Monday, May 2, 2016

An Interesting (If Unlikely) Pairing ... And Another Forgotten Hits EXCLUSIVE!

I've been telling you about this new Uncut Magazine series looking back at a given year of the rock era ... all very interesting accounts because they reflect what was written at the time and are not biased with the benefit of any hindsight.  (It's funny to see articles about "The Cream" and "The Pink Floyd", which is how Melody Maker and New Music Express referred to these groups back then!)  

One article that immediately caught my eye came from the issue celebrating 1966, originally published in late February / early March of 1966 that talks about a very young, 19 year old David Bowie working on a film score and a television special with our Forgotten Hits Buddy, Tony Hatch.  

The article states:  "Mr. Bowie, a 19 year old Bromley boy, not only writes and arranges his own numbers, but he is also helping Tony Hatch to write a musical score and the numbers for a TV show."  I was quite surprised to see this particular combination as it just doesn't seem like your typical "fit".  Were these two actually writing songs together??? 

Tony Hatch, of course, was enjoying ENORMOUS success on the charts at the time with hit records by Petula Clark, Chris Montez, Bobby Rydell, The Vogues and more ... and Bowie, of course, wouldn't have an impact here in the States for several more years ... but, based on this particular article, it sounds like he was already getting great reviews in early '66 in England and showing enormous potential.   

Since I can't very well ask David Bowie about it, I went to Tony Hatch to see just what the circumstances were that pulled these two together ... and to inquire if anything ever came out of this encounter.  (The timing of this happenstance also begs another question ... the story that has always gone 'round is that David Bowie changed his name from David Jones so as not to conflict or confuse anyone with Davy Jones of The Monkees ... but The Monkees wouldn't even come to be for another six or seven months ... so that's a bit odd, too, isn't it?  What conflict could there possibly have been in February of 1966 when The Monkees' television series wouldn't start until September of that year, launching a string of HUGE hits all over the world?)   

Hi Kent,

Thanks for your note.  

This sounds like the ramblings of a junior journalist briefed by Bowie's manager. It's more likely I was helping Bowie although I never took a share in anything he wrote when I was his producer.  I didn't write any of this material ... they are all Bowie compositions.   

I produced David Bowie in 1966. We were also looking at film and TV projects but nothing came of them. He was well-known on the London scene in the early to mid-sixties but not nationally.  Melody Maker and New Musical Express were both published in London and I guess that was the main area of their distribution.  If you haven't got them I can send you the six Bowie songs that I produced and Pye released in 1966.   

You might be right about the exact timing of the name change but Wikipedia confirms that The Monkees were formed in 1966 and their TV series was being transmitted.

Prior to his solo career, BOWIE did have other group names such THE BUZZ. It's possible that my first records with him were released as DAVID BOWIE AND THE LOWER THIRD but he certainly changed his name in '66 and Pye re-released a box set called DAVID BOWIE - THE PYE SINGLES.  Check out Wikipedia. I think it's pretty accurate.    

Wow, I would LOVE to hear these tracks ... my guess is that most (if not ALL) of our readers have never heard them before.  Thanks, Tony!  (kk)   

Nothing ever really came of any of these ... but the discs as released were: 



Ironically in the same issue of "The History Of Rock, 1966" there's a review of a new David Bowie single released in November of that year pairing "Rubber Band" with "The London Boys".  It reads:  "Difficult to describe this, for it has an odd semi-nonsense lyric, set to a stomping beat accentuated by tuba.  There's also a blaring solo trumpet and strange tempo changes.  And David, who wrote it himself, sounds mighty like Anthony Newley.  A gimmick disc, I suppose ... but praiseworthy for its novelty."  (I don't think there would ever be another instance of somebody mistaking David Bowie for Anthony Newley again!!! lol)

I asked Tony Hatch if he had any pictures of himself with David Bowie and he said that sadly, he didn't.  I also wondered if Tony kept tabs on Bowie's career after they had worked together so early on.     

As an in-house record producer (A&R Man) for Pye Records in the 1960's, one of my roles for the label, alongside producing cast recordings and instrumental albums, was the development of new young talent. Despite enjoying hits with Liverpool's The Searchers and getting close with bands from Sheffield and Manchester, there didn't seem to be much happening in London. Then Ralph Horton invited me to a London club to see young Davy Jones and The Lower Third performing songs he'd written. The Searchers didn't write songs so I was very anxious to sign an act with their own source of material. Davy Jones seemed to tick all the boxes and we got on well. He was quickly signed to the Pye label and there was no delay getting him into the Pye Studios to record his first tracks.   

There is some confusion as to when he actually changed his name from Jones to Bowie but I'm pretty sure his first single with Pye in 1966, 'Can't Help Thinking About Me' c/w 'I Say To Myself' was released as David Bowie and The Lower Third. Two more singles followed in that year as David Bowie but we couldn't get the hit we needed and I was tremendously disappointed when Pye's MD told me I needed to cull my roster of artistes. 

It's hard to pinpoint a specific reason why we failed. Maybe the magic hadn't kicked in - or maybe Pye failed to realize what a unique talent he was or just didn't know how to promote it. It didn't surprise me, then, when David Bowie got his first big success and launched a career that would see him develop into one of the world's most uniquely creative artists. I can say with some pride, however, "I told you so"!  


He was DEFINITELY calling himself David Bowie in early 1966 ... BEFORE anybody had a CLUE who The Monkees were.


Bowie's first release came in 1964, when he was fronting a group called The King Bees ... at the time he was still going by his given name, David Jones.  According to VH1's Rock Encyclopedia, Jones adopted the name "Bowie" in January of 1966 while recording with The Lower Third after signing with Pye Records.  His manager, Ken Pitt, suggested a name change so as not to be confused with Davy Jones, a member of a new US made-for-TV group, The Monkees.  I suppose it's possible ... the first ad announcing auditions for The Monkees ran on Wednesday, September 8th, 1965 ... Jones had reportedly already been guaranteed a role in the series because of his contract with Screen Gems ... so he never really had to go through the whole auditioning process.  With that thought in mind, it is quite likely that word got back to England (since that's where Davy was born and raised) and the name change was instituted ... even though the series wouldn't premier until a full year later in 1966.  

Davy was also already appearing in the teen fan magazines prior to landing his role on the television series ... and, in August of 1965, already released a solo single (ironically as David Jones) that reached the lower region of the American charts.    

Then, on February 9th, 1964, he performed as The Artful Dodger on The Broadway Cast of "Oliver"'s appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show ... the very same episode where The Beatles made their first Sullivan appearance.  (Davy, after seeing the fan reaction when The Fab Four took the stage, reportedly decided right then and there on the spot that this is what HE wanted to do, leaving the Broadway stage behind.  Who would have EVER dreamed that three short years later The Monkees would be outselling The Beatles on the pop charts!)

Anyway, that's my story and I'm stickin' to it ... 
Mystery solved!!!  (kk)