Tag Archives: 1967

Rubber Band


rubber band

‘Rubber Band’ – Single Version (1966)

Lyric

Rubber Band
There's a rubber band that plays tunes out of tune
In the library garden Sunday afternoon
While a little chappie waves a golden wand

Rubber Band
In 1910 I was so handsome and so strong
My moustache was stiffly waxed and one foot long
And I loved a girl while you played teatime tunes

Dear Rubber Band, you're playing my tune out of tune, oh

Rubber Band 
Won't you play a haunting theme again to me
While I eat my scones and drink my cup of tea
The sun is warm but it's a lonely afternoon

Oh, play that theme

Rubber Band 
How I wish that I could join your Rubber Band
We could play in lively parks throughout the land
And one Sunday afternoon, I'd find my love

Rubber Band, 
In the '14-'18 war I went to sea
Thought my Sunday love was waiting home for me
And now she's married to the leader of the band, oh

(spoken)
Oh sob... I hope you break your baton

Rubber Band Cover

We are now officially entering into Bowie’s Newley-influenced period which lasted until 1968 – long after the release of his debut album David Bowie. The release of his fourth single ‘Rubber Band’ on 2nd December 1966 significantly marks his departure from the Mod scene and forebodes his fascination with vaudevillian theatre themes.

David Bowie’s transition from a Mod to a Newley-esque singer in late 1966 can be explained by the lack of a breakthrough. His preceding Pye singles had all flopped commercially which lead to a termination of his contract with Pye Records shortly after the release of ‘I Dig Everything’. In mid-1966 Bowie was a singer who had been in a handful of bands, with a couple of singles out, but without a real breakthrough – and above all, without a contract. On the positive side, Kenneth Pitt* who had carefully overseen his career that year now got more engaged in pushing Bowie’s career in the right direction. And indeed, Pitt enabled Bowie to have a good shot with the Deram label for which Bowie would soon record his debut album.

By October that year, Bowie was still touring with The Buzz performing most of his songs. He and fellow Buzz bassist Dek Fearnley had envisioned to re-record some of his older songs such as ‘The London Boys’ (a Mod song from way earlier in 1965), and so Pitt enabled them to record a couple of songs on 18th October to approach new record labels. The idea behind this recording was to have enough songs to release an EP with that new label. On that day Bowie and The Buzz (plus trumpeter Chick Norton) recorded two new songs at R.G. Jones’ Oak Studio: ‘Rubber Band’ and ‘The Gravedigger’ (which would later become ‘Please Mr. Gravedigger’, the closing track on 1967’s David Bowie LP). Furthermore, they re-recorded ‘The London Boys’. As was the case with the recording of ‘I Dig Everything’, it also became quite apparent that Bowie and The Buzz were quite inexperienced in terms of a professional arrangement for the recording.** Fortunately, it worked out this time. Fearnley recalled in 1991: “We’d worked out what kind of sound we wanted and had painstakingly written out the notation, but all the timings were wrong. Luckily the musicians interpreted what we had written, and we got through it.”

The recording was a full success, especially because it was well-received when Pitt visited the Decca label on 20th October. Indeed, both head of promotion Tony Hall and album artist manager Hugh Mendl were quite fond of ‘Rubber Band’ when Pitt played the acetate to them. Only four days later, Pitt managed to secure the first album deal for David Bowie when he further met Decca’s in-house producer Mike Vernon. On 27th October it was then decided that both ‘Rubber Band’ and ‘The London Boys’ were strong enough tapes to be released as the first single with the new label.*** Bowie received GBP 100 and GBP 150 for the master tapes of these two songs.

RB_Press

As the official press release above reads, ‘Rubber Band’ was a “love story without a happy ending, it is pathos set to tubas”. Indeed the song reveals quite an extraordinary amount of lyrical and melodic drama. The song features a First World War veteran who misses his pre-wartime girlfriend (who unfortunately is now married to the leader of a brass band). The theatricality, the imagery and the humour is present everywhere in this song: the pun on the term rubber band, the waxed moustache, the Britishness in eating scones and drinking tea, that girlish scream at the end of the song. ‘Rubber Band’ together with further album tracks from 1967’s David Bowie such as ‘Little Bombardier’ and ‘She’s Got Medals’ evoke the brass-buttoned militarism of the Edwardian era, a style that was quite en vogue in 1966/67. Bowie’s military jacket on the cover of his debut album surely add to this effect.

