In October 1999, David Bowie guested on the Channel 4 music show TFI Friday. It was a coup for the programme to hook Bowie in for an interview and two live performances—but probably not too unexpected as Channel 4 owned Friday night British TV during during the eighties, nineties and noughties.
This was the channel that served up such original, controversial and utterly unforgettable music shows as The Tube—the benchmark for this kinda thing with a roster of bands that read like a who’s who of the eighties’ greatest acts; The Word—which often seemed like some mad for it ravers got their paws on some TV cameras for an evening; and The Girlie Show which unfortunately was never quite as outrageous or as good as it thought it was. TFI Friday followed in a similar fashion with a mix of music, interviews, pranks and alike, all expertly managed by host Chris Evans.
All of these shows were broadcast live and were often very chaotic. Understandably therefore, each had its own memorable moments—just the quality of live bands on The Tube is ‘nuff said; Iggy Pop’s see-thru pants, a pissed-up Oliver Reed or the grungy L7 dropping jeans and enjoying a guitar solo on The Word; and er, well, I can’t honestly think of anything too memorable from The Girlie Show other than it made #80 on Channel 4’s 100 Greatest TV Moments from Hell, which kinda tells you all you need to know…
Anyhow…back to Chris Evans who truly excelled as a host on TFI Friday. He skilfully mixed cheeky banter with a self-deprecating bonhomie. Evans was like a well-trained party host who kept the chat flowing, the music up and the beers nicely chilled. His show featured some of the stand-out live performances of the 1990s—enough to mention Pulp, Suede, Black Grape, Napalm Death, Slipknot, etc. etc… (There’s a lot more to be written about this show and its predecessors, but for now it’s back to David Bowie…)
I watched Bowie’s appearance on TFI Friday as was broadcast and thought (in my best Derek & Clive), “Hello, he’s either jet-lagged or has been dabbling in the sherbets...” Bowie arrived for his interview with Evans in a retina-scalding combination of neon pink shirt and fluorescent yellow T-shirt. From the off, he was buzzing with adrenaline—at least I think that’s what it was—and began telling various stories which by turn were funny, surreal and utterly bizarre. His opener was the “helluva time” he had getting to the studio because of traffic congestion on Hammersmith bridge, before segueing into a long tale about a one-legged man and his donkey from Indonesia and a recent debilitating bout of gastroenteritis after eating “monkey breast and parrot beak.”
I think I should just pause it there and let you enjoy what is Bowie at his surreal, conversational best.