I've got the village I love I walk along beside the garbagemen and I dig everything I wave to the policemen, but they don't wave back They don't dig anything Ain't had a job for a year or more and I don't know a thing Everything's spent and I dig everything Everything's spent and I dig everything Dig I feed the lions in Trafalgar Square and I dig everything I've sit just behind my window, till my cigarettes were low and dug everything Got a backstreet room in the bad part of town and I dig everything I'd see people in the street below, who don't know where they're going They don't dig anything Everything's spent and I dig everything Everything's spent and I dig everything Dig I've got more friends than I've had had dinners Some of them were losers, but the rest of them are winners Rick, John, Sally, a connection named Paul Holy low on money, their intentions are tall We smoke and talk in my room and we dig everything Dig I've made myself at home I've made good friends which the time-check girl on the end of the phone All the movie shows I sunbathe for love Even when it's not too hot 'Cause I dig everything Oh yeah
‘I Dig Everything’, recorded on 5th July 1966 and released on 19th August 1966, was Bowie’s third and last single under the Pye label, backed by ‘I’m Not Losing Sleep’ as the B-Side.
Tony Hatch, producer of the previous two singles, had booked quite a number of gigs for Bowie and his band The Buzz throughout the spring of 1966. However, after ‘Do Anything You Say’ had flopped it was time for the band to get their act together and release another single to increase their popularity. According to Cann’s Any Day Now, Bowie and The Buzz already tried to record ‘I Dig Everything’ on 6th June at Pye Studios, Marble Arch, including a brass section with Moods trumpeter Andy Kirk. Also part of the arrangement on that day were Dusty Springfield’s backing singers Madeline Bell, Kiki Dee and Lesley Duncan. But the problem with this recording session was that the arrangement with the new brass section and backing singers had not rehearsed that song before – and Tony Hatch was not convinced that this recording would make for a good single.*
5th July, the day of the proper recording of ‘I Dig Everything’ and ‘I’m Not Losing Sleep’, was preceded by a radical change in the band structure of The Buzz: on 15th June the band’s guitarist John Hutchinson had to quit his membership in the band due to the lack a regular financial income. Hutchinson would work with Bowie again, and then more substantially, in late 1967 – but we’ll come to that later. Hutchinson’s departure worsenend not only the atmosphere in the band**, but might have also led to Tony Hatch’s decision to exclude the entire band from recording the new single with Bowie. For the recording, Hatch had booked a couple of session musicians instead of The Buzz. Unfortunately, these musicians are unknown today, they were not documented. Hatch recalled in 1990:
I couldn’t tell you for certain who played on the re-recording but in those days, for ‘rock’ sessions, I always hired great musicians like Jimmy Page, John McLaughlin, Jim Sullivan, Herbie Flowers, Clem Cattini, Tony from Sounds Incorporated, Roger Coulam and Alan Hawkshaw, the ‘hooligans’ of their time. Come to think of it – most of these people also featured on the Petula Clark sessions too.
So, the recording session was successful and ‘I Dig Everything’ was scheduled to be released a month later. In the meantime however, Kenneth Pitt (who had overseen David’s development for quite a while now) sent an advance copy to Vicky Wickhamd, the driving force behind Ready Steady Go!, on 18th July, but received the copy back shortly thereafter with a short comment reading: “Very many thanks for the David Bowie disc. I am sorry, but yet again I really do not think it is a hit. One day I am going to surprise you!”
The single itself was yet another flop in a series of flops David Bowie had witnessed already in his musical career until then. ‘Can’t Help Thinking About Me’, released earlier in 1966, had perhaps come closest to a chart success (though it can be argued that the charting method was quite biased). Upon its release, the single was met relatively positive: “Another disc that’s perfect for dancing” (NME); David “wrote it himself and sings it, with his voice moving very well against the backing” (Disc & Music Echo).
Though The Buzz were not part of the actual recording of the single, they nonetheless continued to perform live with David Bowie in the coming months and played the new single among other songs***. According to the Kent Messenger, Bowie and his band used a “completely new act” on 26th August by using pre-recorded tapes in their live sets. For this new act they have supposedly rehearsed 8 hours per day. According to Cann, the performance was a disaster due to synchronisation problems between the tape and the songs sung live. The chart failure that ‘I Dig Everything’ was finally led to Pye’s decision to part ways with David Bowie, and hence his contract ended in September that year.
Ironically, from today’s point of view ‘I Dig Everything’ together with ‘Can’t Help Thinking About Me’ can easily be called one of the best tracks Bowie had released until then. The song features a very playful side of the young mod Bowie that he presumably still was. While the song starts of with a dominant Hammond organ it later on develops into a memorisable tune using a Latin-flavoured percussion that gives the song a nice rounding.
Lyrically, the song can be aligned with ‘Can’t Help Thinking About Me’, ‘The London Boys’ and ‘Join The Gang’ as a story of a young teenager in London leaving his family and old life behind. These songs resemble Bowie’s mod associations. In contrast to ‘Can’t Help Thinking About Me’ the new single features a teenager not leaving but rather having arrived (notably in London as the lyrics suggest), a teenager who is delighted by everything and everyone that he sees: garbagemen, policemen, a bad room, not having had a job for years, his new friend circle. And so on. The song also hints at drug circulating among him and his friends (the “connection”).
