TOLWORTH ... CENTRE OF THE ROCK 'N ROLL UNIVERSE
How an unassuming suburban commuter town gave birth to an icon of popular music
If you live nearby, you may have thought the most exciting
thing that ever happened to Tolworth was when it got a
Blockbuster video (now closed). Or if you live in London,
perhaps you know it best for the brooding Tolworth Tower
that you spy as you pelt down the A3. But In fact, this
unassuming commuter town lays claim to its place in
the rock & roll pantheon, with The Toby Jug pub being
a stop on many an up-and-coming artists' journey,
including one David Bowie.
At 7pm, everyone started to get their gear and make-up on. It was cramped in the wallpapered ‘green room’ and very smoky. Bowie was full of nervous energy, pacing back and forth. Below, in the function room, punters, had started drifting in to get their hands stamped. The £1 notes and 50p coins were collected in a dimpled tankard on the table, where a girl sat tending a box of Hunky Dory LPs...
Anne Barclay: “The band arrived on stage … then Ziggy Stardust. Was this David Bowie? It was baffling, original, almost shocking. It was totally electric. I don’t think anybody had seen anything like it.”
John Sammes: “There was no introduction. Just the BANG BANG BANG as the bass drum started up on its own.
It was Five Years.”
“These are the Spiders from Mars,” said Bowie, poliitely name checking each band member before launching into Ziggy Stardust."
Steve King: “The sound was fantastic. I remember feeling the sheer power of the opening chords of Ziggy Stardust."
On January 11 2016, after news broke of David Bowie’s death, John Sammes had a phone call from his ex-wife Sarah. They’d split in 1979, but remained good friends. “John,” she said. “Did I imagine it, or did we really see him at the Toby Jug?”
“We did,’ he assured her. “We did.”
Kevin Cripps: “It was David Bowie, and it was the back room of a pub. It’s far more amazing looking back on it that it seemed at the time.”
THE SET LIST
David Bowie: The Toby Jug (10th February 1972)
Ode to Joy (tape)
Hang on to Yourself
Life on Mars?
Port of Amsterdam
Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud
Rock n’ Roll Suicide
I Feel Free