Culture

Photographer’s unseen David Bowie images unearthed after 35 years

04 Aug 2021 4 minutes Read

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David Bowie

When superstar David Bowie brought his Glass Spider tour to Cardiff on June 21, 1987 it was a monumental occasion for several reasons.

Not only was it the Thin White Duke’s biggest and most ambitious stadium tour ever, but it was also the very first concert held at The Arms Park (The National Stadium in old money).

Beating U2’s Joshua Tree tour to that particular accolade, the Irish rock giants would play the stadium a month later, the 50,000 tickets for the Glass Spider tour were snapped up in a day.

The gig presented aspiring photographer and Bowie super fan, Martin McCabe with an opportunity to try and get up close and personal with his hero.

Blagging a prized photo pass, the lensman, who was a regular DJing and taking pictures at Cardiff’s alternative clubs during the ‘80s, found himself metres away from the rock ‘n’ roll icon.

And by deploying stealth and a little cunning ingenuity he managed to capture some of the best shots of any Bowie gig you are likely to see.

Martin (front) with his friends with Jonathan Moss-Vernon and Mike Pearce after the Glass Spider show

“I managed to wangle an official photopass,” he recalls of his brush with the Starman. “For many gigs, including Bowie shows, photographers were only allowed to take photos for the first three numbers.

“The thing is, those pictures weren’t great, because it was still daylight. I got some good shots but that’s because I was so close.”

However, he wasn’t going to let this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to photograph his idol slip by.

“They actually had a purpose built platform for photographers, but when we were all ushered off at the end of the first three songs, I snuck back and just hung around and got as close to the front as I could keeping an eye out for anyone who might try and stop me.

“As a result I got some really great night shots, which I guess was against the rules, not technically illegal, but that’s why those photographs have never been published before.”

Until now, of course.

Memories

The unearthing of the Bowie photographs is part of a project the 57-year-old has spent months working on during lockdown.

His design agency business was put on ice by the pandemic, so the Cardiff creative has been unearthing unseen images from gigs and clubs, which had lay buried until he decided to dust down his archive and scan his long lost slides and negatives – particularly from his days as a DJ and photographer at the nightclub described as Cardiff’s answer to The Blitz.

Funktion Suite at Nero’s was the Saturday night favourite of the alternative crowd in the Welsh capital. The similarities between the hugely influential London club run by style trailblazer Steve Strange and Nero’s, housed on Greyfriars Road in Cardiff city centre, were obvious.

Martin McCabe now, with his prized Bowie scarf from The Glass Spider tour.

Nero’s was a haven for young tribes exploring their own individuality who wanted to dance the night away, Goths, new romantics, punks, psychobillies, and everything in between, it was an alternative crowd and artistic expression a world away from the mainstream.

“When I started to scan the Nero’s photographs, I put up a few of them on Facebook and I quickly realised that it was a thing that people loved. People love to reminisce and remember those days.

“I’ve got lots more to scan, so watch this space for more photographs.”

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Kerry Davies
Kerry Davies
2 months ago

Not technically illegal? If the Bowie estate decides they are a breach of copyright or IP rights then things could get “interesting”.

Bowie was one of the most business savvy of artists and did groundbreaking stuff with the Berne Convention and the sale of “Bowie Bonds”. I would be surprised if the rights to his images weren’t nailed down tight.

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