This is a song that captures the spirit of Swinging London in 60s: groups of young teenagers hanging out together that do not follow the ordinary and responsible lifestyle as perhaps their parents did. The character in the song is described as a loser without a job and any money, but a sympathetic one. He finds pleasure in everything he sees, interestingly in the most normal things.
‘I Dig Everything’ was not performed anymore in the subsequent decades. Until the late 90s and early 00s when he began to revisit his old song material for some sporadic live performances and the Toy sessions (the album that never was) in 2000. ‘I Dig Everything’ was among those songs that Bowie picked. The song as performed in his summer 2000 concerts can be heard through the link below:
The Toy album version (as leaked onto the internet in 2011) can be heard here:
* Dek Fearnley, bassist for The Buzz, recalled: “The arrangement wasn’t up to it. The horn section were OK at playing soul music, but not what we wanted.”
** In fact, in the weeks after Hutchinson left the band they were forced to give a couple of gigs without a lead guitarist as they simply couldn’t find a suitable replacement on time. John Hutchinson would finally be replaced by former Anteeks guitarist Billy Gray (a more exuberant nature on stage).
*** Interestingly, among those other songs were ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, nowadays a well-known football anthem. Keep in mind that in the summer of 1966 England had won the World Cup beating West Germany at Wembley.
Question-time that says I brought dishonour My head's bowed in shame It seems that I've blackened the family name Mother says that she can't stand the neighbours' talking I've gotta pack my bags, leave this home, start walking, yeah I'm guilty I wish that I was sorry this time I wish that I could pay for my crime I can't help thinking about me Remember when we used to go to church on Sundays I lay awake at night, terrified of school on Mondays Oh, but it's too late now I wish I was a child again I wish I felt secure again I can't help thinking about me As I pass a recreation ground I remember my friends, always been found and I can't I can't help thinking about me Now I leave them all in the never-never land The station seems so cold, the ticket's in my hand My girl calls my name "Hi Dave Drop in, see you around, come back If you're this way again" Oh, I'm on my own I've got a long way to go I hope I make it on my own I can't help thinking about me
David’s fourth single, and The Lower Third’s second single (and last with Bowie), was released on 14 January 1966 – and ranks among the finest pieces created by the young artist in his pre-‘Space Oddity’ period. ‘Can’t Help Thinking About Me’ was also the first public release to feature David’s name change from Jones to Bowie.
How did ‘Can’t Help Thinking About Me’ came into existence? The single was the result of a development in late 1965 that turned out as crucial for David Bowie’s career as he was now represented by his first-ever manager Ralph Horton. After Bowie and The Lower Third failed the BBC audition to gain a spot on a pop programme on TV Horton introduced them to Tony Hatch, a songwriting producer at Pye Records, on 25 November 1965. It is known that the couple of demos discussed earlier on this blog were sent to Hatch beforehand. In 1993 Hatch admitted that he was quite impressed by them and hence he would be the producer Bowie’s next singles.
That same day on 25 November 1965, Bowie and The Lower Third recorded three songs for potential single release at Pye Studios in ATV House, 40 Bryanston Street, Marble Arch: a song called ‘Now You’ve Met The London Boys’ (which would later be reworked with his then-band The Buzz and would simply be titled ‘The London Boys’ to become the B-side of the ‘Rubber Band’ single released in December 1966), ‘Can’t Help Thinking About Me’ (which would become the A-side of the single) and ‘I Say To Myself’ (which would become the B-side).
The recording of the song featured Bowie providing the lead vocals and playing the tambourine (allegedly the same tambourine that was used by Petula Clark on her previous year’s monumental hit ‘Downtown’), producer Tony Hatch on piano, guitar by Denis Taylor, bass guitar by Graham Rivens, Phil Lancaster on drums and the entire band singing the backing vocals throughout the entire song. Tony Hatch is said to have remarked that the backing vocals by the The Lower Third sounded “like a Saturday night at the old Bull and Bush”.
The song offers a couple of themes that become typical for Bowie’s later songwriting. First of all, it is a storytelling song. Indeed, as is stated in the article above ‘Can’t Help Thinking About Me’ is a reference to a significant part of his life since he left his home at 16 years to start making it on his own as a singer. The theme of the lonely traveller leaving home is often repeated in Bowie’s work, for example in ‘Black Country Rock’, ‘Be My Wife’ and ‘Move On’.
The song portrays a young dude waiting at a train station for his girlfriend reflecting on his decision to leave home. It seems that he has committed some sort of a crime that “blackened the family name” and now he can’t go back home. What was the crime? Maybe it’s one of the following: his abandoning of his family name (and changing it to Bowie) or his flirt with sexual ambiguity. But we can only assume. The song also features what Bowie later described as some of the worst lyrics he has ever written (in particular this part: “My girl calls my name: ‘Hi Dave / Drop in, turn around, come back / If you’re this way again’ “).
