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Original Spider From Mars Talks About Split From Bowie

Express/Hulton Archive, Getty Images

In July 1973, David Bowie shocked fans when he announced that he was breaking up the Spiders From Mars and retiring the Ziggy character. Bowie’s reasons for this has long been a mystery. However, a new interview gives a possible explanation.

As reported in Classic Rock magazine, Woody Woodmansey, the drummer for the Spiders From Mars, recently told the BBC, “I was reading a magazine and there was a Lamborghini in it.” Woodmansey explained, ”I said, ‘Oh, that’s nice,’ and [keyboardist] Mike [Garson] said, ‘Well, why don’t you buy one?’ I said, ‘I wish.’”

The keyboardist, apparently confused, prodded him further. ‘What do you think I get?” asked Woodmansey. Garson, who was new to the band, said, “I was getting a salary that seemed fair, and I just assumed the other guys were getting more because they’d been there several years.” Learning of Garson’s payday, the Spider’s drummer said,  ”it was three times what I got.”

This incident led Woodmansey, guitarist Mick Ronson and bassist Trevor Bolder, to take Bowie and manager Tony Defries to task over the wages, threatening to leave the tour. “The final straw” said Woodmansey, “was Defries saying to us: ‘I would rather pay the road crew more than you. I thought, ‘There’s no game here.’”

Though the band were able to negotiate a new deal, the ordeal caused deep wounds to the band’s relationship with Bowie, who would soon split up the Spiders and move on to another phase in his ever-evolving career. Bowie called it quits with the Spiders onstage at the Hammersmith Odeon on the last night of the Ziggy Stardust tour, announcing, “Of all the shows on the tour this particular show will remain with us the longest, because not only is it the last show of the tour, it’s the last show we’ll ever do.”

While Mick Ronson was aware of Bowie’s plan, Woodmnasey and bassist Trevor Bolder were caught by surprise. Suzi Ronson (Mick’s widow) adds “Everybody knew except Woody and Trevor. I knew, the sound guy knew. I think it was horrific to have done that to them.”

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