I love this story of how John Lennon came to work on David Bowie’s first #1 song, Fame.
By late 1974, David, having moved to RCA Records, had already recorded most of his ninth studio album, Young Americans, but the record was in a holding pattern while David went through the necessary legalities to break all ties with his shady management contract with Tony Defries. Staying in a New York hotel during this period, David had a little party that John Lennon, together with his girlfriend May Pang showed up for. Record producer Tony Visconti was also in attendance and recalled later that both John and David were high on cocaine and Cognac and while sketching caricatures of each other were having a dark discussion about “what does it all mean?” – with “it” being “life.” As a side note, it was at this party where May Pang first met Tony Visconti and the two would eventually marry in 1989.
After the party, the ice was properly broken between John and David and a week or two later in early January 1975, John got a phone call from David who explained he was at New York’s Electric Lady Studios working on a cover of John’s Beatles classic “Across The Universe” for his Young Americans album. Unbeknownst to John, Young Americans didn’t need any further material. David was apparently seizing the opportunity to get a Beatle on his record and make a replacement or two of some of the tracks – if it turned out okay, that is. John obliged David and came down to the studio to sing backing vocals and play acoustic guitar on “Across The Universe” with David and his band. John was later to comment that Bowie’s version of “Across The Universe” was the best one. After jamming with the band on a 1961 hit by The Flairs called “Foot Stompin’,” they teamed up with guitarist Carlos Alomar, who had been playing with David since the previous year, and the three of them wrote “Fame” on the spot.