Some biographers assume that since ‘Can’t Help Thinking About Me’ was the last single of Bowie fronting a band for a long time (since he would leave The Lower Third immediately after the release of the single) the song was meant as an alarm signal to his band colleagues. It would not be too far off to assume that as the song’s lyrics state: “I’ve got a long way to go / I hope I make it on my own”. And the song title is somewhat telling as well.
But the song tells more about Bowie: it is perhaps the first time he showed some sense of alienation, of being an outsider and outcast from conventional society. Bowie himself would later on in 1999 describe the song as a “beautiful piece of solipsism” (knowledge that anything outside one’s own mind is unsure) which in some way would support the alienation theory. In 1973 David Bowie, by then in the guise of his alter ego Ziggy Stardust, said the following:
“I’m not very sure of myself when it comes to thinking about me. I try and leave ‘me’ alone … It’s much more of a realism for me to think that this ( points around room ) is all me, that there’s nothing else in here. It’s all outside. I prefer that way of existence.”
Hence, the single also shows the first evidence of Bowie writing lyrics that are rather dark and cold, a style that he would repeat over and over throughout his career and particularly in the 1970s when he starts to sing about much more otherworldly themes, influences of drugs and his reflections on fame and society. However, it would be misleading to compare this song with his later work. It would rather make sense to place ‘Can’t Help Thinking About Me’ among Bowie’s growing interest in depicting his experiences of the teenage wildlife as a mod in London around that time. This makes more sense since he started to write a couple of remarkable songs around the same time that contained similar themes (among them most notably ‘The London Boys’). How would his first album have sounded if he had solely written about the mod teenage life in London during those years?
Bowie’s vocals in ‘Can’t Help Thinking About Me’ reveal a much more advanced way of singing. There is a pre-chorus section (“it’s too late now”) that certainly raises the excitement in this song, and David continues to perform some of his best early wailing. His soaring and emotional vocal performance of the line “I’m guilty” really reveals how much the guy in this song has come to terms with his decision to leave everyone at home in the “never-never-land” and how he starts to like his new phase in life.
Before the release of the single on 14 January 1966 David Bowie and The Lower Third had a promotional gig at The Gaiety Bar, the Victoria Tavern, on 6 January, financed by Bowie’s sponsor Raymond Cook, to launch ‘Can’t Help Thinking About Me’ and – as it seems – to especially promote David Bowie as a singer. David’s preferential treatment by Horton – in comparison to his band members – has led to a couple of disharmonies between the lead singer and the band that would result in the parting of the band later in January. David has been treated almost as a solo artist, and apparently that has led to some more or less famous guests showing up at the gig. One of them was Freddie Lennon, John Lennon’s father. In its review column the Record Retailer finds that the song is “an original song about teenage trouble. Words worth listening to but arrangement not all that original”.
The official reviews upon the single’s release are quite positive. NME: “Absorbing melody, weakish tune”. In an official press release Bowie emphasises his claims to make it as a solo artist: “If the record is a hit, that’s alright, but I really want to become established.” There’s no ‘we’ in that sentence which would have hinted that he cared enough for his band. Pye Records’ official press release states that Horton has already engaged Bowie to put his “hundreds of songs” on an album later that year.
The single did not sell well. It was another commercial flop. But Ralph Horton managed to place the single – illegitimately, but a common practice in the music industry around that time – in the Melody Maker charts so that ‘Can’t Help Thinking About Me’ entered the charts at #45 on 13 February and peaked at #34 about two weeks later. The Melody Maker charts were by no means representative and need not to be confused with the national charts. In reality, sales were meagre at best and the single flopped all the way.
The song was played over and over in January 1966 in order to promote the single and to boost sales. However, on 29 January The Lower Third and David Bowie part from each other and would never join forces again. As a resulting of the charting “success” Bowie had his first interview with Melody Maker on 26 February 1966 titled ‘A Message To London From Dave’.
WITHOUT doubt David Bowie has talent. And also without doubt it will be exploited. For, Mr. Bowie, a 19-year-old Bromley boy, not only writes and arranges his own numbers, but he is also helping Tony Hatch to write a musical score, and the numbers for a TV show. As if that wasn’t enough, David also designs shirts and suits for John Stephen, of the famed Carnaby Street clan.
And his ambition? “I want to act,” says Bowie modestly, “I’d like to do character parts. I think it takes a lot to become somebody else. It takes some doing.”
“Also I want to go to Tibet. It’s a fascinating place, y’know. I’d like to take a holiday and have a look inside the monasteries. The Tibetan monks, Lamas, bury themselves inside mountains for weeks and only eat every three days. They’re ridiculous – and it’s said they live for centuries.”
It should be stated that David is a well-read student of astrology and a believer in reincarnation….
“As far as I’m concerned the whole idea of Western life – that’s the life we live now – is wrong. These are hard convictions to put into songs, though. At the moment I write nearly all my songs round London. No. I should say the people who live in London – and the lack of real life they have. The majority just don’t know what life is.”
Every number in Dave’s stage act is an original that he has written. As he says. the themes is usually London kids and their lives. However, it leads to trouble.
