Monday, January 26, 2009
Of Bowie Men And Purple Pill Eaters........
I have no clue as to who The Wild Ones were or what became of them. I was introduced to them in 1982 as a young mod on a shopping trip by bus to Woodbridge Center with a pocket full of birthday cash. I plunked down my $ on several Atlantic re-issues of 60's soul 45's, a few '79 mod LP's AND "Pebbles Volume Six:The Roots Of Mod". I'm not sure why I bought it but the word "MOD" on the cover (complete with a bulls eye for the "o" ) might have had more to do with it. This LP opened my ears to a host of rare/gritty 60's tracks by British r&b bands I'd be hearing more of later in life and in some cases actually owning the actual 45's of when I stopped relying on birthday loot to fuel my record passion. The Wild One's contribution to this compilation was their single's A-side "Bowie Man". It's an interesting choice of title as David Bowie had ZERO to do with the band and it came out a full two years before he switched his surname from Jones to Bowie. In fact at the time he was fronting the short lived Davy Jones & The King Bees, responsible for one of the rarest British r&b 45's "Liza Jane/Louie Go Home" (Vocallion V9221), so despite what you've read on some stupid liner note or ill informed fanzine (like erm..."Smashed Blocked", the one from NJ) there is no Bowie connection. In fact the only connection between Bowie and The Wild Ones is that both of their 45's shared the same music publisher (Dick James Music), but Dick James published a lot of 60's British 45's. All that rubbish aside let's get to the music.
"Bowie Man" is a raver. It is THE all time archetype solid, frenetic, frantic British 60's r&b number. It's got lots of maracas shakin', a snotty vocalist singing really fast and a wiggy fuzzy/distorted guitar solo worthy of any of those similar licks played by Jimmy Page on a host of many similar (though less impressive) British r&b 45's. I have no clue what a "Bowie Man" is and I'm no closer to understanding it as the lyrics don't make much sense, but when it's got a beat like this you won't care. The liner notes for "The Root Of Mod" mentioned the tune's flip "Purple Pill Eater" as being a comment on the purple heart shaped amphetamine (known as Drinamyl) use that was giving the U.K. tabloids plenty of copy in '64. Forget the same raving monster band that cut "Bowie Man", because on the flip we've got something radically different. The Drinamyl fueled A-side gives way to a kiff (that's cannabis for all you non-mods) inspired slow ska beat B-side with maracas but no frantic guitar solos and the more decipherable lyrics are delivered in a mock Caribbean island accent warning the listener of the dangers of the little purple pills. The band plays a slightly sloppy slow ska shuffle (much like the two Mickey Finn & the Blue Men "ska favored" singles) it's actually mildly entertaining and quite hysterical when you think about it, though not nearly as cringe worthy as Van Dyke & The Bambis "Doin' The Mod" (more on that one on my next blog entry perhaps).
"Bowie Man" has been reissued on the "Pebbles Volume Six" LP and on the "English Freakbeat Vol. Six" CD (essentially the "Pebbles.." LP w/ extra cuts) while "Purple Pill Eater" appears on "English Freakbeat Volume One" LP and I'm assuming, the CD too. All of these are c/o the late Greg Shaw's A.I.P./Bomp apparatus and are still available last time I noticed from Bomp's website.
Hear "Bowie Man":
Hear "Purple Pill Eater":