moment captures the duet in question for posterity.
Four years later, Morrissey would quit as the opening act for Bowie’s Outside UK tour. Legend has it that the two didn’t see eye to eye on stage direction, and the budding friendship was snuffed out before it even began. Since then, Morrissey addressed the Outsider tour situation with extreme displeasure. Bowie usually skirted the subject whenever it came up.
As the years grew into decades, the rift between the two became glaring, and when Bowie died, Morrissey was asked for a response, but he didn’t answer. Instead, three years later, Morrissey sold autographed copies of Aladdin Sane at his concerts. Not Bowie’s autograph -- Morrissey’s autograph -- for 300 American dollars. I bought the football scarf, and a bootleg t-shirt for a fiver on the walk back to the car.
But this Parlophone can be considered Morrissey's first real statement about Bowie since his death. What that statement is, I'm not sure, but according to pre-order artwork, the b-side will be another live cover of The Jam’s “That’s Entertainment,” complete with “new instrumentation and vocals” from the concert the evening before at the Pacific Amphitheater in Costa Mesa, California.
New instrumentation and vocals? I’m not sure if I like the sound of that. I’m not sure if I like the sound of a $20 7-inch either, especially since this song leaked decades ago in 1994. But I love a good one-off novelty single, and that's really what this is -- a nice souvenir of June 2nd, 1991, and only essential if you were one the of 14,000 people there.
The 7-inch vinyl version of "Cosmic Dancer" will be available on from Parlophone Records on February 19, 2021.
*Before every concert, Broad and his camera crew would stroll through the venue’s parking lot and interview fans. There must be hundreds of hours of that footage sitting in someone’s attic in England. If those tapes are ever released and my segments are aired, remember I was young and probably inebriated.
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