The David Bowie and Elvis Presley collaboration that never happened

David Bowie, like many other 1960s wannabe rock stars, was captivated by the charisma and musical prowess of Elvis Presley, the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Although Bowie’s most prosperous years had passed by the time he recorded his controversial self-titled first album in 1967, the troubled singer was about to buy a flared suit and start his renowned Las Vegas chapter.

Bowie, who shares Elvis Presley’s birthday, too wore some outrageous flares during the early 1970s time and experienced international renown as Ziggy Stardust. Elvis was initially introduced to David Bowie in 1971 when the Starman showed up in the front row of one of his Madison Square Garden shows.

Bowie recalled, “I came over for a long weekend, I remember coming straight from the airport and walking into Madison Square Garden very late. I was wearing all my clobber from the Ziggy period, and I had great seats near the front.”

“The whole place just turned to look at me, and I felt like a right cunt. I had brilliant red hair, some huge padded space suit and those red boots with big black soles,” Bowie continued. “I wished I’d gone for something quiet because I must have registered with him. He was well into his set.”

Bowie recalled in a 2002 interview with Blender, “Apparently, Elvis heard the demos because we were both on RCA, and Colonel Tom [Parker, Presley’s manager] thought I should write Elvis some songs, There was talk between our offices that I should be introduced to Elvis and maybe start working with him in a production-writer capacity. But it never came to pass.”

Bowie would undoubtedly be troubled by this lost chance for years to come, but he didn’t come away empty-handed. Shortly after their intentions to work together on “Golden Years” vanished from sight, Presley wrote Bowie a heartfelt letter. David remembered, “I would have loved to have worked with him. God, I would have adored it, He did send me a note once. ‘All the best, and have a great tour.’ I still have that note.”

Sadly, Bowie’s initial rendition of “Golden Years” was never included on the 1976 album Station to Station; instead, Presley never provided his magnificent vocals for the song. Sadly, Elvis died in August 1977, one year later, at the age of 42.

The country music icon Dwight Yoakam disclosed a few decades later that Elvis had been eager to work with Bowie. Speaking with the Orange County Register, Yoakam recounted a story from Bowie telling him that, six months before his passing, Elvis had called and asked if he would be producing his next record.

Yoakam explained, “That was based on Elvis having heard Bowie’s ‘Golden Years’, and I thought ‘Oh my God, it’s a tragedy that he was never able to make that’, I couldn’t even imagine 1977 David Bowie producing Elvis. It would have been fantastic. It has to be one of the greatest tragedies in pop music history that it didn’t happen, one of the biggest missed opportunities.”

Listen to David Bowie’s ‘Golden Years’ below.


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