Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Debut of the "Bowie" Moniker

DAVID BOWIE and THE LOWER THIRD-Can't Help Thinking About Me/And I Say To Myself U.K. Pye 7N.17020 1966

When we last left David Jones in August 1965 (see "Anorak Thing" December 19, 2009 entry) he and the Lower Third had issued a record. Fast forward to January 1966 and David Jones was now David Bowie. He was signed to a three record deal at Pye and assigned producer Tony Hatch (this was accomplished through his then manager Ralph Horton, an ex-Moody Blues road manager who through his mutual friend Denny Laine had met Hatch and pitched his act thus securing the Pye contract). The band duly set about recording at Pye's Marble Arch studio where legend has it Bowie was given a tambourine utilized on Hatch's smash "Downtown" by Petula Clark to use on the session.

David Bowie & The Buzz plug "Can't Help.."
on "Ready! Steady! Go!" March 4, 1966

There has long been documentation of Bowie's home life and he himself has admitted it was less than normal. "Can't Help Thinking About Me" is the first time it came out via one of his compositions and concerns the plight of a young protagonist leaving home for "blackening the family name". It has some interesting lines that one wonders weren't real (keeping in mind that in 1964 David had shoulder length blond hair and living at home in suburban Bromley with his mom and dad this must have raised some eyebrows. Bowie would continue to do so until moving to London in late 1966) : "mother says that she can't stand the neighbors talking. I've gotta pack my bags leave this home start walking...". . It starts out with some cool acoustic guitar and one of Bowie's best vocal performances where he croons confidently. It's probably also the only pop song to unitize the phrase "recreation ground". Lyrically it's also one of his finest "remember when we used to go to church on Sundays, I lay awake at night terrified of school on Mondays...". Powerful stuff with the Lower Third (Denis "Tea Cup" Talyor-lead guitar, Graham Rivens-bass and Phil Lancaster-drums) giving it some solid backing. The flip "And I Say To Myself" is an ode to the "wrong girl", slower than the A-side it's got an almost Motown feel to it with some cool "call and response" vocals between David and the boys.

Color still of D.B. on the March 4, 1966
edition of "Ready! Steady! Go!

It should've been a hit and despite a £250 pound bribe that secured it a #34 placing in the "Melody Maker" singles charts and a full page advert on the cover of "New Musical Express" the single went nowhere. Tired of not making any money and plugging away behind a singer who seemed to garner all the attention (and no doubt miffed at driving back from engagements on New Year's Eve and New Year's day at the Paris clubs Golfe-Drout and Montmarte Bus Palladium in the band's transport, an old Comer ambulance, while David flew home) it wasn't long before the band split after a January 29th gig. The #34 placing was enough to secure them a booking on Redifusion TV's "Ready Steady Go" on March 4th to promote it, where by this time David was being backed by The Buzz ( Derek Boyes-keyboards, John "Hutch" Hutchcinson-guitar, Derek Fearnley-bass and John Eager-drums). The Buzz sans Hutchinson (who would later rejoin Bowie in '68 in a trio called Feathers) provided musical backing for Bowie's debut Deram LP (see "Anorak Thing" October 9, 2008 entry). The band shared the show with The Small Faces and The Yardbirds and like most "RSG" episodes there is no footage in existence. There are however numerous still photos both color and black and white of the appearance, one of each can be seen above. "Can't Help Thinking About Me" was revived by '79 mod band The Purple Hearts on their debut LP "Beat That" and Bowie himself thought so much of it he performed it live on VH-1's "Storyteller's program in August 1999.  It's also the very first David Bowie record to be issued in the United States where it was issued by Warner Brothers (5815) in the spring of 1966.  Both promo and stock copies were issued with the promo copies being more prevalent among collector's these days.

Hear "Can't Help Thinking About Me":

Hear "And I Say To Myself":

US white label promo "A"

US white label promo "B"

The more uncommon US stock issue "A"

The more uncommon US stock issue "B"


HippieGirl said...

IDK why, but it seems like alot of British acts in the 1960s at one time or another played on Ready, Steady, Go! and what does anorak mean? is it British slang for something?

Wilthomer said...

"Anorak" is a type of parka or jacket, referring to someone as an "anorak" is a way of calling them a nerd or someone who pays way too much attention to detail (ie a "trainspotter").