“Your flashy clothes are your pride and joy ” David Bowie – The London Boys
Bowie, Bolan, Bryan Ferry, Eno (and Rod Stewart) all made the breakthough from cult undergrounders to interstellar superstars as variants on the star-spangled glitterkid theme. They may have had stars in/on their eyes, but those platform boots were firmly grounded in Mod roots. The look sharp and look ahead apprenticeship of Mod, with it’s made to measure mix of American soul and Italian style, Ivy League look meets British dandyism – and an eye for the detail and an ear for a tune, was probably why Bowie (and the other moonage mods mentioned) endured beyond the best-before date and lipstick-brickie chic of their patent leather peers.
The sixties scene was an era Bowie referenced from his earliest recordings (London Boys) and one of the motifs and influences that’s remained a constant throughout his peacock career – mentions of Lennon, Beatles and Stones on various singles. Twiggy and Jagger getting name checked on Aladdin Sane (along with a Stones cover), Pin Up’s set of swinging London standards and Young Americans (covering classics like ‘Knock On Wood’ and ‘Footstomping’ during live shows), and pitching in with ‘Pictures of Lily’ on The Who tribute album through to the slim-fit suit on ‘Reality’ being almost a homecoming to the Lord John look pictured above…
David Bowie and The Lower Third – Can’t Help Thinking About Me
(There’s a clip of Bowie on his mod days, Steve Marriot and a 1999 version of ‘CHTAM’here)
David Bowie – In The Heat Of The Morning – (BBC version)
(The Last Shadow Puppets made a healthy go of ‘INTHOTM’)
Davie Jones and the King Bees – Louie Louie Go Home
(LLGH was the B-side of Bowie’s first single “Liza Jane”)
Ziggy Stardust – The Mod Who Fell To Earth
A note on the tunes….and a Bowie Bonus
Can’t Help Thinking About Me (1965)
The first recording to feature the newly named David ‘Bowie’, and almost a blueprint of Bowieness the outsider lyrics and ambiguous angst of “my head’s bowed in shame” “blackened the family name” to the set piece template of semi-spoken verse and Bowie-bellow on the chorus, it’s a tune that wouldn’t seem out of place on any album since Scary Monsters.
In The Heat Of The Morning (1970)
For my earth pounds the BBC take of this tune is superior to the official album version, and benefits from being enhanced by the extra bounce of Alan Hawkshaw’s fantastically funky keyboard coda.
The Beatstalkers (touted as the Scottish Beatles), were under Ken Pitt’s management at the same time as Bowie (and also signed to Decca). They were offered first refusal on any unused Bowie compositions or offcuts, ‘Silver Tree Top School For Boys’ is one of these, and Bowie penned ‘Penny Lane-alike‘ from 1967.
The Beatstalkers (1967)- Silver Tree Top School For Boys
I am on something of a Bowie buzz lately (two Bo’ posts in two weeks) brought on by reading the Fantistico Dave Thompson book To Major Tom – a gem and a joy of a read if you’re into any type of music or movement from Bowie’s catchment era