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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014

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Yeah, that's Bowie hanging out on 37th and National.
Yeah, that's Bowie hanging out on 37th and National. (Photo: Dean Francis Halonen)

Great Facebook group unearths Bowie in Milwaukee studio shot

Say what you want about Facebook, but lately it's been bringing together dozens of Milwaukee rock and roll scenesters in a group called "Lest We Forget – Deceased Milwaukee Scene."

Mike L. Podolak – he of Sacred Order – started the group as a place to remember fallen scenesters, but in a brief spurt – nay tornado – of activity, the group has become a place for old friends to remember the Milwaukee scene – especially from the late '70s and early '80s – and to reconnect, as well as memorialize lost friends.

Now the group has grown to hundreds-strong (651 at last count) and there's all sorts of amazing stuff being posted, including the photo of David Bowie above. It was taken at Milwaukee's Star Studio on 37th and National Avenue.

Dean Halonen, who posted the photo, worked at the studio, from when it opened in summer 1974. He left Bay View High to take the job and never went back.

His caption for the photo reads: "David Bowie at Star Studio on 37th and National circa 1974, recording overdubs for the film of the last concert with The Spiders from Mars. This studio is now the Exchange.  With Mike Garson, Robert Sage, David Bowie and Sam Halonen.

"It had to be 7 or 8 in the morning," Halonen posted. "We'd been there three nights out of four and this was the last of it, after 16 hours. Bob in the back there is asleep standing up.

"The worst moment of the sessions was when we recorded Earl Slick playing a riff over Jeff Beck's original track! Beck, having been a hero of ours forever, Bowie didn't like the riff so he had Earl play over it. You can tell in the video, too."

One commenter suggested that Bowie recorded the original version of "Young Americans" at Star, but Halonen says no.

"I'll dispute it story about 'Young Americans' tracks being recorded at Star. At no point was there ever more than one track being recorded simultaneously. We recorded absolutely no drums whatsoever. Everything committed was to existing tracks.

"It wasn't done at Star, I'm sorry to say. There was never any new material committed to tracks then. Like I said, Main Man had been pushing Bowie to get the overdubs for his last concert as the Spiders for a television special that everyone has seen by now! No new material, never anything (recorded) but one person doing a single overdub at one time."

Halonen goes on to tell more of the story:

"He was touring and ignoring the demands of his production company. They were running out of time for the television presentation of the show and would use the tape recordings as they were if he didn't get the overdubs done. We were selected merely because his tour schedule allowed a few days in town during a concert date and we were the newest and best equipped shop in town, at the time.

"Bowie requested a Martin 12-string acoustic the day before he showed up. We didn't have one and couldn't get one from the normal channels, so we had Paul Greene from ZMF, I think, run a quick spot requesting anybody with that guitar to call him. He screened several callers, never telling anyone the what for. We rented one from some guy for a couple hundred dollars – a tidy sum at the time – for four days! When he came by to pick it up we told him what it was used for, which was only the 'Space Oddity' track.

"We ran to George Webb's on the corner of 39th. I think it was every couple hours for bags of cheeseburgers with bacon and mustard. We maintained buckets, literally, of vodka and OJ. The Coca-Cola machine had to be filled each day. Bowie entertained himself which ever way he liked. I'll post a sort of portrait shot from the session for a better look at him. He was extremely slight!"

Incredible stuff. Thanks to Mikey Order for creating the site and to Dean Halonen for posting the photo and his memories of that forgotten moment in Milwaukee music history.

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