David Bowie FAQ:Music:|
The Konrads was Bowie's first group. The name he suggested was Ghost Riders. A
known Konrads song is I Never Dreamed (written by Jones, Ferris, and Dodds), in
which Bowie sings backing vocals. He left them because they didn't want to play
Next he formed Reds & Blues (with friend painter George Underwood), a band that
played many covers.
In November '63 Bowie formed his first recording band, Davie Jones and the King
Bees. The name originated from the Louisiana's blues singer Slim Harpo song I'm
A King Bee. They were: Bowie (vocals, tenor. alto sax), Roger Bluck (lead
guitar), George Underwood (rhythm guitar, harmonica, vocals), Dave Howard
(bass), Bob Allen (drums).|
To raise money Bowie sent a letter to a rich English entrepreneur, John Bloom,
who was in the washing machines business. Since he had nothing to do with music,
he passed Bowie's request to Leslie Conn (who was managing Doris Day's music
publishing company, Melcher music, and doing talent scouting for the Dick James
Organization). Conn suggested that they play at Bloom's wedding anniversary. He
accepted, and they played Got My Mojo Working and Hoochie Coochie Man in that
party. Conn then decided to become their manager.
They recorded the very first Bowie single Liza Jane (an old Negro spiritual but
Conn was credited as the composer)/Louie Louie Go Home (composed by Paul Revere
& The Raiders). The single was recorded at Decca Studios, West Hampstead, and
released on a subsidiary label Vocalion Pop on the 5th of June, '64.
Bowie and his band gave performances at the Marquee Club, Cafe Des Artists, the
Roundhouse, and several universities. They also performed this single on the
Juke Box Jury show, and on the BBC2 show The Beat Room.
Since they weren't gaining any popularity Bowie decided to leave the band in
August '64, and they broke up.
Immediately afterwards Bowie joined The Manish Boys (the name originated from a
Muddy Waters song), an R&B band from Maidstone, whose name used to change very
often (Band Seven and The Jazz Gentlemen were among their previous names). They
were: Bowie (vocals, tenor, alto sax), Johnny Flux (lead guitar), John Watson
(bass, rhythm guitar, vocals), Mick White (drums), Bob Solly (organ), Paul
Rodriguez (tenor sax, trumpet, bass), Woolf Byrne (baritone sax, harmonica).
After they'd heard David's copy of The James Brown Show Live At The Apollo, and
under David's influence, they changed their music style.
On November 12, '64, Bowie gave his first known television interview on BBC's
Cliff Michelmore's Tonight show about the organization he founded for 'The
Prevention Of Cruelty To Long Haired Men'.
Bowie: 'Well, I think we're all fairly tolerant, but for the last two years,
we've had comments like "Darling" and "Can I carry your handbag?" thrown at us,
and I think it just has to stop now'.
The Manish boys signed with the Arthur Howes Agency. They played six shows as
backup for the Gene Pitney - Gerry & The Pacemakers tour, starting December 1st.
In Regent studios they recorded for Decca a cover of Barbara Lewis's song Hello
Stranger (which was never released) and Love Is Strange. Mike Smith was the
Then they met legebdary producer Shel Talmy, who was producing the Kinks, the
Who, and Manfred Mann at that time. After hearing them, Talmy decided to produce
Talmy: 'I really liked David because of the fact that he was, I thought, ahead
of the game'.
In IBC Studios they recorded the single I Pity The Fool (an early '60s hit by
American R&B singer Bobby 'Blue' Bland)/Take My Tip (the first Bowie composition
recorded. Jimmy Page appeared as a guest guitarist. The song was covered by
Kenny Miller as an A-side).
The single was released on March 5th.
Leslie Conn arranged for them to perform I Pity The Fool on the BBC show
"Gadzooks! It's All Happening". Producer Barry Langford insisted that Bowie cut
his hair. He, of course, refused. Conn organized fans to parade around the BBC
with banners like 'Be Fair To Long Hair'. Bowie also sent a letter to a local
newspaper in which he claimed 'people with long hair have rights too'. The story
was reprinted in many other local newspapers. The BBC then decided to let him
appear on the show, on the condition that if they got complaints the band's fee
would to to charity. No complaints were received.
In April '65 The Manish Boys broke up.
In March '65 Bowie met the band The Lower Third at the Giaconda coffee bar on
Denmark St in Soho, the centre of London's music business and a popular hangout
for musicians. He became their lead singer. They were: Bowie (vocals, tenor,
alto sax), Denis 'Tea Cup' Taylor (lead guitar), Graham Rivens (bass), Les
Mighall (drums; Mighall left before the release of their first single, and was
replaced by Phil Lancaster). Nicky Hopkins played piano in several sessions. The
band's main influence was The Who.
They appeared regularly each Saturday at the R&B club La Discotheque.
In Central Sound Studio on Denmark St. they recorded several demos, including
Born Of The Night (which was never released) and two radio jingles for the US
including Youthquake Clothing (written by David and Denis when they arrived at
Their first single (and the second Bowie single to be produced by Talmy) was
released on August 20th under EMI's Parlophone label. You've Got A Habit Of
Leaving (influenced by The Who)/Baby Loves That Way (David admitted it was a
takeoff on Herman's Hermits; on backing vocals: Less Conn, Shel Talmy, two
engineers and the band as monks). On the press release of this single David said
that he likes Sammy Davis Jr. The band also recorded Over The Wall We Go — later
covered by Oscar.
Graham: 'David used to sit at home and strum a guitar and write some lyrics. We
then used to sit down together as a group and make the whole thing something
feasible and bring the whole tune together. A lot of the early stuff we did with
him, apart from the basic tune and lyrics, was very much a joint effort'.
Talmy: 'David and I went straight to monaural tape on those demos. Certainly
that wasn't multitrack. We did it specifically to do demos. They were things he
had that we were talking about recording at a future date. And it was always
nice to get them down on tape so we could have a listen'.
Ralph Horton became Bowie's first official manager. Horton was working then for
agent Terry King, managing Lord Sutch and the Casuals; he also worked as a
driver for the Moody Blues. He arranged a few shows. The first — as a support to
the Moody Blues at the Bromel club in Bromley. Other shows included summer
weekend engagements at the Winter Gardens in Ventnor, and support for Johnny
Kidd & The Pirates on the Isle Of Wight.
They also did a series of afternoon concerts for the Marquee Inecto Show, which
were broadcast by a pirate radio station, Radio London, and sponsored by the
makers of Inecto shampoo. They used to sing songs by The Kinks, Chim Chim Cheree
(from Mary Poppins), and Mars (from Holst's Planet suite, the theme music from
the British television serial The Quartermass Experiment).
In late 1965, Horton phoned up Ken Pitt, who was then managing Manfred Mann and
Crispian St. Peters, because the band had financial difficulties. Pitt would
become Bowie's second manager later, but didn't have time for him then. He did
suggest that Horton's client change his name, and David Jones became David Bowie
in November '65.
On November 2nd the band was auditioned at BBC but they were turned down. That
was explained in '87: '...Like the Rolling Stones before him, the 19 year old
Bowie's performance was not suitable for the BBC's purposes. The talent
selection group were particularly surprised by the inclusion of the Lower
Third's version of Chim Chim Cheree from Mary Poppins, and as for Bowie's
singing..."a Cockney type, but not outstanding", "A singer devoid of
personality", "sing wrong notes" and "Out of tune" were just some of the
comments. But two years later, Bowie was back at the beeb with a complete change
of style and a trial broadcast'.
At the end of '65 the band signed with Pye records.
The year ended with Bowie's first performances outside of England, including two
shows at the Golfe Drouot in Paris, one on New Year's Eve (on the bill with
Arthur Brown), and the other one on January 2nd, '66.
On January 14, 1966, the first single under the new name was released: Can't
Help Thinking About Me/And I Say To Myself. It was produced by Tony Hatch, head
of A&R for Pye. It became the first Bowie single to be released in the US (on
the Warner Brothers label, in May).
Since they didn't have any success, The Lower Third broke up in January '66.
Bowie then joined The Buzz (named by a radio station DJ). David Bowie and The
Buzz were: Bowie (vocals), John 'Hutch' Hutchinson (lead guitar), Derek 'Dek'
Fearnley (bass), John 'Ego' Eager (drums), Derek 'Chow' Boyes (organ).
Hutchinson was replaced after four months by Billy 'Haggis' Gray, but rejoined
Bowie two years later with Feathers.
They auditioned February 3rd at the Marquee.
Their first performances were on the 10th of February, at Leicester University
with the Graham Bond Organization and Jimmy James & The Vagabonds, and the next
day at the Marquee.
They recorded a few songs, including That's A Promise (written by Bowie). This
song can be found as a bootleg single and on a number of bootleg albums,
including Pierrot in Turquoise.
In March they appeared on the TV show Ready, Steady, Go! to perform the Lower
Third's song Can't Help Thinking About Me, which reached #26 on the Melody Maker
On March 7th they recorded Do Anything You Say/Good Morning Girl, with Tony
Hatch as the producer. The single was released April 1st.
They gave some successful performances in Scotland. In London, at the Marquee,
Bowie did a Sunday afternoon series of his own, The Bowie Showboat, from April
10th to June 12th. It became apparent that he had a following of devoted fans
who were following him from band to band.
At the second Bowie Showboat concert, Bowie met his next manager, Ken Pitt.
I Dig Everything/I'm Not Losing Sleep was recorded on June 6th, and released
August 19th. Band unknown. Producer Hatch thought the songs needed rearranging
and used session musicians.
Hatch: 'David was then extremely conservative, good to get on with and excellent
in the studio. His material was good, although I thought he wrote too much about
London dustbins. Those were his formative years and he hadn't reached maturity,
but he was unusual, unique'.
In December '66, The Buzz broke up.