Tag Archives: A-Sides

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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Filed under 1966: Bowie & The Buzz, 1967: David Bowie LP

I Dig Everything


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‘I Dig Everything’ – Single Version (1966)

Lyrics

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

Big_A

‘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.

db3

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.

Later performances

‘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:

‘I Dig Everything’ – Audience recording (2000)

The Toy album version (as leaked onto the internet in 2011) can be heard here:

‘I Dig Everything’ – Toy Sessions, unreleased (2000)

* 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.

——

Discography

Single Version:

  • Vinyl I Dig Everything (A-Side) / I’m Not Losing Sleep (B-Side) 8/1966
  • CD Early On (1964-1966) 1991
  • Vinyl I Dig Everything: The 1966 Pye Singles EP 1999

Extended Version:

  • Toy Sessions unreleased

——

Musicians

  • David Bowie (vocal)
  • Session musicians unknown
  • Produced by Tony Hatch

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Filed under 1966: Bowie & The Buzz, 2000: Toy Sessions

Do Anything You Say


bowiemod3

‘Do Anything You Say’ – Single Version (1966)

Lyrics

Two by two, they go walking by
Hand in hand, they watch me cry
[Two by two, hand in hand]

Lonely nights, I dream you're there
Morning sun and you're gone
[Lonely nights, morning sun]

[Maybe] I'll do anything you say
[Maybe] I'll do anything you say
[Maybe] I'll do anything you say
Do anything you say, do anything

One desire I ask of you
Please be mine, please be mine
[One desire, please be mine]

Thousand years and I'll return
You'll be mine, you'll be mine
[Thousand years, you'll be mine]

[Maybe] I'll do anything you say
[Maybe] I'll do anything you say
[Maybe] I'll do anything you say
Do anything you say, do anything

Two by two they're walking by
Hand in hand, they watch me cry
[Two by two, hand in hand]

[Maybe] I'll do anything you say
[Maybe] I'll do anything you say
[Maybe] I'll do anything you say
Do anything you say, do anything

[Maybe] I'll do anything you say
[Maybe] I'll do anything you say
[Maybe] I'll do anything you say
Do anything you say, do anything you say
A_Side_Big
At a time long, long before David Bowie would surprise the world by releasing his new single ‘Where Are We Now?’ on his 66th birthday and the promise of a new album called The Next Day to be released a few months later – after 10 years of silence – young David Bowie was fronting the band The Buzz. He formed The Buzz on 6 February 1966, just a week after he disbanded with The Lower Third.

On 22 February 1966 Bowie and The Buzz demoed ‘Do Anything You Say’ at Regent Sound Studios. Two weeks later they recorded the single’s A-side together with ‘Good Morning Girl’ on 7 March 1966 at London’s Pye Studios. Each The Buzz band member was paid 10 pounds for the session (David assumably more than that). The session must have impressed Tony Hatch since he told them: “I’ve never heard you guys swing like that before.” Apparently, before David became a member of this band they had been playing “out-and-out jazz” according to drummer John Eager.

The song itself is well-done lyrically featuring David singing about a character crying about seeing other couples holding hands after his girlfriend left him alone. However, the slacky R&B rhythm accompanying the song does not do the lyrics justice. This uptempo soul-influenced call-and-response piece is quite forgettable and is one of the weaker songs Bowie released in 1966. The backing vocals are particularly bad. They sound bored and remind of David’s former band The Lower Third.

Perhaps the song does not work that well because Bowie never really excelled in the world of soul in his early days at least. Again here, The Who was probably a significant influence on ‘Do Anything You Say’, particularly the often mentioned hit ‘Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere’. Another song that influenced Bowie’s chords on that song was The Kinks’ ‘Tired Of Waiting For You’.

Shortly before the single was released on 1 April 1966 David Bowie together with band member John Eager and Ralph Horton went to the Target Club in the Co-op Memorial Hall, Paul’s Row, High Wycombe, Bucks, on 18 March to promote the new single ‘Do Anything You Say’. Along with singer David Ballantyne who was also promoting his new single ‘Love Around The World’ Bowie was interviewed by Earl Richmond for the Radio London ‘Big L’ act (of which no record still exists).

David-Bowie-233

The single’s release on 1 April marks yet a milestone in David Bowie’s early career: this single was the first to credit him both as the only artist and songwriter. The final mixing of the single, however, was unsatisfying for The Buzz as they were unhappy about the sound (apparently Tony Hatch has put a dampener into the recording session). Just one day later Melody Maker would give this single a moderate review. Dusty Springfield, guest reviewer on that issue, said the following about the new single: “I haven’t got a clue who this is either, but I can see the effort that has gone into this record. It’s nice. The sound is a bit messy.”

