Along with Cherry, the Astronettes consisted of Jason Guess, a soul food chef with an ear for harmonies, and Geoff MacCormack (aka Warren Peace), who sang backup for Bowie during the final U.K. leg of the 1973 Ziggy Stardust tour, including the Hammersmith Odeon retirement show. He also contributed backing vocals to Aladdin Sane (1973) and co-wrote “Rock ‘n’ Roll with Me” on Diamond Dogs (1974). Peace continued working with Bowie through Station to Station in 1976.
Bowie initially formed The Astronettes as a backing vocal trio for his appearance on Midnight Special, which aired in the U.S. on Nov. 16, 1973 on NBC. The episode was themed “The 1980 Floor Show,” and designed to launch Bowie in America. The special installment of the popular rock music TV series was filmed at London’s Marquee Club from Oct. 18 to 20, 1973.
The backing band featured Mick Ronson and Mark Carr-Pritchard on guitars, bassist Trevor Bolder, drummer Aynsley Dunbar, and Mike Garson on piano. Also appearing on the special were Marianne Faithfull, who duets with Bowie on the Sonny and Cher hit “I Got You, Babe;” The Troggs; and Carmen, which included future Jethro Tull bassist John Glascock. While the special edition of the show received only a lackluster response, Bowie saw potential in the soul vocal trio which gave him such tuneful support.
All tracks for the Astronettes project were recorded in London over three days from Dec. 3, 1973 to Jan. 15, 1974. Bowie recorded the demos to show Cherry’s potential to his manager Tony DeFries. As a producer, Bowie could control quality while encouraging experimentation. He went into the project knowing the direction he wanted the music to go.
“He’s a great producer of what he wanted you to do,” Cherry tells us. “He wanted me to do everything he told me. As I look back on it, I wish I had done some of the music in a different way. Some of it, not all.”
As Bowie tried on different masks for different periods, he encouraged Cherry to explore stage personas. Black Barbarella “was about James Bond,” Ava Cherry tells Den of Geek. “It was Barbarella. It was about the costumes that I wore when I was with Bowie. They look very future-esque.”