Under pressure to get David Bowie’s autograph

Music fan Gary Craig loved collecting autographs of his favourite stars. Here is David Bowie.
Music fan Gary Craig loved collecting autographs of his favourite stars. Here is David Bowie.

When he was younger, Gary Craig and his pal Wavis O’Shave (as he liked to be known) would spend their spare time in pursuit of rock stars when they came here to perform in the North East.

And together, they managed to catch up with a galaxy of big name musicians, including David Bowie, Queen, Deborah Harry and Iggy Pop.

Music fan Gary Craig loved collecting autographs of his favourite stars. Here is Freddie Mercury of Queen.

Music fan Gary Craig loved collecting autographs of his favourite stars. Here is Freddie Mercury of Queen.

Today 56-year-old Gary, who lives in Whitburn, recalls those days, back in 1975, when he was just 17 years old – and armed with a camera, a pen ... and a motor bike.

At the time, Gary had a 125cc trials bike which he and Wavis used to travel on, back and forth between hotels where the stars would be staying (usually the Gosforth Park of The Holiday Inn) and the region’s main venue, the Newcastle City Hall.

“We used to go all over the place on it,” says architect Gary. “Wavis would know who was in which band’s entourage and ring up the hotels, asking if they were staying there. Then we would go there and try to get an autograph.”

The “hobby” took up a lot of their time, and they didn’t always get the souvenirs they sought.

Music fan Gary Craig loved collecting autographs of his favourite stars. Here is Debbie Harry of Blondie.

Music fan Gary Craig loved collecting autographs of his favourite stars. Here is Debbie Harry of Blondie.

But more often than not, their dedication paid off, and they were rewarded with signatures from some of the top acts of the day.

This is how Gary recalls one occasion, when he and Wavis set off in pursuit of David Bowie in June, 1978.

By this time, the trials bike had been replaced with a Ford Escort.

“Despite rumours flying around left, right and centre as to Bowie’s hotel for his three days in Newcastle, and the determination of the receptionists to keep it quiet, we finally decided to go to Newcastle airport on the off-chance that Bowie was flying in.

“Arriving at 2.15pm, on Wednesday, we discovered there was a flight arriving from Heathrow in half an hour.

“On waiting on the roof, we were amazed to see Bowie disembarking, alone!

“Such was our amazement, that we waited at the wrong arrival point and let him slip past us into a waiting car.”

Not to be outdone, the two of them raced off the nearest hotel – the Gosforth Park.

“We waited all afternoon without being sure Bowie was even there, although bodyguard Stewart George and other band members appeared from time to time.

“We finally decided to leave, along with a lad from Lincoln, who had followed Bowie all over the country and Europe, as well as a German girl and French boy.”

Having travelled to the City Hall, Gary and Wavis decided they would try to follow Bowie’s Mercedes after the show.

“This proved impossible in my Escort 1100, so we headed straight for the Gosforth Hotel, but unfortunately arrived just after Bowie.

“Still not sure that he was actually stopping in the hotel or that he was changing hotels each night, we chased around a couple of other hotels the following day before returning to the Gosforth.

“Although still not seeing Bowie, I was pleasantly surprised to bump into John Shipcott and Dena (of the H.M.R. Management) who were also up for the Bowie shows.

“Wavis and I finally decided to go and get some food and rest when it began to rain – and somehow in the one and a half hours we were away Bowie came out to sign autographs, before going to the City Hall ... and we missed him again.

“In the meantime, however, I had got Carlos Alomar (guitarist and Bowie collaborator) to sign my programme while Dennis Davies (Bowie’s drummer) ringed his name of the back of the programme Wavis got for me from the first night).

“Anyway, we then decided that there was no way we were going to miss him the next day, and sure enough, despite some argument with one of the hotel receptionists, who eventually called the police to clear the crowd of a dozen or so from the hotel grounds, we ran across to Bowie’s Mercedes.

“As it was brought round to the entrance, we spent a couple of minutes getting autographs and photos.

“As the car pulled away everybody ran after it, making quite a comical scene, but that was the effect of the excitement of finally seeing the legendary David Bowie.”

l Next time: How Gary’s brother upset Iggy Pop. Plus loads more musical memories.