The single was another commercial flop for Bowie and his new band. Though they performed it live on other shows and gigs, in particular the Bowie Showboat which would be created soon, the single just didn’t catch the record buying public. However, only two weeks after the release Bowie and The Buzz would make acquaintance with a person named Kenneth Pitt, a figure who would turn out to be quite influential in Bowie’s career for the late 1960s.

There exists a different mix of ‘Do Anything You Say’ on a 1999 reissue of I Dig Everything: The 1966 Pye Singles. The different mix features the same vocals accompanied by a less prominent piano. You can try to spot the differences on the link below:

‘Do Anything You Say’ – Alternate Mix (1966)

——

Discography

Single Version:

  • Vinyl ‘Do Anything You Say’ (A-Side) / ‘Good Morning Girl’ (B-Side) 4/1966
  • CD Early On (1964-1966) 1991
  • Vinyl I Dig Everything: The 1966 Pye Singles 1999

——

Musicians

  • David Bowie (vocals, guitar, saxophone)
  • John Hutchinson (guitar)
  • Derek Boyes (keyboard)
  • Derek Fearnley (bass)
  • John Eager (drums)
  • Produced by Tony Hatch

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Filed under 1966: Bowie & The Buzz

Can’t Help Thinking About Me


1965-An-early-photograph--012

‘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.

bowie 1966

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.

bowie 1999

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.

——

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

——

Musicians

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

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

You’ve Got A Habit Of Leaving


1965_DavidBowie

‘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

youve_big

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.

Lower_Third1

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

I Pity The Fool


mb 3

Lyrics (Malone)

Well, I pity the fool
I said I pity the fool
You know I pity the fool
I said I pity the fool
She'll break your heart one day
Then she'll laugh if she walks away
Yeah, I pity the fool

Well, look at the people
Guess you wonder what to do
They're just standing there
Watching you making a fool out of me

Ah, look at the people
Bet you wonder what to do
Well, they're just standing there
Watching you making a fool out of me

Yeah, I pity the fool
I said I pity the fool
Ooh, I pity the fool
Well, I said I pity the fool
She'll break your heart one day
Then she'll laugh as you walk away
Well, I pity the fool

Well, look at the people
Guess you wonder what to do
They're just standing there
Watching you making a fool out of me

Yeah, look at the people
Bet you wonder what to do
They're just standing there
Watching you making a fool out of me

I pity the fool
I pity the fool that falls in love with you
Oh, I pity the fool
I pity the fool

I Pity The Fool Single A

The beginning of the year 1965 marked a significant step in the career of the young and ambitious David Jones and his band, the Manish Boys. Due to their supporting acts for the Kinks in December 1964, Leslie Conn brought them in contact with 24-year old American record producer Shel Talmy who was the man behind The Kinks’ and many other aspiring bands’ records (such as The Who, The Bachelors, and Manfred Mann).

Upon their first meeting Talmy liked David right from the start and was of the opinion that he was “ahead of the game”. The result was that David and the Manish Boys had their first actual deal to produce a single, this time with EMI Parlophone. Talmy made them a promising offer they just couldn’t refuse: the A-Side being ‘I Pity The Fool’, a classic charting hit from 1961. ‘Take My Tip’ was designated to be on the B-Side – David’s first self-written song to appear on a single.

‘I Pity The Fool’ was chosen by Shel Talmy himself to be on that single. Later on, the Manish Boys’ organist Bob Solly was quite sure that they never would have been allowed to record at all if it wasn’t for Talmy’s pick. He added: “We thought it was OK because it incorporated the saxes and was what we’d call a ‘builder’.”

A long-haired Bowie

The song itself was a cover version of the same Bobby “Blue” Bland soul hit (the songwriting being credited to Deadric Malone which was a pseudonym for Duke Records owner Don Robey), a piece of black popular music and a high charting hit in the US R&B charts in 1961. There were some British R&B bands that leaned on black American soul hits during the mid-60s, among those most successful were The Animals and The Rolling Stones with their hit ‘Little Red Rooster’. The 1961 version of ‘I Pity The Fool’ – probably the biggest hit of Bobby „Blue“ Bland’s career – is sung with such an impudence showing the singer’s contempt and empathy for the next “fool” whose heart would be broken one day by this man-eating kind of woman he has fallen for.

The recordings for ‘I Pity The Fool’ and ‘Take My Tip’ took place at 7pm on 15th January 1965 at the IBC Studios, 35 Portland Place. Before the recordings, around 2.30pm that day David had a short meeting with Shel Talmy at 2i’s Coffee Bar where they rehearsed the songs. During that occasion Talmy introduced him to then-unknown Jimmy Page who listened to the band rehearsals. Page was eventually scheduled to contribute to ‘I Pity The Fool’ as lead guitarist and also by using his new fuzzbox for the solo*. “He was widely excited about it”, Bowie remembered in 1997.

