Discovering David Bowie

Discovering David Bowie  – Show Notes

The Man Who Sold Space on his Sandwich Sign

Yo! What is UP??  This is Hal in Philly – flying solo with a little story for all you David Bowie fans!   I discovered him, you know. Okay, not really. I think we all felt that way about Bowie at some time or another. He was something, else, wasn’t he? Well, I’m not going to waste any more time getting into it, so welcome and enjoy one of my very own, true (with pictures to prove it)… Tales of the Road Warriors!

It started just after I had spent 7 months in Israel in 1971, on a kibbutz, where I met some very cool people from all over the world – including Boston,  Massachusetts.

Upon my return to Philly, I still had the traveling bug. so when an opportunity for a very unique job in Boston’s Harvard Square came up, I grabbed it. Not only to get out of my parents house, but to appease that sense of adventure that I had acquired abroad.

Before Israel, the furthest I had ever ventured from home was the Jersey Shore. Well, I wasn’t about to pass this up.

I was always one of those people who could spot a superstar before they became famous; Bowie was one of those soon to be superstars.

Back in the sixties and early seventies, the place where all the hippies usually ended up was Rittenhouse Square. It was like a love-in almost every day. People mostly just hanging out in the park, playing music, being stoned or – just. Being.

A couple blocks away was the Sansom Street boutique area. Sansom Street was Philly’s answer to MacDougal Street in Greenwich Village in New York or Haight Street in the Haight/ Asbury section of San Francisco. There were head shops where we’d go to get hash pipes, bongs and rolling papers, clothing stores selling elephant bell bottoms, and tie-dyed everything, coffee houses, secret concert venues and a record store that always smelled like patchouli oil and incense, where you could buy patchouli oil and incense, full length albums and 45 singles like the Strawberry Alarm Clock’s Incense and Peppermints. See what I did there? 

On this particular occasion, I was rifling through the 99 cent bin. The albums in the 99 cent bin were mostly by local artists who’s music had never and would never seen the light of day, or perhaps had  a very small cult following.

At some point, this odd looking cartoon on the cover of an album in the bin caught my eye. I picked up this odd looking album and began reading the lyrics to the songs – (in those days, it was common for the song lyrics to be printed on the back of an album jackets). I stood in the store poring over every word. This was some pretty dark stuff, but incredible lyrics, and decided I HAD to hear what the music sounded like. So, for 99 cents, I figured, what the Hell? So, I bought it and took it home.

The first listen spoiled me for the first time since the Beatles appeared on Ed Sullivan. This new sound, to me, was fucking amaze-balls! From that point forward, for a very long time, for me, the “new Beatles” was David Bowie, Mick Ronson, Trevor Bolder and Mike Garson – produced by Tony Visconti (who for me was the “New George Martin”)

As I was saying earlier, during my stay in Israel, I met a few people from Boston, Massachussets and one of them had a friend from Bayonne, New Jersey who had started a sandwich sign business. Well, one thing lead to another and to make a long story short, I ended up working for this guy. He had several accounts with merchants  who owned businesses and shops in and around Harvard Square, which was kind of Their Greenwich Village at the time.

No shit. Top hat, hair back in a big bushy ponytail, a harmonica, and a bicycle horn! My job was to stroll up and down the streets of Harvard Square wearing a sandwich sign advertising the local shops and playing music doing my one-man-band thing. Among my sponsors was a suede and leather shop, a shoe store, a deli, a bakery and a women’s clothing boutique.

harvard square 001One day, I was doing my sandwich man thing… just strolling up the street, sporting my black top hat, ponytail, playing my harmonica and occasionally tooting the bicycle horn, when, a straight-looking guy in a suit approached me. In fact, in those days, we literally referred to guys like that as “suits”. So, this “suit” asked me if he could rent my entire sandwich sign, front and back, for two weeks. He went on to explain that he worked for RCA Records and they had just acquired a new artist from Mercury, and would it be cool to advertise his upcoming new album this way?

WIthout missing a beat I asked, “Is his name David Bowie?” The guy’s jaw dropped. He must have thought I was psychic. After telling him the story of how I had discovered his album the previous year, we had a good laugh and sure enough, he ended up “renting me” to promote the “Ziggy Stardust” album with my sandwich sign and one-man strolling show. To this day, I feel I was an integral part of introducing the David Bowie phenomena to the world. Well, at least to Harvard Square. And that’s the story.

I never met Bowie. But I did see him in concert at least a dozen times. I went to the shows at the Tower Theater in Philadelphia where his live album – DAVID LIVE was recorded. You can still hear my voice shouting and screaming from the audience between some of the songs – I was in the front row and even got to touch his hand during “Rock and Roll Suicide”.

Bowie died much too soon, January 10, 2016 that the age of 69, after suffering from liver cancer for a year and half. Only two days after releasing his very dark and prophetic 25th album titled Blackstar. Today is January 23rd; the anniversary of his passing was just a couple weeks before I recorded this episode. Thank you for listening.

In closing, I would like to request that you subscribe to Tales of the Road Warriors on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, Stitcher, Spreaker or your podcast app of choice. A five star rating would be awesome, too, if you’d be so kind. In the coming weeks, stay tuned for a best of 2019 episode and guests including Mach Bell of the Joe Perry Project, George  Bunnell of the  Strawberry Alarm Clock, and I’m thinking about on a live taping of of the show when I find the right venue. Please leave comments, questions and suggestions  on the show notes page at

Okay, that’s it! Time to warm up the car. I’m going for a drive.

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