In 1997, an enviable selection of the world’s greatest musicians came together at New York’s famous Madison Square Garden to celebrate the legendary David Bowie’s 50th birthday. The evening was a who’s who of rock royalty, seeing everyone from the Pixies’ Frank Black, the Foo Fighters and Sonic Youth, to The Cure’s Robert Smith and Lou Reed join the Starman on stage for a series of unforgettable performances.
For the show’s encore, Smashing Pumpkins singer, Billy Corgan had the incredible honour of joining Bowie in a wondrous duet of his 1972 hit, All The Young Dudes. Watch below.
David Bowie & Billy Corgan | All The Young Dudes
In truth, the 90s was far from the peak of David Bowie’s historic career. Since 1983’s Let’s Dance, he’d struggled to impress the critics with his more experimental explorations, however, this one night at Madison Square Garden proved the Starman’s legacy extends far beyond the scope of hit singles.
Corgan reflected on their friendship at a Smashing Pumpkins Q&A, following Bowie’s passing in 2016. “I got to know David Bowie a bit in the 90s,” Corgan recalled. “We were on the same label, we would cross paths here and there. He was treated horribly in the ’90s. It was really hard to watch. As he tried to find, and he did, eventually, by taking that journey into whatever he needed to do. Towards the end of the ’90s, he started dialling back into this other thing, let’s call it the third version of himself.”
“When you’re David Bowie and you’ve had incredible critical and commercial success through the first phase of your career, and don’t forget he had 12 or 13 failed singles before Space Oddity became a hit song. He was considered a nobody then he was a somebody. He was somebody through a very interesting period, then at the end of the ’70s [Bowie recorded] Low and Lodger, went very arty…I might be telling this story wrong but from what I understand he was basically broke at the beginning of the ’80s and that’s what brought on Let’s Dance. ‘I’m gonna back to the larger than life' and you know, he was playing stadiums, he was massive again. So, that’s ‘Phase One’ and ‘Phase Two’.”
“The expectations and the weight of your legacy is so immense,” Corgan continued, “This is my own interpretation…[that] struggling very publicly to find a new voice in relation to the old one or find this sort of balance between things, he was treated very, very horribly. What I’m trying to say in my own language is that he wasn’t treated with the respect he was due. It’s one thing to say, ‘I don’t like it,’ but people treated him poorly like they forgot the guy he was.”
“So it was amazing he was able to go through that and persevere towards the end of his life and make this great music. [To] draw people back to him to where they started realising, ‘Oh my God, he really is that fucking guy’ and unfortunately that was the end of the story or as much as we know now. Thank God he wound back to it, I can’t imagine what people would say.”
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