(CNN) — American teenager Brad Mill spent the summer of 1984 exploring Europe by rail with his Sony Walkman in his ear.
Days rummaging through Paris record stores and sampling Berlin nightlife were soundtracked by Mille’s favorite albums.
Miley’s mother also traveled around Europe that summer, but while she opted for five-star hotels and tours of famous city landmarks, Miley and her brother stayed in hostels and spent their days wandering the side streets looking for places where their favorite artists had laid down tracks. done .
For Milley, who grew up in New Jersey, the pinnacle of music was David Bowie, the cult British singer. Its walls were papered with Bowie posters. He took style cues from the man known as Ziggy Stardust. Bowie was Miley’s hero — and being in Europe made Bowie’s music even more popular.
One evening, during their stay in the UK, Miley and her brother met her mother for dinner. She was staying at the luxurious Savoy Hotel on the Strand, a bustling London thoroughfare lined with theaters and bars.
Miley was in peak Bowie mode that night: a double-breasted blazer, baggy pants, braces and a gray wide-brimmed hat complementing the bow tie. On his feet, he wore a snazzy pair of red oxfords in homage to Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” lyrics: “Put on your red shoes and dance the blues.”
“I was definitely looking for that David Bowie, London vibe,” says Milley.
After dinner, Mille went out into the night alone. His attention was immediately drawn to a street in the neighborhood of the Savoy, where a group of people had gathered.
Miele says it’s strange for him to remember now, but he remembers thinking: “That’s clearly David Bowie.”
He made his way across the street to the Victorian Savoy Theatre.
“It almost revealed itself to me as it was happening,” Milley says now. “It couldn’t be anything else. And then suddenly, I see David Bowie climbing a drainpipe, above a crowd of people.”
It felt like Mill wandered the length and breadth of Europe with Bowie tunes in his ear. Now, the man behind the music was only a few yards in front of him.
Stepped into the frame
Bowie was in the middle of shooting a music video, “Jazzin’ for Blue Jean”, a 21-minute long film that featured the soon-to-be single “Blue Jean”. In it, Bowie plays two characters: Gokey Wick, who is trying to impress a girl, and Screaming Lord Byron, a Bowie-esque rock star.
Mille recalls that there were two barricades set up to prevent passers-by from getting into the shot, but the dozen or so people watching the filming were allowed to do so, as long as they did not cause a disturbance.
There’s a moment in “Jazzin’ for Blue Jean” where Bowie, as Vic, rips a drainpipe while trying to break into a nightclub.
“I came to the shooting of that particular scene, which they did over and over again [Bowie’s] Double,” says Milley.
Often the director would swap in the real Bowie. Mille watched in disbelief.
Things got even more real when one of the crew approached Miley and asked if she wanted to be an extra for the rest of the shoot.
“I was almost dead,” wrote a teenage Mill in his diary the next day.
“I think I was the only one in the crowd that they grabbed and dragged in and out,” Mille says today.
He puts this down to his wardrobe, suggesting that his Bowie-esque style was perfect for the film’s aesthetic.
Mille was there for the next several hours, filming, observing and stealing glances at her music idol.
Meet a hero
At the end of “Jazzin'” for Blue Jean, the fourth wall is broken. The viewer can see the film crew, and Bowie breaks character questioning the end of the film.
Miley doesn’t remember seeing that discussion go on, so she wonders if he was there on the final night of filming instead of the last day. The last scenes he saw took place inside the Savoy Theatre, standing in for the fictional Bosphorus Room, where Bowie’s screaming Lord Byron character performs in the video.
When filming ended that evening, the cast and crew cracked open a beer and milled around chatting. It was only then that Mille worked up the courage to speak to Bowie.
“I probably could have done it sooner, but obviously I was in shock,” he says now. “I think I must have said 20 words to him.”
Miley thinks some of those lyrics may be about Bowie’s 1977 album “Low,” one of Miley’s favorites, but the moment is a little unclear.
Mille also recalls getting Bowie’s autograph, but has lost track of it in the nearly four decades since.
Mille returned to her hostel at 6:30 that morning, bleary-eyed, as she wrote in her diary about meeting her idol.
“He’s like a normal guy,” Mill wrote.
“He was a kind person in the interactions I saw him with,” Mille says today. “And he was kind to me, and I think that was great.”
“I think it definitely showed me a side of him that you don’t just see in musicians, right? Just to watch someone interact with the world over the course of six or seven hours. It’s an interesting perspective.”
Later that year, the “Jazzin’ for Blue Jean” video premiered on MTV. Millay’s European adventure was long over, and he saw the film for the first time at his best friend’s house in New Jersey. Later, he bought the video on Betamax, an early video format, so he could watch it whenever he chose.
In 1985, “Jazzin’ for Blue Jean” won a Grammy Award for Best Music Video.
Stepped into the unknown
Today, Mille is a Bowie fan, even though she stopped dressing like him decades ago.
When Bowie died in 2016, Mill surprised himself by how emotional he was to hear the news.
“I really felt it,” he says.
Immediately after Bowie’s death, and in the years that followed, Mille found herself reflecting on her European adventure, meeting her idol, and everything that had happened in her life since.
For Millay, the story symbolizes the importance of venturing into the unknown occasionally in your travels and everyday life, because you never know what awaits you.
“A lot of people don’t do that, and keep their heads straight, look ahead or whatever,” he says. “But if you don’t step into space, you’ll never have stuff like this.”