Talking Music: Woody Woodmansey of Holy Holy Remembers David Bowie
“The weird thing is its travelled through time,” Woody Woodmansey tells Andy Howells as he discusses David Bowies classic recordings, he played drums on in the early 1970s, “it doesn’t need polishing or oiling it’s just there and its stayed there!”
Woody, along with producer Tony Visconti, worked on many of Bowie’s albums and played Bass on The Man Who Sold the World united in 2014 to perform live as Holy Holy. Along with Heaven 17’s Glenn Gregory on vocals they play Bowie’s material from the early years of 1969 to 1973, upon which both Woody and Tony contributed at that time. Holy Holy will play Cardiff’s Tramshed on February 16.
Driffield born Woody Woodmansey, now 67, is delighted by the reactions from Bowie fans who turn up to gigs to hear classics such as Life on Mars and Moonage Daydream performed live.
“He (David Bowie) didn’t do a lot of the classic songs in his set for long so it’s just amazing seeing the effect on an audience who grew up with those songs or just have discovered them.”
In a surreal twist of fate, Woody and Tony Visconti spoke to David Bowie hours before his death in January 2017 as they performed a live Holy Holy show in New York, not far from Bowie’s home.
“We were playing New York on his birthday. A lot of the staff were lined up as we walked in and they said, “We think David’s coming down to sing with you, there’s a rumour,”
“He didn’t turn up and halfway through the show, Tony said “I’m gonna ring him.” So, we stopped the show and he answered. We said, “we’re playing just down the road from you” and he said, “that’s brilliant.” We said, “we just rang to wish you a happy birthday” and got the audience to sing while we did a bad rock n roll version of Happy Birthday and he said, “thanks for that, that was really nice,” and asked the audience what they thought of Black Star because it came out that day. They went wild and we kept holding the phone so he could hear what was going on and then he said, “good luck with the tour I’ll catch you later.” For us that was the beginning of the first American tour, and we thought “That’s really nice isn’t it?”
In the early hours of the following morning, when the band arrived in Toronto for their next gig, Woody realised he had lots of missed calls on his phone. He was later notified by his son from England that David had died.
Woody recalls, “It was very surreal, especially after speaking to him. We had to get up and think what we were going to do. Tony said “Well I worked with David right to the end, he was doing the musical and Blackstar. He never gave up even though he was really ill he kept going” He had that thing the show must go on, so we said, “Okay that’s what we’ve got to do.”
Thankfully Holy Holy featuring Tony and Woody along with Glenn Gregory have continued and fans in Wales can enjoy their live show when they play Cardiff’s Tramshed on February 16.
Among the tracks played will be the classic, Life on Mars, a track Woody performed alongside David back in 1973.
“It was something we were so proud of as a musical piece,” says Woody, “Then your attention went to” there is nothing around like that!” You didn’t think 40 years later it was still going to be played on the radio”
Listen to Andy Howells interview with Woody Woodmansey of Holy Holy on the latest Ents South Wales Audio Supplement podcast above.