The first meeting was awkward, Visconti recounted on Bowie: Dancing Out in Space, airing on BBC Radio 4 and 6Music, The Guardian reports. Apparently, the two icons sat in silence at first, unsure how to move forward with a discussion.
“About one in the morning I knocked on the door and for about the next two hours, John Lennon and David weren’t speaking to each other,” Visconti recounted. “Instead, David was sitting on the floor with an art pad and a charcoal and he was sketching things and he was completely ignoring Lennon.”
“So, after about two hours of that, he [John] finally said to David, ‘Rip that pad in half and give me a few sheets. I want to draw you.’ So David said, ‘Oh, that’s a good idea’, and he finally opened up,” he added. “So John started making caricatures of David, and David started doing the same of John and they kept swapping them and then they started laughing and that broke the ice.”
Even icons are afraid to meet their heroes
Meeting your hero, even if you are a groundbreaking figure in your own right can be nerve-wracking. Bowie was terrified to meet Lennon, but Lennon said he and The Beatles were “terrified” to meet their hero, Elvis Presley.
Lennon told Spin Magazine in 1975 he met Presley once. “It’s an interesting story,” he remarked. We were terrified. He is our idol. We went to meet him, all the gang this day.” Lennon recalls meeting Presley while he was sitting in front of the television. The Beatles were in mid-tour, “’65 or something,” Lennon recalled. “He had this TV, I remember; he had an amplifier and a bass plugged into it. And watching with no sound on the TV. And playing bass and singing, and we were sort of singing along.”
“But we were really just watching him. I always thought of it from our point of view; I never thought of it from his. And years later I heard from a friend, who is friendly with his ex-wife, that he was terrified too: a)’cause we were the new thing and b) what was gonna happen. And that he had been prancing around for hours in preparation, thinking of what to say. And we worshipped him.”
“It’s a strange story … I just remember sitting there and him playing the bass. And me thinking, ‘It’s Elvis! It’s Elvis!!’ It’s actually Elvis. He looked great then, no weight on him. He looked good. And he was shy a bit. I’d like to see him in Vegas ’cause that’s where he’s supposed to be at home. But I’d be embarrassed if they said, ‘And there in the audience is John Lennon.’ I’d hate it. I’m dying to see him.”
John Lennon said people are afraid to cover Beatles songs
Lennon didn’t specifically address the first meeting with Bowie, but he offered another clue as to why Bowie was so nervous to meet with him. Lennon told Spin that many people are scared to cover Beatles songs.
“I love it,” Lennon said when people covered old Beatles songs. “I was thrilled he [Elton John] was doing it. People are afraid of Beatle music. They are still afraid of my songs. Because they got that big image thing: You can’t do a Beatle number … You can’t touch a Lennon song; only Lennon can do it…”
“It’s garbage!” he shot back. “Anybody can do anything. A few people in the past have done Beatle songs. But in general, they feel you can’t touch them. And there are so many good singles that the Beatles wrote that were never released. Why don’t people do them? It’s good for me, it’s good for Paul. It’s good for all of us. And Elton would have had a No. 1 record without me; he didn’t need me. And anyway, I was only Dr. Winston O. Boogie on it … ’cause they weren’t sure, and we didn’t have time to get real permission …”