It is furthermore notable to mention that the musical arrangement for ‘Rubber Band’ (and for most of the songs recorded for his debut album) was quite intricate for a musician who mostly wrote rock and blues songs before. ‘Rubber Band’ is very playful with the tempo and instruments: at the end of song the tuba comes to dramatical halt and it appears as if an overly exhausted band is required to stop playing. Just judged by its playfulness the song must be concidered a musical breakthrough for Bowie in 1966. In fact however, ‘Rubber Band’ did not bode very well with the buying audience and did indeed piss off some of his acquaintances in the London Mod scene.

Bowie the Mod was gone, enter Bowie the Newley-impersonator.

rubber band 3

Once the single was released on 2nd December 1966**** under Decca’s Deram label, Hugh Mendl became quite worried about the decision to grant Bowie an album deal. Mendl remembered in 2002: “It all went wrong for David at the first Decca A&R meeting. I was personally very excited about David’s first single, but when it was played at Geniusville*****, someone said, ‘Sounds like Tony Newley to me’. From the start, that sealed David’s fate at Decca.” So, ‘Rubber Band’ didn’t perform well at all commercially, and additionally radio stations were not too keen on playing the song “because it’s not commercial and too ‘in’ “, as Horton wrote to Pitt in a letter dated 8th December.

Despite the disappointing commercial performance of ‘Rubber Band’, the magazine Disc gave the single an encouraging review: “I do not think ‘Rubber Band’ is a hit. What it is is an example of how David Bowie has progressed himself into being a name to reckon with, certainly as far as songwriting is concerned. He is not the David Bowie we once knew. Even a different voice – distinctly reminiscent of a young Tony Newley – has emerged. Listen to this record then turn it over and listen to ‘The London Boys’, which actually I think would have been a much more impressive topside. But both are worth rethinking about.”

rubber band 2

Although the single flopped considerably Bowie decided to re-recorded ‘Rubber Band’ on 25th February 1967 at Decca’s Studio 2 for the inclusion on his debut album. The album version of ‘Rubber Band’ is a tad slower and perhaps a bit inferior to the single version. Furthermore, the album version differs to the single version in that there are two differences in the lyrics. For no apparent reason, Bowie replaced the year ‘1912‘ by ‘1910‘ and also added a spoken line at the end of the song: “I hope you break your baton“. Listen to the album version via the following link:

‘Rubber Band’ – Album Version, David Bowie LP (1967)

Two years later by 3rd February 1969 Bowie, who hadn’t really advanced much in his musical career after his first album, was filming for a promotional film containing a couple of songs from the album as well as a handful of new songs (such as ‘Space Oddity’). The promotional film, entitled Love You Till Tuesday, also included his recorded performance for ‘Rubber Band’. As you can see in the video below, Bowie played a mustachioed geezer in blazer and boat hat watching an imaginary brass band and whimsically singing the album version of this song. Truly a gem.

‘Rubber Band’ – Love You Till Tuesday Video (1969)

On a personal note, I must say I have always liked this song very much. It’s certainly not his best, but I like the strangeness of it, and the imagery. What a bold move that change from Mod to Newley was.

* Pitt had a huge knowledge about musical theatre, so maybe that is where a lot of the influence on Bowie’s interest in theatricality came from.

** That was actually the reason why The Buzz was completely replaced by some other session musicians during the recording of ‘I Dig Everything’.

*** Ken Pitt also worked on releasing the single in the US. On 10th November 1966 he met Walt Maguire in New York who worked for Decca’s US label London Records. Maguire also liked ‘Rubber Band’ and agreed to release the single but, interestingly, dropped ‘The London Boys’ as B-Side because of the reference to pill-popping and drug taking. Instead he chose Bowie’s new recorded song ‘There Is A Happy Land’ as B-Side. It needs to be added though that ‘Rubber Band’ was never commercially released in the US, but rather sent to radio stations as promotional only release in June 1967. One month after the single’s release in the US Maguire wrote to Pitt expressing his disappointment: “I’m not happy with the results.”

**** Literally on that same day Bowie and his band The Buzz, with which he had still recorded quite a handful of songs for his debut album, parted ways. However, some band members stayed with David and recorded a couple more songs (namely Dek Fearnley).

***** Geniusville: a term coined by Mendl for the weekly Decca meetings of the company executives to listen to the latest recordings.

