David Bowie turned down the Trainspotting soundtrack

The late pop icon denied permission for his songs to be used in Danny Boyle’s breakout hit

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Danny Boyle has made no secret of his love of David Bowie. After trying in vain to persuade the Thin White Duke to perform at his 2012 London Olympics spectacular, the Oscar-winning director was forced to scrap a planned Bowie biopic when the late rock legend declined to grant permission to use his music for the film.

Now it emerges that Boyle approached Bowie much earlier in his career, for his breakout Trainspotting. According to former EMI A&R Tristram Penna, who helped compile the film’s seminal soundtrack, Boyle and his producer Andrew Macdonald “(told) me of the difficulties they were having in clearing tracks for the film – David Bowie had turned them, down for example… Andrew and Danny were desperate for Bowie – if memory serves, (they wanted) ‘Golden Years’ for the toilet scene (Brian Eno’s ‘Deep Blue Day’ was ultimately used).”

Instead, Penna suggested using Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life”, which was produced by Bowie, for the film’s famous ‘Choose Life’ opening sequence. Boyle was thrilled with the results, and Penna went on to suggest other soundtrack inclusions for the film, including Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day” for the scene where Ewan McGregor’s character, Renton, overdoses on heroin.

“I saw a rough cut of the film at a screening room on D’Arblay Street in Soho,” Penna told Dazed. “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.”

Penna went on to add that his work on the soundtrack was the “most important cultural thing I’ve done”, but expressed regret at his suggestion of Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day” for the film: “The irony and the beauty of the song worked in a sublime fashion. (But) every time I hear that fucking awful BBC single with Heather Small in foghorn mode, I kick and blame myself. I’m really happy about Iggy, (though) I will regret putting ‘Perfect Day’ forward to my dying day.”

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