“Several of the younger teenagers’ programmes wouldn’t play ‘Can’t Helping Thinking About Me’, because it is about leaving home. The number relates several incidents in every teenager’s life – and leaving home is something which always comes up.
“Tony Hatch and I rather wanted to do another number I had written. It goes down very well in the stage act, and lots of fans said I should have released it – but Tony and I thought the words were a bit strong.”
“In what way?” “Well, it tells the story of life as some teenagers saw it – but we didn’t think the lyrics were quite up many people’s street. I do it on stage though, and we’re probably keeping it for an EP or maybe an LP. Hope, hope! It’s called “Now You’ve Met The London Boys”, and mentions pills, and generally belittles the London night life scene.
“I’ve lived in London and been brought up here, and I find it’s a great subject to write songs about. And remember, with all original numbers the audiences are hearing numbers they’ve never heard before – so this makes for a varied stage act,” said David, “It’s risky, because the kids aren’t familiar with the tunes, but I’m sure it makes their musical life more interesting.”
He could be right.
David Bowie and his new band The Buzz performed ‘Can’t Help Thinking About Me’ on Rediffusion’s Ready, Steady, Go! (where Bowie had initially intended to wear a full white suit but which would have caused problems for the camera). Unfortunately, a recording of this show has not survived. Despite its commercial failure the single marked somewhat of a little milestone for the young aspiring David Bowie: the single would be David’s first to be released in the US, issued in the Warner Brothers label in May 1966, along with the following press release:
David Bowie must be one of the most talented stars on the pop scene today. It is not enough just to be able to sing nowadays, most of the top artistes compose and sometimes act as well and David is no exception.
Not only did his first record get to No. 34 in the hit parade but it was his own composition. ‘I compose all the time,’ he said. ‘Sometimes I sit down and think out a song and other times they just come to me.’
You might think that David, still only twenty, wouldn’t have time to do anything else but he is a disc jockey at the famous Marquee Club in Soho where he has his own show called the ‘Bowie Showboat’.
David Bowie is a solo artist but he is backed by his group The Buzz. Their record, ‘Can’t Help Thinking About Me’ was released in the US and was the ‘Cashbox’ best bet, so it may do as well there as it has done here. David said he would quite like to go to the States but his main ambition as far as travel is concerned is to go to Tibet. Why Tibet? ‘I don’t know, I’d just like all those mountains and the monasteries and priests, I know I’d find it fascinating.’ As an expert in astrology and a believer in reincarnation, his desire to visit Tibet is perhaps not so surprising.
Needless to add that the single also flopped in the US.
It would take another 3o-some years until David Bowie performed ‘Can’t Help Thinking About Me’. The first-ever revisit of this single was during his 1997 Outside Tour in San Francisco, but I have not found any video evidence of that yet. But only two years later the 1966 song became an almost regular part of his live-repertoire during his Hours… Tour in 1999. Below you can listen to (and watch) three of his performances of ‘Can’t Help Thinking About Me’ in chronological order. The first performance in New York was also his first concert of the tour (in 2009 released as the VH1 Storytellers CD & DVD). If you listen to the performances chronologically you can hear that during the later two performances his vocals sound worse.
Except for the VH1 Storytellers release it is not known to me that this new rock-heavier version is included on any other release (official or unofficial). Pegg suggests that ‘Can’t Help Thinking About Me’ led Bowie into the Toy recording sessions in 2000. But the studio recording of that song has not yet seen a release.
[Baby loves that way] Yes, she does, yes, she does [Baby loves that way] Oh, I love my baby [Baby loves that way] Ooh, I gotta take her [Baby loves that way] Yep, I love her Baby likes to go outside, so I let her Wants to fool with other guys, so I let her Wants to be bad, so I let her be bad But fooling around, it will make me sad She fools around with other boys and treat me like an unwanted toy [Baby loves that way] Oh, I love my baby [Baby loves that way] Ooh, she does too much to me [Baby loves that way] And I can't think too much of her [Baby loves that way] Gotta take her, gotta take her Gonna better leave her alone, put you down son Treating her real fine, thus I'm home being a loner Jeanny's my babe and that's alright, yeah She treats me good, each and every night She fools around with other boys and treat me like an unwanted toy [Baby loves that way] I love my baby [Baby loves that way] Ooh, she's too much [Baby loves that way] Yes she does, yes she does [Baby loves that way] [Baby loves that way] I love my baby [Baby loves that way] Yeah, she's too much, yeah yeah [Baby loves that way] Ooh, I think she can live with me [Baby loves that way] Love her, love her, love her Baby likes to go outside, so I let her Wants to fool with other guys, so I let her Wants to be bad, so I let her be bad But fooling around, it will make me sad She clings around with all the boys, who treat her like unwanted toys [Baby loves that way] Obviously this is the end [Baby loves that way] Gotta take her [Baby loves that way] Ooh yeah [Baby loves that way] Can't do enough [Baby loves that way]
‘Baby Loves That Way’ was released on 20 August 1965 as the B-side of the single ‘You’ve Got A Habit Of Leaving’, the first single to come out by his then-band The Lower Third. The song was recorded during the same session when the singles A-side was recorded some time during July that year. The single was not immediately released after the recordings due to some disagreements between Bowie and producer Shel Talmy.
