David Bowie at the Kasbah, Coventry.
By Pete Clemons
Mention the fact that David Bowie had performed in Coventry and, quite rightly, a lot people will immediately cast their minds back to the June 1973 gig where David and his band, the Spiders from Mars, performed at Coventry Theatre as part of the Aladdin Sane tour.
Some may even be able to remember the Humble Pie gig at the Coventry Theatre, during October 1969, at which David Bowie appeared as the support act.
Incidentally, had it not been for the fact that the gig was postponed; there would have been a further visit to Coventry by David Bowie. It would have happened during February 1972 when he was replaced by Pink Floyd for the Lanchester arts festival.
I am guessing, though, that there will be very few reading this who will remember an earlier concert in Coventry by Davie Jones and the Manish Boys held at The Orchid Ballroom or the Kasbah / Colly as it is more popularly known as or remembered today. However, you never know, and hopefully I am wrong. But it does seem inconceivable that David Bowie once played what is now known as The Kasbah.
Those who have studied David’s early history between 1963 and early 1966 will know that Bowie, or Davie / Davy Jones as he was known back then, was involved with bands like The King Bees, Davie Jones and the Manish Boys and Davie Jones and the Lower Third.
The Manish Boys, named after a Muddy Waters song, were made up of Johnny Flux on lead guitar, John Watson bass and vocals Bob Solly on organ and Paul Rodriguez tenor sax and trumpet, Woolf Byrne on baritone sax and harmonica, Mike White on drums and David on vocals and sax.
The Coventry gig was advertised at The Orchid as ‘Davy Jones and the Manish Boys’ and was quite possibly one of his last with that particular band before David joined up with The Lower Third. It is documented that during the April 1965 David attended auditions, held in Soho London, with a view to joining the Lower Third. So this gig was possibly a case of David fulfilling his obligations with The Manish Boys.
I can only guess as to what music would have been performed at The Orchid that night. During January 1965 The Manish Boys had recorded the single ‘I Pity the Fool / Take my Tip’ produced by Shel Talmy. And this had been released just weeks before the Coventry gig. So maybe this had been promoted.
David’s next band, The Lower Third, were a beat band who first formed in Margate, Kent during 1963. Their line-up consisted of Denis Taylor on lead guitar, Graham Rivens on bass guitar and Les Mighall on drums. Les Mighall, however, was replaced during 1965 by Phil Lancaster.
As mentioned above, David had joined The Lower Third during April 1965. With the line-up that included Phil Lancaster the following songs were recorded: ‘You've Got A Habit Of Leaving’, ‘Baby Loves That Way’, ‘Can’t Help Thinking About Me’, ‘And I Say to Myself’. So who knows, some of these songs may have been performed in Coventry.
David remained with the Lower Third till the early part of 1966. And it was during those latter days with the Lower Third that David began to introduce the world to his new persona. Of course that was his new stage name of Bowie.
This new name first began to appear at gigs advertised toward the end of his time with the Lower Third and would continue throughout the existence of his next band called The Buzz.
The Buzz were formed during the first half of 1966 and were David Bowie on vocals, John Hutchinson on guitar, Dek Fearnley on bass, John Eager on drums and Derek Boyes on keyboard.
And it was this line up minus John Hutchinson that would record David’s very first album released during June 1967. There is nothing on that self-titled debut record to hint at the type of direction David’s work would ultimately take him.
Yet despite the music on that album not being anything remotely like what was to come it did, I think, certainly demonstrate David’s leaning for music hall and performance. So, in hindsight, maybe the signs of David’s future development were there - albeit very subtle.
The Buzz would continue for a year or so after which David became more involved in the mixed media format of theatre, performance and mime. And for the next couple of years he appeared in stage productions such as Pierrot in Turquoise.
During an interview about this period David said ‘I wanted to make a mark and it took me all of the 1960s to find myself through theatre and art’.
It was after this period that David then began to tour as a solo artist and to gather his personalities.
Early 1969 saw David support T.Rex on a few dates. David had been a friend to Marc Bolan for several years although, if you believe the books written, their friendship was fairly complicated.
Mid 1969, prior to the Humble Pie tour, David Bowie appeared on BBC2 with The Strawbs and mimed to their song ‘Poor Jimmy Wilson’. The Strawbs would then go on to play ‘The Man Who Called Himself Jesus’. Significantly Tony Visconti, who would become a very important figure in both the careers of David Bowie and Marc Bolan, was a backing musician for The Strawbs on that particular day.
Finally the autumn of 1969 would also see Bowie make his first TV appearance. It was at the Ivor Novello awards and David performed ‘Space Oddity’. The song earned David his own award that night which was for originality.
David mentioned on more than one occasion that he used rock and roll as a medium. With this in mind he created an alternative world. As the 1970s broke a concept artist and rock fantasy awaited. The rest of the story, as they say, is history.
‘I am only the person, the greatest number of people believe that I am. So little of it has anything to do with me’ – David Bowie