Can’t Help Thinking About Me


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‘Can’t Help Thinking About Me’ – Single Version (1966)

Lyrics

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

cant_sleeve_BIG

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.

Recording

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”.

Interpretation

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?

Vocals

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.

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Reception

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.

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Live performances

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.

‘Can’t Help Thinking About Me’ – Hours… Tour: Manhattan Center, New York (23rd August 1999)

‘Can’t Help Thinking About Me’ – Hours… Tour: Elysée Montmartre, Paris (14th October 1999)

‘Can’t Help Thinking About Me’ – Hours… Tour: Astoria, London (2nd December 1999)

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.

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Discography

Single Version:

  • Vinyl ‘Can’t Help Thinking About Me’ (A-Side) / ‘And I Say To Myself’ (B-Side) 1/1966
  • CD Early On (1964-1966) 1991
  • Vinyl I Dig Everything: The 1966 Pye Singles 1999

1999 Version:

  • CD/Digital VH1 Storytellers 2009

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Musicians

  • David Bowie (vocals, guitar, saxophone)
  • Dennis Taylor (guitar)
  • Graham Rivens (bass)
  • Phil Lancaster (drums)
  • Produced by Tony Hatch

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Chim Chim Cheree


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Seriously? We are talking about the famous song from Disney’s 1964 Mary Poppins film musical. Though it needs to be added that David Bowie and The Lower Thirds did play ‘Chim Chim Cheree’ in a somewhat rock-heavier version as part of their live-repertoire in 1965.

David and The Lower Thirds played ‘Chim Chim Cheree’ during their ill-faited BBC audition on 2 November 1965 along with ‘Baby That’s A Promise’ and James Brown’s ‘Out Of Sight’ in order to be broadcast on a BBC pop programme. However, the BBC talent selection group was quite surprised by the choice of the song and did not favour the band to be broadcast. Hence, David Bowie and The Lower Third failed this audition.

Bowie really has produced some totally odd pieces of music during the 1960s. The oddest piece among them would be ‘The Laughing Gnome’, followed by ‘Over The Wall We Go’ – and perhaps ‘Chim Chim Cheree’ would have been among those weird creations. How would Bowie and his band probably have sounded?

It is not too unlikely that some tapes were made during the band’s performances, but they have yet to surface.

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Musicians

  • David Jones (vocals, guitar, saxophone)
  • Dennis Taylor (guitar)
  • Graham Rivens (bass)
  • Phil Lancaster (drums)

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Out Of Sight


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In order to be broadcast on a top BBC top programme David Bowie and The Lower Third had to pass an audition on 2 November 1965. The BBC jury would then inform the young mod band about their decision two weeks later. Among the three songs that The Lower Third performed at the audition was James Brown’s 1964 single ‘Out Of Sight’, a twelve-bar R&B piece which was a milestone for the development of funk music. In the end The Lower Third did not pass the audition.

The BBC tapes are not known to have survived.

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Musicians

  • David Jones (vocals, guitar, saxophone)
  • Dennis Taylor (guitar)
  • Graham Rivens (bass)
  • Phil Lancaster (drums)

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Baby That’s A Promise


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‘Baby That’s A Promise’ – Demo (1965)

Lyrics

Baby, you can own two hearts
Baby, don't try to tear me apart
Someone's got to go and I won't, I won't
That's a promise

Baby, you can't fool around
Baby, can't turn me upside down
Someone's got to go and I won't, I won't
That's a promise

It's just a matter of time before you call him on the phone
Tell him please, please leave him alone
Please leave him alone
It's just a matter of time, call him on the phone
Tell him please, please leave him alone
Please leave him alone

Baby, you've got me used
Baby, Can't you be like you?
Someone's got to go and I won't, I won't
That's a promise
(Ad lib to end)

‘Baby That’s A Promise’ was recorded with The Lower Third as a demo at R.G. Jones’ Oak Studios in Morden, Surrey, on 31st August 1965, and hence a few days after the release of Bowie’s third single ‘You’ve Got A Habit of Leaving’. By then, Bowie has already moved on with promotional team as a result of frequent disagreements with Shelmond Talmy in the course of the production of ‘You’ve Got A Habit Of Leaving’ and found Ralph Horton who would play a supportive role in the following months and years.

After the management change Horton enabled David and The Lower Third to record two demos for four hours at the above-mentioned studio: ‘Baby That’s A Promise’ and ‘Silly Boy Blue’. The latter will be discussed later on in this blog (and in full detail) as the song features on Bowie’s first album David Bowie, released in 1967. ‘Silly Boy Blue’ is probably one of the finest pieces he has written in his early career prior to ‘Space Oddity’.

