Moonage Daydream, David Bowie

I’ve worked on music for all kinds of commercials, and encountered many surprise pairings when it comes to sound and vision – but possibly none more memorable than the ad I did involving David Bowie and two of the industry’s best-known creative directors; Tom Carty and Walter Campbell. 

Tom and Walter were responsible for the iconic Guinness ad, ‘Surfers’, regularly cited as one of the best of all time, in which white horses come crashing out of giant seas while a group of surfers await their moment to try to tame and ride the monster waves. 

I got the call through my business manager at the time to work on a Dunlop tyre campaign – the visuals of which were to be a kind of black and white, dystopian ‘Mad Max’ environment. The music Tom and Walter had been planning on using was ‘This is the End’, by The Doors – they loved the chaotic nature of its long outro section and tried to get clearance for it, but ultimately couldn’t, and so they commissioned  an original piece for the ad – which was where I came in. 

Working at my then studio in Kensal Rise, I wrote something I thought would work – and decided to get the band who’d moved into rehearsal rooms next door involved. They were a really good rock band – I got them to rehearse, then bought loads of booze, got them hammered, and got them to play the piece as chaotically as they could.

We recorded it, and Tom and Walter loved it, but by then, the clients had decided they wanted to try to get a David Bowie track. Bowie was a fan of Tom and Walter’s work and so agreed, and sent over several pieces for them to consider. By now however, the clients had decided they wanted ‘Moonage Daydream’, but Tom and Walter, having liked what I’d done on the original piece I’d written for them, asked me to get involved and do a remix of Bowie’s track.

Bowie’s people couldn’t find the master tapes anywhere until, eventually, the safety copy of the original multi-track was found in a vault in New York City. It was so fragile it needed to be baked before they could run it, but they managed to get everything transferred onto digital multi-track, so they could send it over to me in London.

I asked my friend Alan Moulder to work on it with me, and we brought in my regular drummer, Geoff Holroyde, and did a session. Running the original multi-track, we overdubbed a ton of chaotic drums onto a spare reel and then remixed it all – and that became the music for the ad campaign.

Alan and I also ran another mix of the track, this one without the drum overdubs – purely for our own gratification. The song was originally recorded at Trident Studios in St. Annes Court, Soho where both of us started in our early 20s and it felt like we were back there while we were mixing such an iconic multitrack. It was both a surprise and an honour that Bowie liked it enough to include it on the Ziggy Stardust 30th Anniversary re-issue.