David Bowie said no to a lot of people. Since Bowie’s passing, we’ve learned that he declined to collaborate with people like Coldplay and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and he famously refused to allow Todd Haynes to use his music in the movie Velvet Goldmine even though it was practically a Bowie biopic. But he may have turned down filmmaker Danny Boyle more often than he turned down anyone else.
When Boyle put together the closing ceremony for the 2012 London Olympics, he tried to get Bowie to perform. Bowie declined. More recently, Boyle tried to make a Bowie musical, but Bowie said no, and Boyle ended up making Steve Jobs instead. And now we’ve learned that Bowie also turned down the chance to be featured on the soundtrack of Boyle’s most iconic movie, 1996’s Trainspotting.
The Trainspotting soundtrack, which turns 20 this summer, was an invaluable tool for budding Anglophiles; it featured some Britpop heavy hitters, some rave bangers, and a few formative Britpop influences, including Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, and Brian Eno. But Dazed reports that Boyle had originally wanted to use Bowie’s “Golden Years” for the scene in which Renton dives into a toilet. He couldn’t clear it.
The former EMI A&R Tristram Penna says that Boyle and producer Andrew Macdonald were “desperate” for Bowie, but he turned them down:
I saw a rough cut of the film at a screening room on D’Arblay Street in Soho. It was a mess. I don’t even know who the music supervisor was, but some of the suggestions were just awful and not at all right. I’d always been a huge clubber in London — indie clubs, gay clubs, whatever clubs as long as there was great music — and Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life” had always been a huge club hit since the BatCave days, so I knew it would get the adrenaline rushing if used in the opening. I remember suggesting the song because [Danny and Andrew] were continually upset that Bowie had turned them down. So they cut it in with “Lust for Life” and it was transformational.”
The soundtrack ultimately used two Bowie-produced Iggy Pop songs, “Lust For Life” and “Nightclubbing.” And Penna says that he regrets suggesting Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day” because he blames himself for the song becoming overexposed.