This article was first published in November 2010
How David Bowie influenced my life and work. By Ricky Gervais.
I was born in the Sixties in Battle Hospital, Reading. I grew up in a working-class council estate and went to the local comprehensive. I was a skinny kid, with long hair, fangs and preferred art to football. I had no role model I could identify with. And then I discovered David Bowie. I wore him like a badge of honour. As it turned out, I’d backed the most important creative force in British rock since Lennon and McCartney.
So I learned to play guitar, discovered I could sing, dyed my hair, wore stupid clothes, joined a band, got a record deal, released a couple of singles, got dropped from the record company, dyed my hair, wore more stupid clothes, didn’t get a record deal, gave up, got a job in an office, got fat, wore comfortable clothes, got a sensible hair cut, managed a band that reminded me of David Bowie, went to work for a radio station, met Steve Merchant, wrote a sitcom about the office I used to work in, became friends with David Bowie, wrote a song with him, acted opposite him, did interviews with him, performed on stage with him, got thinner, wrote this article about him. So a lot changed since I first discovered David Bowie but two things remained unaltered. 1) He has been my favourite artist for 35 years and I still wear that badge. And 2) My teeth. He got his fixed. What a sell-out.
The first time I met David, by the way, was at the BBC. The first series of The Office had just aired and I was invited to a special performance at TV Centre. Afterwards, in the green room, the then director general, Greg Dyke bounced over to me and Jane [Fallon, Gervais’s long-term partner] and said, “Do you wanna meet him?” I said “Oh, I don’t want to pester him.” He said, “No, come on.” He then shouted “Salman! We’re gonna say hello to David.” So there we were, with the head honcho at the Beeb and Salman Rushdie, chatting to Bowie in his dressing room. The next day I was in the pub with a mate and he said, “What did you do yesterday?” and I said, “Uh... Nothing. Just stayed in.” It seemed too weird to tell the truth.
A few years later I emailed David on his 57th birthday. It read: “57???? Isn’t it about time you got a proper job? Ricky Gervais, 42, Comedian.” He replied: “I have a proper job. David Bowie, 57, Rock God.”
I’d say that’s pretty on the money.
(Images: Rex Features)