David Bowie played an experimental gig at the Friars club in Aylesbury in September 1971 to see if he could cut it playing live.
Friars bosses were aware of his The Man Who Sold the World album and the Space Oddity single which had been a hit two years before.
He needn’t have worried. Not only did he go down a storm that night, but he gave Aylesbury the world debut of Hunky Dory which at that time had not been released.
After the gig, in the Friars dressing room, he said to Woody Woodmansey, Mick Ronson and Trevor Bolder “This was great tonight. Let’s form a band and go out and do it properly.” Four months later he played Friars Aylesbury for the second time.
David Stopps said: “In the interim period ‘Hunky Dory’ had been released and immediately went to No 1 in the local Aylesbury album chart. So on 29 January 1972 we were very excited about seeing him play Hunky Dory. He did play a few songs from that album but the majority of the set was a completely stunning new suite of songs which turned out to be the Ziggy Stardust album.
“So, Aylesbury was the place that one of the greatest stars of the modern era chose to perform the world debut of both ‘Hunky Dory’ and ‘Ziggy Stardust’.”
Roger Taylor from Queen was at that January ‘72 gig.
He said: “I got Freddie out in my little mini and I remember the lights didn’t work very well and we were going around the roundabouts and he was going “Oh dear – I don’t think you can see dear, can you?” and I said “Don’t worry Freddie it will be all right” and anyway, we did get around the roundabouts and we got out to Friars Aylesbury which seemed like the end of the earth at that time.
“I think it could have been the first-ever Ziggy Stardust gig and it blew us away – we were blown away – it was so fantastic, like nothing else that was happening and so far ahead of its time – The guy had so much talent to burn really and charisma to burn as well. I hate to gush but he did have it like no-one else did at the time.”
There were two more Friars Bowie gigs that year. The first was at Friars Dunstable on 21 June, and then back in Aylesbury for the infamous 15 July gig.
By this time the Ziggy character had been fully developed. For the July Aylesbury gig Bowie flew in 50 of the top US music journalists just for the Aylesbury show.
This resulted in reviews in Rolling Stone, New York Times, Chicago Tribune, LA Times and Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine amongst many others. This put Friars and Aylesbury firmly on the world music map.