David Bowie was a very special man, I think we can all agree.
Even after he enjoyed somewhat minor success in Britain following the release of his self-titled debut album in 1967, Bowie himself could not have envisioned the meteoric rise he would later enjoy. The record, which was released the same week as the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, scored a modest spot of 125 in the UK charts and lower yet following its release in the States.
The album would not, of course, depict what was to come for Bowie who was keen to follow the advice of his then manager Kenneth Pitt who had made promises of taking Bowie’s music across the pond. With commercial disappointment still fresh from the album’s release in June that year, a fan letter from 14-year-old Sandra Dodd from USA came as welcome encouragement to Bowie in September 1967. It would be recorded as his first fan correspondence from that far afield.
Such is the charismatic nature of Bowie, the then 20-year-old ignored the pleas from his manager and leapt on the typewriter to pen a quite wonderful response.
You can read it in full, here:
“When I called in this, my manager’s office, a few moments ago I was handed my very first American fan letter – and it was from you. I was so pleased that I had to sit down and type an immediate reply, even though Ken is shouting at me to get on with a script he badly needs. That can wiat (wi-at? That’s a new English word which means wait).
“I’ve been waiting for some reaction to the album from American listeners. There were reviews in Billboard and Cash Box, but they were by professional critics and they rarely reflect the opinions of the public. The critics were very flattering however. They even liked the single ‘Love You Till Tuesday’. I’ve got a copy of the American album and they’ve printed the picture a little yellow. I’m really not that blond. I think the picture on the back is more ‘me’. Hope you like those enclosed.
“In answer to your questions, my real name is David Jones and I don’t have to tell you why I changed it. “Nobody’s going to make a monkey out of you” said my manager. My birthday is January 8th and I guess I’m 5’10”. There is a Fan Club here in England, but if things go well in the States then we’ll have one there I suppose. It’s a little early to even think about it.
“I hope one day to get to America. My manager tells me lots about it as he has been there many times with other acts he manages. I was watching an old film on TV the other night called “No Down Payment” a great film, but rather depressing if it is a true reflection of The American Way Of Life. However, shortly after that they showed a documentary about Robert Frost the American poet, filmed mainly at his home in Vermont, and that evened the score. I am sure that that is nearer the real America. I made my first movie last week. Just a fifteen minutes short, but it gave me some good experience for a full length deal I have starting in January.
“Thankyou for being so kind as to write to me and do please write again and let me know some more about yourself.
“(Signed, ‘David Bowie’)”
More of Sandra notes on that letter are here: