Wednesday, July 3, 2013

David Bowie + Acid Jazz

THE RIOT SQUAD-"Toy Soldier E.P." Toy Soldier/Silly Boy Blue/I'm Waiting For My Man/Silver Tree Top School For Boys Acid Jazz AJX329S 2013
Few folks are aware that for a brief period in 1967 The Riot Squad included David Bowie in their line-up. Thanks to Acid Jazz and their excellent E.P. series we can now hear a few examples of what their brief liaison produced. The Riot Squad were without a record contract following their last 45, January 6, 1967's "Gotta Be A First Time" b/w "Bittersweet Love" (Pye 7N17237), one of the next to last recordings produced by Joe Meek who shot himself on February 3.  David Bowie had sacked his backing group The Buzz (Dek Fearnley-bass, Derek Boyes-organ and John Eager-drums) having completed the recording of his soon to be released Deram records debut LP with them and was, for a time, no longer playing live gigs (his gigs with The Buzz ceased at the close of 1966).  His involvement with The Riot Squad began in March of '67 and was kept from both his manager Kenneth Pitt and his former band mates The Buzz (Eager and Boyes were, at this time backing The Truth).  Their collaboration was short lived with a handful of gigs, which appear to have ceased by the time  his LP was launched on June 1st. However unknown to many on April 5, 1967 Bowie convinced his Deram engineer Gus Dudgeon to turn a blind eye to him bringing the Riot Squad in off the books to lay down some tracks during some down time at Deccas studio.  This E.P. is the first legitimate airing of the fruits of this session (although there is a Riot Squad CD available through Amazon called "The Last Chapter:Mods & Sods" of questionable legality containing variations of all four tracks, though some, like "Little Toy Soldier" differ from the version here on this E.P.).

What we have here is the results of that April 5th session (it is reported that only three tracks were recorded at that session: "Toy Soldier" , "I'm Waiting For My Man" and "Silly Boy Blue") . The E.P. contains three David Bowie originals and a Velvet Underground cover (though one might cynically observe it contains two Bowie originals and two V.U. covers but more on that later).  The quality surpasses that heard on any bootlegs of "Little Toy Soldier" and "I'm Waiting For My Man" (leaked when Dugeon duped the two tracks for a friend in the 80's and available on a widely distributed bootleg CD of Bowie's 60's material titled "The Forgotten Songs Of David Robert Jones") while I've not heard the version of "Silly Boy Blue" here before the version of "Silver Tree Top Boys"  previously appeared on the above mentioned Riot Squad comp.

The Riot Squad May 1967(D.B. second from left top)

In December 1966 Bowie's manager Kenneth Pitt returned from a trip to New York bringing with him a test pressing of The Velvet Underground & Nico's LP which Bowie addmitedly wore the grooves off of.  His use of bits of "Venus In Furs" in "Toy Soldier" is quite evident (it "borrows" a line or two here and there, namely "taste the whip and bleed for me.." line).  Bowie uses the original's S&M theme to take it one step further and concocts a tale of a little girl named Sadie who would come home from school each day and take off all of her clothes and wind up a toy soldier who would whip her. Not content with the level of pain she winds him harder and harder till he beats her to death!  One can not easily imagine the prudent folks at Deram ever releasing that. Regardless it's a great slice of '67 Bowie not at all out of place amongst "The Gospel According To Tony Day" or "Join My Gang". "Silly Boy Blue" would get it's first airing on David's debut LP, the version here is him accompanied only by acoustic guitar which leads me to believe it was perhaps his demo for the track, or perhaps a run through he did to teach it to The Riot Squad during the session, though I suspect the latter. "I'm Waiting For My Man" is fairly uninspired but at least amusing to hear David's Lou Reed fixation began long before the 70's and it's interesting to hear a guy who was still living with his parent's in Bromley singing about scoring on Lexington Avenue! Bowie is NOT playing sax as often believed but is blowing harp (the sax was played by Riot's member Bob Evans). "Silver Tree Top School For Boys" holds the distinction of being the first Bowie track recorded by two artists in the same time period.  First released by studio concoction The Slender Plenty on September, 15, 1967 (Polydor 56189) and later by fellow Ken Pitt stablemates The Beatstalkers in December '67 (CBS 3105).  The version here is not sung by Bowie but by one of The Riot Squad in the camp/cheeky manner both of the previously mentioned versions were. It sounds half baked, like a run through rather than a properly recorded number like the two V.U. pieces.  The lyrics were inspired by a newspaper article on weed smoking at the prestigious Lancing College (ie "public school").

The E.P. is available from Acid Jazz or you can download the tracks via iTunes or Amazon where you can hear snippets of all four tracks as well.

Hear "Little Toy Soldier":

Hear "I'm Waiting For My Man":

*******We here at "Anorak Thing" are gratrefully indebted to the excellent book "David Bowie Any Day Now: The London Years" by Kevin Cann for all of the facts and dates.  Fans of 60's David Bowie should acquire this book post haste!*************

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