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David Bowie guitar veteran Earl Slick doubly happy to celebrate Bowie live on tour – The San Diego Union-Tribune

David Bowie guitar veteran Earl Slick doubly happy to celebrate Bowie live on tour – The San Diego Union-Tribune

David Bowie guitar veteran Earl Slick doubly happy to celebrate Bowie live on tour – The San Diego Union-Tribune
March 06
09:07 2018

Earl Slick was 22 in 1974 when he became the guitarist in David Bowie’s band and 61 when he performed on Bowie’s second-to-last album, 2013’s “The Next Day.” During that nearly 40-year span, Slick embarked on multiple concert tours with the shape-shifting English rock legend and was featured on eight of his albums.

But Slick’s featured role on this year’s “Celebrating David Bowie” concert tour, which teams him with several other Bowie alums, is doubly poignant for him. The drummer in the band is Slick’s 32-year-old son, Lee John Madeloni. Together, they are paying tribute to Bowie, who died Jan. 10, 2016.

“It’s surreal!” said Slick, whose real name is Frank Madeloni. He performs with his son at Tuesday’s “Celebrating David Bowie” San Diego tour stop at the Balboa Theater.

“The way we’ve got the show structured, I’m on and off,” Slick noted. “I open up the show, then I get off stage, and I’m back and forth all night. But Lee’s on there the whole time. And watching him from the side of the stage is weird, sometimes. I’ve got my son playing on songs I recorded years before he was born, with a man I worked with for 40 years of my life.

“It’s kind of strange, but it’s really cool. I think to myself: ‘That’s my kid and he sounds really good. This is great!’ ”

Madeloni’s mother is Slick’s former wife, bassist/singer Jean Millington. She is the co-founder of the pioneering all-female rock band Fanny. Her sister, guitarist/singer and Fanny co-founder June Millington, was Bowie’s girlfriend for a period in the 1970s. The recently reunited Fanny, now known as Fanny Walked The Earth, this year released its first album in more than 40 years.

Slick and his drummer son first teamed up on one of the elder Slick’s solo albums at the start of this century.

They re-teamed a few years ago for a tour of England and Japan with a band that included longtime Rolling Stones’ touring singer Bernard Fowler. That tour found them performing Bowie’s 1976 album, “Station to Station,” in its entirety, “with David’s blessings,” Slick noted.

Fowler is handling most of the vocal duties on “Celebrating Bowie.” The core band teams him, Slick and Madeloni with Bowie band alums Gerry Leonard on guitar, Carmine Rojas on bass and keyboardist Mike Garson, who in 2016 performed a Bowie tribute in La Jolla.


“My life went topsy-turvy after David died,” Garson told the Union-Tribune at the time. “You are the 92nd interviewer I’ve talked to since he passed. In the three months since his death, I’ve played Bowie tributes with Lorde, Smashing Pumpkins and various other artists. He affected so many people, so profoundly, in so many fields.”

Slick credits Garson as the driving force behind the “Celebrating Bowie” tour, which features a guest star or two at most shows.

Garson and Slick both vividly recall how Bowie would rehearse his bands extensively before going on tour. By comparison, the “Celebrating David Bowie” ensemble rehearsed for three days, although most of its members were quite conversant with the material from their previous tours with Bowie himself.

“With David, we’d do six weeks before going on tour,” Slick said. “With David, we had a catalog of 70 songs he could point to at any time in the middle of a tour and we would know them. He liked to change the set every couple of weeks, always without notice,

“Everybody did some wood-shedding for this tour. And a few of us have played these songs so many times in the past that it wasn’t that difficult. We managed to put together more songs than we’re actually using. And we’ve added a few on the road, at soundchecks, that we never did in rehearsals. Between Mike, Gerry, Carmine and me, we all have a pretty good idea of what these songs are anyway. And Bernard and my son are pretty quick studies.”

Slick laughed when asked if the format for “Celebrating David Bowie” was to perform the songs in chronological order.

‘Nah, it’s all ass-backwards!” he replied. “We start with a song recorded in 2003, then do a song recorded in 1974. It’s not in order; it’s set up so it has an ebb and flow. The criteria was trying to represent each (musical) period as best you can, because David changed so much over the years.

“We wanted to try and get a little from each era. That wasn’t easy to do, but we did it. I could probably name another 20 songs in a minute that we’re not doing that I’d live to do — and everyone else in the band can name 20. A lot of David’s music is really (deceptive). I’ve talked to other musicians, and some have the attitude that this music is easy and simple to do, until they try to play it. Then they realize: ‘Whoa! This is more complicated than I thought!’ ”

‘I went mental!’

Slick was only two years past his teens when he hit the road for the first time with Bowie nearly 45 years ago. It was a life-changing experience for the guitarist.

“I went mental! It was great! I mean, come on!” said Slick, who went on to work with John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Joe Cocker, the New York Dolls, Ian Hunter, Leo Sayer, two-thirds of the Stray Cats, and more.

“I was 21 and I’m traveling with Bowie and playing in front of 20,000-plus people a day. I was like a kid in a candy store, doing every fun, insane thing you could do and having the time of my life. Because — in 1974 — that’s when David really became huge.”

Slick did not perform on “Fame,” the 1975 song that gave Bowie his first No. 1 single in the U.S. But the guitarist did go on to work with John Lennon, who co-wrote and recorded “Fame” with Bowie and Carlos Alomar.

“They were very different people, much different,” Slick said of Bowie and Lennon. “But the way they worked and recorded was similar. They were both very loose in the studio. We didn’t look at (musical notation) charts and I wasn’t told what to do. It was more like they both said: ‘Go in this direction,’ and then I was left to my own devices to figure it out. That’s how you get the best out of a player. They both did that and it was really helpful for me, because I don’t take direction well and I can’t read music charts.

“Otherwise, they were very different guys and their personalities were very different. John was that guy who — when we were in the middle of the war in Vietnam — would say his piece, because he had the power to do it and speak out against the war. David wouldn’t do that, because it wasn’t his thing. He liked to keep his music and his personal views view separate.

“David was very well-read. He didn’t do four years of college and get a degree; none of us did. But he did read a lot about philosophy and books about everything. He was a sponge for knowledge to learn new things and it was the same with music.”

“Celebrating David Bowie,” featuring Earl Slick, Mike Garson and Bernard Fowler

When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Balboa Theater, 868 Fourth Ave., Gaslamp Quarter

Tickets: $31-$46, plus service charges

Phone: (800) 745-3000


Source: David Bowie guitar veteran Earl Slick doubly happy to celebrate Bowie live on tour – The San Diego Union-Tribune

About Author

Martin Nethercutt

Martin Nethercutt

Martin A Nethercutt is a writer, singer, producer and loves music. Creative Director at McCartney Studios Editor-in-Chief at McCartney Times Creator-in-Chief at Geist Musik President (title) at McCartney Multimedia, Inc. Went to Albert-Schweitzer-Schule Kassel Lives in Playa del Rey From Kassel, Germany Married to Ruth McCartney

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