On This Day in Music History: David Bowie Boo’d Off Stage Mid Poetry Reading

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

It was a dark and stormy night…maybe. Queue the thunder, anyway. David Bowie appeared at a Halloween gig and what ensued was a horror show.

It was on this Halloween day in 1969 that Bowie was set to play at the now-demolished General Gordon pub in Gravesend, a town in Kent, England. He had just appeared on Top of The Pops, a British music chart television program, where all of England had been introduced to the Thin White Duke’s classic “Space Oddity.” Now, everyone wanted to see him perform the insta-hit.

Bowie gave the people what they wanted that night. He reportedly sang “Space Oddity,” but what he did after that, the people did not want.

His gig that night lasted all of 15 minutes when Bowie dragged a stool onto the stage. With him was a huge book. He then sat on the stool and proceeded to read poems from said book.

An attendee named Dave Stableford was in the audience and had paid eight shillings and six pence for admission. He said, “Unfortunately, the poetry didn’t go down well and he was booed off stage.” David Bowie was booed off-stage mid-poetry reading. The horror.

However, the Halloween debacle of 1969 seemed to only fuel Bowie’s fire for doing the outlandish. Every show was like an All Hallows affair as he was known to adopt various onstage personas throughout his career – including Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, and even Halloween Jack, the eye-patched “real cool cat” from the 1974 album, Diamond Dogs – that became just as famous as the Starman himself.

While he probably never brought Byron or Tennyson onto the stage with him again, he infused poetry into his music, captivating listeners beyond “Space Oddity” and beyond Top of the Pops.

Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images

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