In 1987 Sam Coley skipped school, headed to Auckland from his home in Christchurch, and climbed a tree at Western Springs. Perched among the branches, Coley saw David Bowie sound-checking. It changed the trajectory of the young fan's life.

"That was a life-changing moment - to actually see him in the flesh," the Kiwi-born, Birmingham-based radio producer said. Coley is a Bowie super fan.

David Bowie Concert at Western Springs, 1983. Photo / NZ Herald Staff Photographer
David Bowie Concert at Western Springs, 1983. Photo / NZ Herald Staff Photographer

He's made documentaries about the rock legend - including one of his visit to Takapuwahia Marae in Porirua in 1983, using audio from a Newstalk ZB reporter who was there on the day.

"It was quite a special occasion to have David Bowie arrive. He was the first rock star who was welcomed on to the marae," Coley said.


"It was an amazing event - thousands got word of it and were queueing outside the marae."

He said Bowie and his crew were respectful and grateful to be welcomed on to the marae, and sang a waiata that Bowie had penned especially.

"It's a piece of New Zealand history," Coley said.

"[Bowie] said it was one of the most hospitable experiences of his life."

The musician was gifted a bone carving pendant which he wore on stage during his Athletic Park, Wellington concert, as part of his Serious Moonlight Tour that year.

During the tour, Bowie made headlines for his backstage demands - which included a bowl of raw fish.

Coley said rumours spread that someone died and another was born at Bowie's Auckland leg of the tour.

"Anybody who was there will tell you it was one of the most iconic New Zealand concerts of all time back in 1983."

A poster of the concert, produced by the Dainty Group, showed the huge crowds who arrived to see Bowie. Almost 80,000 attended, setting a record for an Australasian concert.

Coley made other Bowie documentaries - one for Radio Hauraki celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Let's Dance album and another for the UK market on the album's 30th anniversary.

"I never met Bowie," he said. "But I was lucky enough to speak to some of his entourage and musicians that he'd worked with."

After watching him from a tree above Western Springs stadium back in 1987, Coley and his friends rushed to the front of the stage.

"We were at the very front row to see his Glass Spider Tour concert."

Coley said it was possibly not Bowie's finest hour, "but to hear him singing those songs in the flesh was absolutely spectacular.

"We stuck around afterwards and some of the roadies threw pieces of the concert paraphernalia into the audience, which we grabbed, and I still have to this day.

"They burnt the Glass Spider [set], because it was the last concert of that particular tour, and two weeks later he was off with Martin Scorsese filming The Last Temptation of Christ."

David Bowie Concert at Western Springs, 1983. Photo / NZ Herald Staff Photographer
David Bowie Concert at Western Springs, 1983. Photo / NZ Herald Staff Photographer

The next time Coley saw Bowie was in the UK, around the time of the Earthling album (1997).

"He was doing his drum 'n' bass thing, which was absolutely fantastic."

In 2004, he went to his last Bowie concert - on Valentine's Day in Wellington, part of the Reality tour.

"It was absolutely spectacular. The rain came down, but nobody noticed."

Coley said Bowie finished the set with songs from the Ziggy Stardust album.