——

Discography

Single Version:

  • Vinyl Rubber Band (A-Side) / The London Boys (B-Side) 12/1966
  • CD The Deram Anthology: 1966-1968 1997

Album Version:

  • Vinyl David Bowie Album 6/1967
  • CD David Bowie – Deluxe Edition Album 2010

Video:

  • Promo Love You Till Tuesday 1969
  • DVD Love You Till Tuesday 2005

——

Musicians

  • David Bowie (vocal, guitar, saxophone)
  • Dek Fearnley (bass)
  • John Eager (drums)
  • Derek Boyes (organ)
  • Chick Norton (trumpet)
  • Produced by David Bowie & Dek Fearnley
  • Arranged by Dek Fearnley & David Bowie

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Letter to Sandra Dodd


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Taken from http://www.lettersofnote.com:

On September 25th of 1967, aged 20 and yet to make much of an impression on the music scene, David Bowie was so enthused to receive his first piece of American fan mail that he immediately typed out a reply from the office of his manager, Kenneth Pitt. The fan in question, 14-year-old Sandra Dodd , had come to own a promotional copy of Bowie’s first album as a result of her uncle running a radio station in New Mexico — immediately impressed, she wrote to Bowie, told him his music was as good as that of The Beatles and offered to start a U.S. fan club on his behalf.

Below is the response she received.

25th September 1967

Dear Sandra,

When I called in this, my manager’s office, a few moments ago I was handed my very first American fan letter – and it was from you. I was so pleased that I had to sit down and type an immediate reply, even though Ken is shouting at me to get on with a script he badly needs. That can wiat (wi-at? That’s a new English word which means wait).

I’ve been waiting for some reaction to the album from American listeners. There were reviews in Billboard and Cash Box, but they were by professional critics and they rarely reflect the opinions of the public. The critics were very flattering however. They even liked the single “Love You Till Tuesday”. I’ve got a copy of the American album and they’ve printed the picture a little yellow. I’m really not that blond. I think the picture on the back is more ‘me’. Hope you like those enclosed.

In answer to your questions, my real name is David Jones and I don’t have to tell you why I changed it. “Nobody’s going to make a monkey out of you” said my manager. My birthday is January 8th and I guess I’m 5’10”. There is a Fan Club here in England, but if things go well in the States then we’ll have one there I suppose. It’s a little early to even think about it.

I hope one day to get to America. My manager tells me lots about it as he has been there many times with other acts he manages. I was watching an old film on TV the other night called “No Down Payment” a great film, but rather depressing if it is a true reflection of The American Way Of Life. However, shortly after that they showed a documentary about Robert Frost the American poet, filmed mainly at his home in Vermont, and that evened the score. I am sure that that is nearer the real America. I made my first movie last week. Just a fifteen minutes short, but it gave me some good experience for a full length deal I have starting in January.

Thankyou for being so kind as to write to me and do please write again and let me know some more about yourself.

Yours sincerely,

(Signed, ‘David Bowie’)

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Miming Promise


by Don Chapman

29th December 1967

AFTER the master at the New Theatre, his disciple at the Playhouse. And the comparison is bound to be to the detriment of the younger man.

Even in those items he borrows from his repertoire – The Lion Tamer and The Balloon Seller – Lindsay Kemp cannot rival the great French mime’s economy and eloquence of expression, and in his own mimes he only hints at universal truths Marcel Marceau somehow manages to express.

For all that he is an artist of great promise – as Marceau acknowledged when he saw him at the Edinburgh Festival – and Pierrot in Turquoise, the new show he gave members of the Young Playhouse Association a first glimpse of yesterday, has great promise too.

At the moment it is something of a pot-pourri. Mr Kemp – with the assistance of Craig San Roque – has devised a fetching pantomime through which Pierrot pursues his love of life, his Columbine, tricked by Harlequin and deceived by the ever-changing Cloud.

Natasha Kornilof has designed a beautiful backdrop and some gorgeous costumes. And David Bowie has composed some haunting songs, which he sings in a superb, dreamlike voice.

But beguilingly as he plays Cloud, and vigorously as Jack Birkett mimes Harlequin, the pantomime isn’t a completely satisfactory framework for some of the items from his repertoire that Mr Kemp, who plays Pierrot, chooses to present.

His mime of the clown who sells his shirt to buy a flower for Columbine then, when Harlequin wins her from him with a bunch of flowers, exchanges the flower for a rope from which to hang himself, is perfect.

And with a little rearrangement Butterflies, The Balloon Seller and Aimez Vous, Bach? – an amusing number in which he snips open his inside, throws his heart away, and trips off using his intestines as a skipping rope – might be tailored to fit his chosen theme.

But Lady Burlesque, a satirical portrait of a bored striptease artist, Adam and Eve, a ribald retelling of the Bible story, and Old Woman, Little Bird, a sort of science fiction nightmare, have been shoved in without much forethought because they are mimes Mr. Kemp performs extremely well.