Due to time constraints Shel Talmy only allowed two recordings for each song. This ist he reason why there exist two marginally different versions of ‚I Pity The Fool’ and ‚Take My Tip’. Two band members, Bob Solly and Paul Rodriguez, were not satisfied with the recordings at all. Comparing their version to Bland’s 1961 hit, Rodriguez found that Talmy “ignored some of the best bits […] which was tragic, and we thought the whole bass riff was crude in the extreme. It had a counter-riff which Shel destroyed and it sounded crude and tasteless compared to the original.”

However, the recording was completed and the single scheduled for release on 5th March 1965. The Manish Boys talked Conn out of giving David an individual credit for the single. Instead the single is credited officially only to The Manish Boys – a reason leading to David’s departure from this band later on.

In my opinion, 18-year-old David Bowie made quite a good job on this one. ‘I Pity The Fool’ would not be the last time when he got into black popular music: he would return to the black Philly soul (plastic soul) in his Young Americans album about ten years later. I think this song shows his soulful skills and also demonstrates how he interpreted Bland’s 1961 hit with a little twist. He sings the slow passages around “Well, I pity the fool” in such a nice arrogant and howling way before he starts screaming out “Well, look at people.” I immediately liked this song when I first heard it. It’s straight-up soul.

In order to promote the single David picked up on a publicity scam that he had already begun during November 1964 when he had created the imaginary ‘Society For The Prevention Of Cruelty To Long-Haired Men’ and made it to a funny TV interview on the Tonight show on 12th November. Now he worked out a scam to raise attention as he said to the Daily Mirror he wasn’t allowed to be invited to the show Gadzooks! It’s All Happening because of his long hair. On the day of the release of ‘I Pity The Fool’ the Manish Boys were photographed in front of the BBC Television centre by the Daily Mirror. The Manish Boys gave a performance on Gadzooks!. David was also interviewed about the single on Ready, Steady, Go!. Unfortunately, neither a video nor the audio tape of the interview have survived over the years.

As mentioned before, two versions of this song exist, the original single version and a demo version. The latter has a somewhat different intonation than the single version. Here you can compare these two versions:

‘I Pity The Fool’ – Single Version (1965)

‘I Pity The Fool’ – Alternate Take (1965)

* During the recording sessions Jimmy Page actually inspired Bowie to use a certain guitar riff which he himself didn’t have a use for yet. Bowie would repeat that riff in 1970 for ‘The Supermen’ on his third album The Man Who Sold The World and in 1997 for ‘Dead Man Walking’ on Earthling. 

——

Discography

Single Version:

  • Vinyl I Pity The Fool (A-Side) / Take My Tip (B-Side) 3/1965
  • Vinyl The Manish Boys / Davy Jones & The Lower 3rd EP 1979
  • Vinyl Bowie 1965! EP 2013

Alternate Take:

  • CD Early On (1964-1966) 1991

——

Musicians

  • Davie Jones (vocal, alto saxophone)
  • Paul Rodriguez (tenor saxophone, trumpet)
  • Woolf Byrne (baritone saxophone)
  • Johnny Flux (lead guitar)
  • Bob Solly (keyboards)
  • John Watson (bass)
  • Mick White (drums)
  • Jimmy Page (lead guitar)
  • Produced by Shel Talmy

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Filed under 1963-65: Early Songs

Liza Jane


Bowie King Bees 1

‘Liza Jane’ – Single Version (1964) 

Lyrics (Conn)

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

Liza Jane Single A

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.”

Bowie King Bees 6

‘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.

Bowie King Bees 4

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”.

DAVIE JONES


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.

Bowie 2004

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:

‘Liza Jane’ – Reality Tour: Holmdel, New Jersey (6th June 2004)

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.

‘Liza Jane’ – Toy, unreleased (ca. 2000/01)

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Discography

Single Version:

  • Vinyl Liza Jane (A-Side) / Louie, Louie Go Home (B-Side) 6/1964
  • CD Early On (1964-1966) 1991

Delta Blues Version:

  • Toy Sessions unreleased

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Musicians

  • Davie Jones (vocal, tenor sax)
  • George Underwood (rhythm guitar, harmonica, vocal)
  • Roger Bluck (lead guitar)
  • Dave Howard (bass)
  • Robert Allen (drums)
  • Produced by Leslie Conn

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Filed under 1963-65: Early Songs, 2000: Toy Sessions