While the A-side is a direct homage to The Who and The Kinks, the B-side is rather leaning towards the harmonious melodies of the Herman’s Hermits. The band’s lead singer Peter Noone would later on, in 1971, be helpful to launch Bowie’s career when he covered ‘Oh! You Pretty Things’ and landed a high charting success with his cover.
The song starts off with variations on D and bursts into a repeating question-and-answer game between the backing vocals’ “Baby loves that way” and David’s solo parts where he tells the story about his flirtatious girl seeking the attention of other boys. Legend has it that, among others, both Shel Talmy and Leslie Conn provided the backing vocals for the “monastic chanting, perhaps the earliest intimation of a Buddhist motif in David’s music”, as Nicholas Pegg (author of the wonderful The Complete David Bowie) suggests. According to Cann’s similarly great Any Day Now it is known that David had an idea for the backing vocals to sound like monks’ chants, however the idea was apparently dismissed. Feel free to comment on this issue! What’s your take on this?
The lyrics of this song foresee David’s sex life in the years to come as he apparently comes to terms with his girl teasing and flirting (and doing what else) with other boys when she is going out on her own. David and Angie had worked out something similarly in their complicated relationships that started just a couple of years after the release of this single.
I think ‘Baby Loves That Way’ is superior to the single’s A-side because it simply sounds more harmonious and more ’rounded’ in a way. And in my opinion it ranks among the best he has brought up until late 1965 (though it’s been only three singles until then). It easily ranks above the ‘Liza Jane’ single and is about as good as ‘I Pity The Fool’.
Like he did with many of his early songs David Bowie re-recorded ‘Baby Loves That Way’ in 2000 for his planned (but not officially released) album Toy in a new extended version which comes across very harmonious, calmed and way slower than the original version. The new version of 4’32” features Bowie with completely non-typical vocals: somewhat boring, calm and dominated by the longer instrumental part of the song. Here is how the extended version sounds:
You've got a habit of leaving me And you've got a habit of deserting me Sometimes I cry Sometimes I'm so sad Sometimes I'm so glad, so glad You could go on if you wanted to, wanted to, wanted to Wanted to Oh If you wanted to, yeah Oh huh You've got a habit of leaving me And you've got a habit of deserting me Sometimes I cry Sometimes I'm so sad Sometimes I'm so glad, so glad You could go on if you wanted to, wanted, wanted to Wanted to, ooh yeah, yeah Oh, if you wanted to If you wanted to, yeah, yeah Wanted to
Bowie’s third single was released on 20th August 1965 on EMI Parlophone, with a delay due to repeating disagreements between producer Shel Talmy and Bowie. It features young Davy Jones with The Lower Third in their attempt to make it big in Swinging London. After an unsuccessful attempt to land a single with ‘Born Of The Night’ it was about time.
The song is known to be performed first by David Bowie on 17th May 1965 during the Lower Third auditions and subsequent rehearsals, the same audition that landed Bowie the position as the band’s lead singer. However, it seems that David had this song in his pockets for quite some time since the early 1960s. He told photographer Mick Rock in 1972 that “the first song I ever demoed was ‘You’ve Got A Habit Of Leaving’. I’d saved up about 2 pounds to hire a demo studio. Touted it around everywhere. Nobody wanted to know.”
Eventually, the song would finally be officially released that year. The song must have undergone some changes over the years as the single appears to be clearly influenced by recent releases of The Kinks and especially The Who. However, until a deal to record this single was struck the unfortunate band first had to get its act back together. After the number of live performances by Davy Jones and The Lower Third became less and less during the months June and July 1965 – apparently as a result of Leslie Conn’s loss of interest in promoting the band – David pledged Conn to land them a recording deal with Shel Talmy. Perhaps a new single would help make the audience aware of the band. They were lucky, Talmy seemed to like it and gave them the deal: both the A-Side ‘You’ve Got A Habit Of Leaving’ and B-Side ‘Baby Loves That Way’ were recorded at IBC Studios, Portland Place, some time in July.
As noted earlier, the style in which Bowie sings the song as well as the guitar riffs, the teenage aggression as heard in the lyrics and how the song turns chaotic almost mid-way through – these facts all clearly show how directly influenced Bowie was by The Kinks and The Who – both bands being produced by Shel Talmy, by the way.
The Kinks had mostly left their impression concerning chords. You can hear how Bowie somehow mashed up the two-chord riff as heard on ‘My Generation’ with the somewhat languid melody of ‘Tired Of Waiting For You’. Quite distantly ‘You Really Got Me’ must have influenced Davy Jones and The Lower Third as well as per the shift from the tonic chord to the major second.
