Old School Americana & Nostalgia


John Lennon and David Bowie Once Split a ‘Mountain of Cocaine’

John Lennon and David Bowie Once Split a ‘Mountain of Cocaine’

Legendary music producer Tony Visconti recently recounted how he witnessed John Lennon and David Bowie sharing a “mountain of cocaine.” In December 1974, Visconti found himself in New York alongside Bowie, working on material for the renowned Young Americans album.

“One night he left the studio early,” Visconti explained on The Bob Lefsetz Podcast. “He says, ‘I’m going to go back to my suite.’ [Bowie] was in Hotel Pierre, and he said, ‘Lennon is coming by tonight.’ He goes, ‘I’m a bit frightened of him, a bit scared of him.’ [Bowie] goes, ‘Would you mind coming after work, after you finish all your tidying ups and all that, would you mind coming over and kind of buffer the meeting?’”

Excited to meet Lennon, Visconti eagerly accepted the opportunity. After finishing work at the studio late at night, the producer quickly hailed a taxi to Bowie’s location. “I go up to David’s suit and I knock on the door a lot and nobody answers. But I hear a lot of scuffling behind the door, and finally, I don’t know who answered, but I think it was Neil Aspinall, one of the minders of the Beatles,” Visconti remembered. “I said, ‘It’s Tony. Tony Visconti. David asked me to come by tonight.’ He goes, ‘Yeah, OK. We were just a bit worried you might be the police.’”

The Young Producer Walks in on John Lennon, David Bowie, and the ‘Mount Everest’ of Cocaine

As soon as Visconti stepped into the suite, he couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow at the unexpected sight before him. “I walk into the main room and I saw a sight I’ll never forget,” he recalled. “On the floor was David and a beautiful Hispanic woman, really really beautiful, and between them there was like a mountain of cocaine. It was Mount Everest but about six inches high. You know, with ski slopes, it was like the real deal. And on the couch is my idol, John Lennon. I couldn’t believe it.”

Of course, Visconti wasn’t going to let some pesky nose candy deter him from meeting his idol. He promptly took a seat on the sofa beside Lennon, engaging him in a courteous discussion about a range of Beatles melodies. The duo conversed specifically about the renowned track, “A Hard Day’s Night.” Meanwhile, Bowie chose to remain uninvolved in the exchange, as he was likely preoccupied with skiing some slopes.

“I had [Lennon] for a good hour. And then he’s like looking over at David. You know, now David’s being absolutely rude,” Visconti added. “He’s so frightened of John, he’s not even looking up at John. He’s just in with this girl, they’re chopping lines away, and John had a few.”

Despite the rocky first encounter, the iconic rockers would make music together. During that time in New York, Bowie and Lennon unexpectedly collaborated to create the iconic song “Fame.” Although recorded in January 1975, Visconti was absent from the impromptu session. Bowie surprised Visconti with a phone call from London, informing him that they needed to make space for the song on his album Young Americans. “I said, ‘David, I would have booked my own ticket on the Concord,” Visconti explained. “‘If you had told me, I would have been there in five hours.’”