David Robert Jones
All links are below this eulogy
It is not widely known that Radio London was very much instrumental in promoting David Bowie's early career. This tribute concentrates on 1966 and 67 and the station plugging his recordings when they were generally ignored elsewhere; it recalls the numerous appearances he made at Big L-sponsored events.
'Can't Help Thinking About Me' was the former Mr Jones's first release under the Bowie name, on his new record label Pye. Credited to 'David Bowie with the Lower Third', it was a climber on 090166, staying on the Big L playlist for a total of 7 weeks and peaking at #14 in the Fab Forty on 20th February.
On Friday, March 18th, at the Target Club in the Co-op Hall, High Wycombe, Big L DJ Earl Richmond introduced David Bowie and David Ballantyne. Neither singer was currently in the Fab Forty, but they would both reappear on April 3rd, each with a new climber. Also present that evening was John 'Ego' Eager, the drummer with the Buzz.
David Ballantine says, "Although I did a number of Radio London promos with Bowie, I never shared a 'live' stage with him. More's the pity. I always thought he was a very charismatic performer, even in the days of the beehive hairdo and the outrageously large flares made of lining material – more like a flamenco dancer's skirt than a pair of trousers.
If we did all travel together with Earl Richmond, then I have drawn a complete blank on the fine details of the travel arrangements. I remember that Earl Richmond came to my place (in Ealing) a couple of times, but I don't remember Bowie ever coming there. (He had a flat in Pimlico at the time.) If he had done, my sister Celia, who later married Julian Lloyd Webber, would have just about expired. She thought Bowie was the bee's knees (to use an expression!"
The follow-up Pye release, 'Do Anything You Say', credited solely to Bowie, was a climber for one week only, 030466.
Radio London sponsored The Bowie Showboat, which ran from April 10th to June 12th on Sunday afternoons at the Marquee Club in Wardour Street, between 3.00 and 6.00. Peter Flanagan, who worked in the Curzon Street offices remembered Brenda Cogdell introducing him David Bowie at a Big L night at the Witchdoctor Club, Catford. This may have been June 17th, as the band did appear in Catford that night. On June 19th, Bowie and the Buzz appeared at the Radio London Trophy Meeting, Brands Hatch, where dancing on the track followed the racing. After a gap of a few weeks, Big L sponsored another run of The Bowie Showboat from August 21st to Nov 13th.
Parts of the Radio London Marquee shows where interviews were conducted with visiting pop stars for broadcast on Big L the following week, were co-sponsored by Elida hair products. The interviewer was Johnny Moran, who was not employed by Radio London as a DJ. Many of the station's sponsored programmes recorded ashore used non-Radio London personnel, presumably chosen by the advertisers.
(Left) with the Lower Third
August of 66 was packed with personal appearances by Bowie to promote his latest release, 'I Dig Everything', produced by Tony Hatch and credited to David Bowie & the Buzz. The band had been christened The Buzz by Earl Richmond and the single was picked as Kenny Everett's climber. It reached #16 in the Fab Forty on 4th Sept. In addition to his Marquee 'Showboat' appearances, Bowie and the Buzz were at a Radio London Show in Ramsgate on August 26th followed the next day by the Starlite Ballroom, Greenford. Annie Gannon from Radlon's Curzon Street offices, sent Captain Buninga a memo listing forthcoming visitors to the Galaxy. Bowie was due aboard the Galaxy on August 31st, but whether or not he actually made it out to the ship, is unknown.
A Marquee interview conducted on August 21st by Johnny Moran, was broadcast on Big L on August 27th and later appeared on an acetate. During that week, 'I Dig Everything' had shot up the Fab Forty from #40 to #22. All this exposure, however, did not produce a national hit. Other Marquee interviewees that week were fellow chart-leapers Episode Six, and Hedgehoppers Anonymous, who had a climber on the Big L playlist, but like Bowie, none of the acts' records became big sellers.
At the end of 1966, Bowie changed labels to the recently-launched Deram. As far as can be established, his first Deram release did not feature on the Big L playlist, but follow-up, 'The Laughing Gnome', from April 67 and credited solely to Bowie, received plenty of Big L airplay. The song appears to have been an attempt on his part to emulate the style of Anthony Newley and his offbeat releases, 'Strawberry Fair' and 'Pop Goes the Weasel'. 'The Laughing Gnome', however, never laughed its way into the Fab Forty.
When choosing his favourite Bowie track for the Guardian, Julien Temple, director of the movie 'Absolute Beginners', went for 'Space Oddity', but he said he might well have chosen 'The Laughing Gnome'. He recalled that on a US tour with Bowie in the Eighties, people in Pittsburgh had polled the song their favourite Bowie recording. "He loved that," Temple recalls. "His laughter was fantastic. It reminds me how self-deprecating he was; the irony of everything was not lost on him."
'Love You Till Tuesday', from July 67, was picked as Ian Damon's climber. It was credited solely to Bowie, as were all subsequent releases. At the suggestion of manager Kenneth Pitt, Bowie took the innovative step of filming a promo for the single at London's Clarence Studios, but success continued to elude him.
Chris Payne cleaned up the sound of the Johnny Moran interview so that it could be included in the V & A Bowie exhibition in 2012. There was a gap in the audio and part of the interview missing, which obviously, he could do nothing about.
Included in the Moran interview, Bowie's 'prison escape' composition 'Over the Wall We Go' sounded like another attempt on his part to emulate Anthony Newley. The version of the song differs considerably from the one eventually released by Oscar (with a little vocal assistance by the writer himself). Was it really a demo from August 1966, picked up by another artist six months later? 'Over the Wall We Go' was issued as a single in February 1967 by 'Oscar', aka Paul Oscar Beuselinck, aka Paul Dean, aka Paul Nicholas.
The Oscar single was chosen as a Kenny Everett climber in January '67, and would very likely have appealed to his zany sense of humour. 'Over the Wall We Go' entered the Fab 40 the following month, peaking at #30 on February 19th.
Over The Wall We Go was reissued in 1978, with a different B-side, and credited to 'Ivor Bird'.
In recent years, BBC Radio 6 Music acquired a 15-minute mock radio show, recorded by Bowie in 1973. The show features five tracks from his seventh album 'Pin Ups', which consists of covers of Sixties recordings, most of which were Fab Forty hits. Included in the show are The Pretty Things' 'Rosalyn', Them's 'Here Comes the Night', The Merseys' 'Sorrow' and The Who's 'I Can't Explain' with the bands' fellow Fab Forty artist Bowie giving his own take on the Sixties music scene.
All photographs issued as publicity shots by EMI, 1965
Chris Payne edit of Johnny Moran interview/'Over the Wall We Go' demo
Bowie and Ballantyne at the Target Club, High Wycombe
'Love You till Tuesday' promo
The Oscar single
Friars Aylesbury pays tribute
6 Music tribute
Heteropoda davidbowie - a spider named after Bowie