David Bowie's drummer discusses lyrics and legacy

Musician Woody Woodmansey recently visited the School of English to recall his creative relationship with one of the 20th century's leading performers.

Between 1970 and 1973, Woody Woodmansey played drums on four seminal David Bowie albums; The Man Who Sold the World, Hunky Dory, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars and Aladdin Sane.

Following the death of Bowie in 2016, Woodmansey remains the last surviving member of the original Ziggy Stardust line-up and has a unique perspective on Bowie’s enduring work.

Throughout the evening, co-hosted by Blackwell’s Bookshop Leeds and presented by Dr Denis Flannery, audiences had the chance to explore the highlights and complexities of working with Bowie alongside Woody’s extraordinary career in the rock industry.

There was also a unique opportunity to gain a signed copy of Woodmansey’s critically-acclaimed 2016 memoir Spider From Mars: My Life with Bowie  his colourful response to misinformation about Bowie's formative years.

Woody woodmansey spiders from mars at university of leeds

Dr Denis Flannery said: “The School of English was delighted to welcome Woody to Leeds. Everyone enjoyed the warmth, humour and grace with which he shared his memories of breaking into the music business and of working with David Bowie on some of the most startling, influential and ground-breaking albums, songs and stage performances of the twentieth century”

“The stories Woody told were exciting,” adds BA English Literature student Kathryn Jackson. “It was so interesting to hear stories about Bowie from someone who knew him well.”

A unique specialism at Leeds

Dr Flannery’s expertise in Bowie’s work is globally recognised, and best demonstrated in the exclusive module Bowie, Reading, Writing, which considers the relationship between Bowie's work and the field of 'the literary' from 1971-2015. 

It particularly explores the performer’s use of the song as a literary and theatrical form, and the interaction between songwriting and other forms of writing such as modernist fiction, poetry, philosophy, and psychoanalysis.

“The module allows you to think outside the confines of ‘the novel’ or ‘the poem’ to look at lyrics, pieces of art etc as literary and meaningful,” explains Kathryn.

“The teaching style has been the most engaging of my degree too, focusing more on contribution and discussion rather than learning a set syllabus. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it so far.”

Bowie, Reading, Writing is available as one of the University’s innovative Discovery Modules, which gives students a chance to broaden their academic experience and enhance their employability with different skills.