Saturday, January 2, 2010

David Bowie Covers: The Slender Plenty-Everyone Just Loves The "Grass".......

THE SLENDER PLENTY -Silver Tree Top School For Boys U.K. Polydor 56189 1967

One of the great lost demos of David Bowie's 1960's career that has failed to materialize anywhere (even among the most intrepid of bootleggers) is that of a little known ditty titled "Silver Tree Top School For Boys". First written and demoed by Bowie in may 1967 (just shortly before the debut release of his debut Deram long player, see June 1, 2009 entry). It would not have been at all out of place on his untitled first album with it's firmly British tongue and cheek (or is it tongue in cheek?) humor centering around a public school (that's "private school" to us Americans) and the on campus use of marijuana, It is said it was inspired by Bowie reading a real life newspaper article on the outrage that cannabis was being consumed at some of Britain's higher learning institutions (no really?). The first version heard by the public was by the hithero unknown act The Slender Plenty who in September 1967 unleashed their version on the public. It was a great month for unsung British 60's pych-pop/freakbeat singles as it was in good company with Marmalade's "I See The Rain" (I promise we'll get around to that gem soon)The Syn's "Flowerman", The Sand's Bee Gee's composed "Mrs, Gillespie's Refrigerator", The Zombie's "Friends Of Mine" and The 23rd Turnoff's "Michelangelo" (more on that one someday too I promise). And like it's contemporaries it went absolutely nowhere. That didn't stop The Beatstalkers, a Scottish group managed by the man also handling Bowie (Kenneth Pitt) from releasing a version in December on as CBS 3105, which also tanked. It was their first of three attempts at David Bowie compositions deemed unworthy or unnecessary for release by himself.

The Slender Plenty's take is far superior in my book starting with a barrage of controlled feedback and a lovely fuzztone guitar while the whole thing pumps along at a jaunty pace punctuated by a football chant-like chorus of "yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah" and some very Anglicized lead vocals. The "la la la's" are infectious and catchy. The lyrics, are of course clever and witty and recall the late 60's playwright Joe Orton at his campiest: "Mr. Brown the physics man is off his head and everyone just loves the grass at Silver Tree Top School For Boys".

The flipside "I've Lost A Friend And Found A Lover", though not as strong as the top side is still a great little ditty about love and loss set beneath a mid tempo Kinks '66 style backing.

The Slender Plenty's version cropped up on a bootleg compilation CD called "Justafixation" and I'm sure it's been on plenty more as it's quite amazing. Sadly it did not make it onto Castle's Bowie covers CD compilation "Oh You Pretty Things" , instead they utilized The Beatstalkers version. "I've Lost A Friend And Found A Lover" cropped up on the "Piccadilly Sunshine Volume 10" CD compilation.

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