However, the strongest influence on ‘You’ve Got A Habit Of Leaving’ must have come from The Who and their debut hit ‘I Can’t Explain’ earlier in 1965. Their impression on Bowie mainly came from their style of singing and the outburst of angsty teenage lyrics. The Who’s influence is also noticeable when ‘You’ve Got A Habit Of Leaving’ turns into its self-destructive rave-up towards the end – as can be similarly heard on The Who’s 1965 hit ‘Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere’. The musical influence by The Who must have been so obvious that the guitarist and songwriter of the same band, Pete Townshend, felt obliged to interrupt Davy Jones and The Lower Third during a sound-check at Bournemouth Pavilion on 20th August 1965, the day of the official release of the single. The Lower Third’s drummer Phil Lancaster retells the situation in 1983:
Pete came walking into the dance hall while we were playing Dave’s songs. He came to the stage and said, ‘Whose stuff is that you’re doing?’ So David replied: ‘It’s mine,’ to which Pete replied, ‘That’s a bit of a cheese-off, that sounds a lot like mine’. I sat down with Pete later and we had a natter about what we were earning. He wanted to know if we were getting as much as he was. We used to bump into them quite a lot after that.
In 1993, David Bowie also gave a short account of what happened when Pete Townshend interrupted their sound-check that day:
We had a thing about The Who. In fact we used to play second support to them in Bournemouth. That was the first time I met Townshend and got talking to him about songwriting and stuff. I was hugely influenced by him. We had songs called ‘Baby Loves That Way’, ‘You’ve Got A Habit Of Leaving’ – some really duff things. Townshend came into our soundcheck and listened to a couple of things and said, ‘You’re trying to write like me!’ I said: ‘Yeah, what do you think?’ He said: ‘Mmm, well, there’s a lot of bands around like you at the moment’. I don’t think he was very impressed.
Immediately after the release of the single it became apparent that the single did not sell well at all. Though not all reviews were bad at all. A reviewer with a rather subjective point of view described David Bowie in Record Mirror on 11th September 1965 as a “highly talented singer. It’s a curiously pitched vocal sound with powerful percussion and a slightly girgy approach. Plenty happening: lots of wailing. Very off-beat.”
Perhaps the bad charting performance was due to the fact that the A-side was simply too much of an obviously copied The Who/The Kinks style song. Despite of the single trying to ride on The Kinks’/The Who’s success during the entire year 1965 as they landed a handful of high-charting debut hits it needs to be mentioned that the song is not crafted very well. On the one hand, Bowie is far away from his vocal performances as shown on ‘I Pity The Fool’ and shows here rather shy-ish and fragile vocals. On the other hand, the bridge from the relatively good part of the song to the worst part when he starts to sing “sometimes I cry” really ruins the song for me.
With the official single release EMI Parlophone published this official press release which read as follows:
DAVIE JONES & THE LOWER THIRD
For The Record – EMI Biography
“WE’RE NOT a ‘scream’ group. We like our audiences to be quiet while we’re performing a number, and then to give us a healthy response when we finish. So says DAVIE JONES, who recently teamed up with THE LOWER THIRD and is heard with them on the group’s first record, “YOU’VE GOT A HABIT OF LEAVING”.
DAVIE was about 17 when he became a full-time singer: “It was either that or commercial art. I was doing both as a semi-pro and at that time I thought singing was more creative. I joined the King Bees and was with several more groups until meeting The Lower Third.”
WHILE their future vocalist was singing with other groups, The Lower Third were playing in the Thanet area of Kent, where they lived at the time. They are now based in London. They were, as bass guitarist Graham Evans said, “trying to find some sort of foothold.” Three months ago they moved to London and played for a few weeks at The Discotheque Club before meeting Davie. Since then they have played at Bournemouth Pavilion and at a seaside club where membership increased from 50 to 2,000 during their stay.
WHAT do Davie and his new group think of their partnership? Says Davie: “We like each others ideas. We have the same policies and fit rather well together. All us us like to keep to ourselves and we like things rather than people.”
First record by Davie (who wrote both sides) and The Lower Third is “YOU’VE GOT A HABIT OF LEAVING” and “BABY LOVES THAT WAY” on Parlophone R 5315. Release date was August 20th, 1965. With the Manish Boys, Davie previously recorded “I PITY THE FOOL” on Parlophone R 5250.
Davie Jones and The Lower Third line-up as follows:-
DAVIE JONES born at Brixton on January 1st, 1946. Sings and plays harmonica. Likes – painting; dislikes – “in crowds”. Favourite artistes – Graham Rivens, Sammy Davis Jr.; food – rump steak; drinks – barley wine, vodka and lime. Ambition – “the group’s ambition”. Has blonde hair, green eyes, is 5ft 11 ins. and weighs 9 stone.
DENNIS (Teacup) TAYLOR born at Ramsgate on July 6th, 1944. Plays lead guitar. Likes – women with kinky boots; dislikes – “in crowds”, big heads. Favourite artistes – Frank Sinatra, Sophia Lauren, Carroll Baker; food – spaghetti Bolognese, Chinese; drink – rum, cider, stout. Ambition – to be a good musician. Has grey-blue eyes, dark brown hair, is 5ft 11 ins. and weighs 10 stone.
PHIL LANCASTER born at Walthamstow on December 26th, 1942. Plays drums. Likes – rain, reading Jack Kerouac and John Steinbeck; dislikes – hypocrisy. Favourite artistes – Sammy Davis, Lambert, Hendricks and Bevan; food – cod and chips; drinks – lager and lime. Ambition – “to make loads of money and keep playing”. Has blue eyes, brown hair, is 5ft 8 ins. and weighs 9 stone.