No doubt these are shortcomings Mr. Kemp will attend to before he presents Pierrot in Turquoise at the Prague Festival at the invitation of Marceau and Fialka next summer. No mean honour for an English mime troupe.

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Rubber Band (Singles Review)


December 1967

    I do not think Rubber Band is a hit. What it is is an example of how David Bowie has progressed himself into being a name to reckon with, certainly as far as songwriting is concerned. He is not the David Bowie we once knew. Even a different voice – distinctly reminiscent of a young Tony Newley – has emerged.

Listen to this record then turn it over and listen to The London Boys, which actually I think would have been a much more impressive topside. But both are worth thinking about.

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Rubber Band


Official Decca Press Release

December 1967

DAVID BOWIE ‘RUBBER BAND’ DM 107 – (RELEASED ON DECEMBER 2) – DERAM

DAVID BOWIE is a bright and original new star who looks set to make his mark on the disc scene with this first DERAM release.

“RUBBER BAND” is a ballad of lost love – it’s original in production, unique in presentation and was written by David.

There’s a neat off-beat approach to the lyrics that touch on such topics as garden tea parties, waxed moustaches and the First World War. Yet the underlying sentiment reflects the ideals and humour of this London-born singer.

David is 18-years old, he studied art at Bromley Art School before drifting towards a musical career that encompassed the group scene and stints in Paris and London.

Now David lives with his family in Kent, works hard on a cabaret act and has high hopes that “RUBBER BAND” will advance his ambitions. Personally we don’t think he’ll have much difficulty in achieving them!

(Flipside: “THE LONDON BOYS”)

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Biography: David Bowie – Deram


Official Decca Press Release

June 1967

     D is for December, D is for David, D is for Deram – December 2nd is D-day all round, for that’s when Deram launches its exciting new contract star DAVID BOWIE singing his own outstanding song “RUBBER BAND”.

David not only wrote the song, he scored the arrangement and produced the master recording.

“RUBBER BAND” is probably as near as David will ever get to moon and June. A love story without a happy ending, it is pathos set to tubas. A happening song.

On the ‘B’ side is “THE LONDON BOYS”, David Bowie’s partly autobiographical cameo of the brave and defiant little mod racing up-hill along Wardour Street to an empty Paradise.

David Bowie, born in Brixton, now considers himself to be a suburban Londoner, but actually comes from Bromley, Kent where he lives with his parents and a dog. He is 19, slim, fair, blue eyed and impatient to release his enormous store of pent-up talent.

His remarkable powers of observation enable him to write with humour and wit about the people, loved and unloved, and the attitudes, lovely and unlovely, that constitute today’s society. A recent bout of ‘flu enabled him to pen half a dozen songs to go on a forthcoming Deram LP. In fact, David is one of the very few artists commissioned for an album before a single.

Simultaneously, David is writing songs and situations for a colour film in which he is to star and putting the finishing touches to a unique cabaret act.

David Bowie studied graphic art at Bromley Technical High School, but six months after leaving he drifted towards music for a living. He had already come under the influence of Little Richard and had been playing saxophone from the age of thirteen.

David played sax with a number of groups he formed then went to the front as a singer. Dissatisfied with much of the available material he started to write his own songs.

He has sung them all over the country and in Paris. At the Marquee Club in London his Sunday afternoon Bowie Showboat has drawn large crowds particularly during the summer when he made many fans among holidaying continental students.

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Hear David Bowie – He’s Something New


10th June 1967

DAVID BOWIE: Uncle Arthur; Sell Me A Coat; Rubber Band; Love You Till Tuesday; There Is A Happy Land; We Are Hungry Men; When I Live My Dream; Little Bombardier; Silly Boy Blue; Come And Buy My Toys; Join The Gang; She’s Got Medals; Maid Of Bond Street; Please Mr. Gravedigger. (Deram)

A remarkable, creative debut album by a 19-year-old Londoner who wrote all 14 tracks and sings them with a sufficiently fresh interpretation to make quite a noise on the scene if he gets the breaks and the right singles.

Here is a new talent that deserves attention, for though David Bowie has no great voice, he can project words with a cheeky “side” that is endearing yet not precocious.

“Love You Till Tuesday” is a bright song with a fascinating lyric; “Uncle Arthur” is excellent; “Please Mr. Gravedigger” is eerie, original; and a lot of his other work is full of abstract fascination.

Try David Bowie. He’s something new….

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