However, ‘Baby That’s A Promise’ is a promising demo from young David Jones (not yet Bowie – the official name change was announced just a couple of weeks later). It is clearly influenced by rhythms of The Kinks and The Small Faces, a mod-band David was acquainted with at the time. The song is furthermore somewhat influenced by the Motown sound. Bowie’s vocals are R&B-flavoured and can be located somewhere between P.J. Proby and Marvin Gaye. Bowie would reprise this certain type of vocal style in the mid-70s on his albums Young Americans and Station To Station. It sort of stands out as the best demo untel then in comparison the other rather frail demos analysed earlier.

On 2 November 1965 David Bowie (by then officially named Bowie) together with The Lower Third used ‘Baby That’s A Promise’ along with two other demos, ‘Out Of Sight’ and ‘Chim Chim Cheree’, for a BBC band contest. The band had to pass an audition in order to be broadcast on one of the BBC’s pop programmes. It is not certain whether Bowie and The Lower Third have used the demo from 31 August or whether they have re-recorded the song some time later. The authors Doggett and Pegg suggests that this song was demoed in October 1965. In any case, the band did not pass the audition and hence were not broadcast on television. The BBC jury explains their reasoning by describing David’s singing as “a cockney type but not outstanding. A singer devoid of personality. Sings wrong notes and out of tune.”

Often wrongly titled ‘Baby’ or simply ‘That’s A Promise’, the demo did not appear on any official record until today. However, somehow a scratchy copy was obtained which has since been featured on a series of unofficial bootlegs.

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Musicians

  • David Jones (vocals, guitar, saxophone)
  • Dennis Taylor (guitar)
  • Graham Rivens (bass)
  • Phil Lancaster (drums)
  • Produced by Shel Talmy

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Baby Loves That Way


 

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‘Baby Loves That Way’ – Single Version (1965)

Lyrics

[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]

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‘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?

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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:

‘Baby Loves That Way’ – Toy, unreleased (ca. 2000)

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Discography

Single Version:

  • Vinyl You’ve Got A Habit Of Leaving (A-Side) / Baby Loves That Way (B-Side) 8/1965
  • Vinyl The Manish Boys / Davy Jones & The Lower 3rd EP 1979
  • CD Early On (1964-1966) 1991
  • Vinyl Bowie 1965! EP 2013

Extended Version:

  • Toy Sessions unreleased
  • CD Slow Burn EP 2002 (Japan)
  • CD Everyone Says ‘Hi’ EP 2002 (UK)
  • CD Everyone Says ‘Hi’ EP 2002 (Austria)

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Musicians

  • Davy Jones (vocal, harmonica)
  • Denis Taylor (guitar, vocal)
  • Graham Rivens (bass)
  • Phil Lancaster (drums)
  • Nicky Hopkins (piano)
  • Shel Talmy, Les Conn (backing vocal)
  • Glyn Johns (backing vocal)
  • Produced by Shel Talmy

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You’ve Got A Habit Of Leaving


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‘You’ve Got A Habit Of Leaving’ – Single Version (1965)

Lyrics

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

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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.

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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:
Martin Ross,
The Press Office,
E.M.I. RECORDS

‘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:

‘You’ve Got A Habit Of Leaving’ – Toy Sessions (2000)

——

Discography

Single Version:

  • Vinyl You’ve Got A Habit Of Leaving (A-Side) / Baby Loves That Way (B-Side) 8/1965
  • Vinyl The Manish Boys / Davy Jones & The Lower 3rd EP 1979
  • CD Early On (1964-1966) 1991
  • Vinyl Bowie 1965! EP 2013

Extended Version:

  • Toy Sessions unreleased
  • CD Slow Burn EP 2002 (Austria)
  • CD Slow Burn EP 2002 (Japan)
  • CD Everyone Says ‘Hi’ EP 2002 (UK)

——

Musicians

  • Davy Jones (vocal, harmonica)
  • Denis Taylor (guitar, vocal)
  • Graham Rivens (bass)
  • Phil Lancaster (drums)
  • Nicky Hopkins (piano)
  • Shel Talmy, Les Conn (backing vocal)
  • Glyn Johns (backing vocal)
  • Produced by Shel Talmy

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Filed under 1965-66: Davy Jones & The Lower Third, 2000: Toy Sessions

Puritan


jjj

Little is known of this demo. According to Kevin Cann’s Any Day Now David and The Lower Third recorded a couple of demos on 25th July 1965 in order to use the days in between the their gigs. Along with the demos both David Bowie and Denis Taylor, the band’s guitarist, wrote two jingles for Youthquake, a promotion of Swinging London fashion in New York. ‘Puritan’ was one of those jingles. The title of the song, ‘Puritan’, stems from the sponsor of the Youthquake promotion. The structure, melody and perhaps lyrics are based on Terry Bolton’s song ‘It’s A Lie’. Terry Bolton was Taylor’s brother-in-law as he married his sister Jennifer. More importantly, he was a founding member of The Lower Third who was left the band prior to David’s arrival.

The recordings of this jingle are not known to have survived over the years.

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Filed under 1965-66: Davy Jones & The Lower Third