GRAHAM RIVENS born at Plaistow on October 10th, 1942. Plays bass guitar. Likes – big cars, guitars; dislikes – traffic wardens, taxi drivers. Favourite artistes – Phil Lancaster; food – curried prawns, fresh fish and chips; drinks – vodka. Ambition – “to end up with a line of garages and pubs”. Has blue-grey eyes, dark brown hair, is 6ft 1 in. and weighs 10 stone 11 lbs.
WITH THE COMPLIMENTS OF:
The Press Office,
‘You’ve Got A Habit Of Leaving’ was not performed during any of David Bowie’s live performances in the years following the single’s release. However, in the year 2000 the song was among the songs of Bowie’s older song repertoire to be revisited and re-recorded in a slightly different way (and leaked onto to the public via the Internet as the Toy album in March 2011). The new version is almost twice as long as the original version and is, in my opinion, superior. The instruments play together in a more harmonious fashion and dominate Bowie’s vocals. This 4’49” version can be heard here:
Well, I got a girl that's so good to me [Oh, little Liza] Well, now she ain't more than five foot three [Oh, little Liza] Well, this little girl is so good to me [Oh, little Liza] Yeah, this little girl's nearly half of me [Oh, little Liza] Little Liza Jane I got a girl, duh-duh-goo-to-duh [Oh, little Liza] Yeah, this little girl turn me upside down [Oh, little Liza] Well, all of the little girls that I had [Oh, little Liza] You know this little girl drives me to despair [Oh, little Liza] Little Liza Jane Yeah, I got a girl who loves me true [Oh, little Liza] Now she ain't more than five foot two, yeah [Oh, little Liza] You know this little girl is so good for me, yeah [Oh, little Liza] You know this little girl's nearly half of me [Oh, little Liza] Little Liza Jane Oh yeah, I love her Little Liza Jane Well, I'm coming back to me love 'Cause she's driving insane When will I meet her
Although ‘I Never Dreamed’ was Bowie’s first-ever known studio recording, ‘Liza Jane’ was his first single (B-Side: ‘Louie, Louie Go Home’). Recorded during a 7-hour session at Decca studios and published on 5th June 1964 ‘Liza Jane’ was also the first single from his band The King Bees, whose member as a lead singer he became in January 1964. Despite of the ill-fated recording of ‘I Never Dreamed’ Davie Jones’ (how David called himself in his new band) then-manager Leslie Conn had managed to sign a deal for a single with Decca Records label Vocalion Pop.
‚Liza Jane’ is based on a frequently-covered “old Negro spiritual”, as band member and Bowie friend George Underwood called ‘Little Liza Jane’ which was written in 1916 by Countess Ada de Lachau. The 1964 version however had little in common with the spiritual version and was rather inspired by R&B versions of that song as for example the famous version of Huey Smith’s ‘Little Liza Jane’ in 1956. According to Underwood it took Bowie only 15 minutes to turn the Huey Smith version into the version that would be released in 1964. Originally he had scheduled ‚Liza Jane’ as the B-Side of the single.
Bowie’s vocals on ‘Liza Jane’ hint to a heavy influence by the Rolling Stones, who were, in turn, also heavily influenced by American electric blues. The song is recorded far too loud, and the lyrics cannot be considered a masterpiece of songwriting („I got a girl, duh-duh-goo-to-duh“). Furthermore, the repetitive calling of “Ohhh Little LI-za” has the potential to annoy some sensible listener.
Leslie Conn somehow managed to claim the songwriting credits – though his later comments made it quite apparent that the lyrics of ‘Liza Jane’ were created in collaboration with the band. The following comment he made to Mojo in 2008 sort of disqualified him as trustworthy: „It was based on a six-bar blues. I was very good at lyrics as well. (…) I can’t remember why it was called Liza Jane, it may have been after a girl he was taking out at the time.”
‘Liza Jane’ which was can actually be described as an enjoyable little song. You just have to imagine swinging London in 1964: the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, the vividly rising Mod scene – there were all these young and aspiring bands that stirred up teenagers and founded the basis for the rising mod scene in London’s Soho. It is only understandable that young Davie Jones wanted to get involved in that scene. At this point, he had already proven himself as a highly ambitious, hardworking musician/songwriter who wouldn’t ever be satisfied with the status quo. By 1964 Davie Jones had already left two bands, namely the Kon-rads and the Hooker Brothers, to follow his interest in broadening his knowledge about different styles of music.
But saying that ‘Liza Jane’ is a bad debut would be inappropriate and far from the truth. Indeed, the song is naively written/composed, but it is still quite ‘catchy’. Surely, while ‚Liza Jane’ has never reached a large audience at that time, it must have been quite a corker in some nightclub in Soho at that time. But as with almost all of Bowie’s musical attempts in the ’60s, ‘Liza Jane’ was not a commercial success. Despite a dedicated promotion on television shows such as Juke Box Jury, The Beat Room or Ready Steady Go! the single failed to enter the charts.
After Leslie Conn and Bowie parted ways, Conn had moved to Mallorca. One day, he recalled in 1997, he phoned his mother who asked him what she should be doing with the many ‘Liza Jane’ disks that were stored in the garage. He recommended her to throw them away. Not the best move ever from today’s perspective: nowadays original ‘Liza Jane’ LPs from 1964 are being sold for hefty 4-digit sums.
The official press release from the press room of the Dick James Organization in May 1964 reads as follows:
Pop Music isn’t all affluence. Just ask new seventeen year old recording star Davie Jones. Time was (two months ago, in fact) when he and his group were almost on their uppers. No money, bad equipment. Then Davie had a brainwave. “I had been reading a lot in the papers about John Bloom,” says Davie. “So I put pen to paper and wrote him a letter.” David told Bloom that he had the chance of backing one of the most talented and up-and-coming groups on the pop scene. All he had to do was advance the several hundred pounds it requires to outfit a pop group with the best equipment.
Davie didn’t get the money, but he did get a telegram next day from John Bloom giving the phone number of Artist’s Manager Leslie Conn. Davie got in touch, he was rewarded with a booking at Bloom’s Wedding Anniversary Party. “We were a dismal failure”, recalls Davie. “It was a dinner dress affair and we turned up in jeans and sweat shirts and played our usual brand of rhythm and blues. It didn’t go down too well. Still we’ll know better next time.
However, all’s well that ends well. Leslie Conn liked the earthy type of music the group played, arranged an audition with Decca Records which resulted in a contract and the first release by David Jones with the King-Bees. “Liza Jane”, released by Decca (Vocalian 9221) on June 5th.
DAVIE JONES WITH THE KING-BEES
MET AT BARBERS
Davie Jones met up with his four member backing group the King-Bees when he visited his local barber shop in Bromley. In between clips he got chatting to the four lads, also there to be sheared, about their musical interests, and before you could say “Short back and sides”, they decided to join forces.
The group specialise in hard-driving, uncompromising R & B, a brand of music that has won for them a dedicated following in the London area, a following which should soon be spreading throughout the length and breadth of England on the strength of their first disc.
“LIZA JANE”, is a beaty, action packed disc which features the direct no-holds-barred Davie Jones vocal delivery. The King-Bees supply a hard core, R & B backing and the whole thing is crowned by a catchy chorus featuring the line “Little Liza Jane”.
Seventeen years old, fair haired Davie first got interested in pop music when he was ten. His father’s secretary (Davie’s father in P.R.O. for Dr. Barnardo’s homes) who had previously worked for a disc company, sent Davie a ‘Demo’ copy of a new Little Richard disc. As the phrase goes, Davie was “knocked out”, and when he had scraped together a few pounds of his pocket money, bought a plastic saxophone. Eventually he progressed on to the real thing. Lessons were the next step. “My idol on saxophone has always been Ronnie Ross”, says Davie, “So I looked up his name up in the phone book and asked him if he would give me lessons.” Ross agreed, but after Davie played him a few bars Ross’s comment was: “Right now we can start working on you, that was bloody awful!” Davie gave up his music to take his G.C.E. at 15, then left school and joined an advertising agency as a commercial artist, where he still works.
When he left school Davie was able to concentrated on his music again, this time mainly as a vocalist, playing dance halls and clubs in and around the Bromley area. Then came the hair-cut and the letter to John Bloom…
Davie’s favourite vocalists are Little Richard, Bob Dylan and John Lee Hooker. Apart from the saxophone he also plays the guitar. He dislikes Adams apples, and lists as his interests Baseball, American Football and collecting Boots. A handsome six footer with a warm and engaging personality, Davie Jones has all it takes to get to the show business heights, including… talent.
Although Bowie’s next band, The Manish Boys, continued to play ‘Liza Jane’ during some of their live performances, the song went into oblivion – failing to raise anyone’s interest in the single or the lead singer – and never entered Bowie’s live repertoire again for a couple of decades.
Until 6th June 2004, just one day after ‚Liza Jane’s’ 40th anniversary. Then-58-year-old Bowie was just performing on the last concert event of his Reality Tour in the US (only a few performances should follow until Bowie finally cancelled off the entire tour due to health reasons). On that day Bowie played ‘Liza Jane’, a song which he called “absolutely dreadful” and “excruciating”, much to the (obvious) delight of his audience. George Underwood commented on Bowie’s 2004 version in an issue of the Mojo magazine 2008: “He did a version of it. But I know he hates the song. When he finished, he said, ‘I hope that’s the last time I ever have to play it’.“ On that day in 2004 Bowie played the song in a style similar to the Delta blues of John Lee Hooker and Lead Belly. The live version can be heard here:
An almost similar version can be found on Bowie’s Toy album which miraculously leaked onto the Internet in March 2011. The album contains Bowie’s recordings when he revisited some of his older songs in 2000. ‘Liza Jane’ can be found here in a much longer version (4’47″). It sounds a bit more relaxed and balanced than the original screamy version of June 1964.
Delta Blues Version: