Day one of my Bowie Crash Course, and I must admit, it did simplify my commute to loop only six songs, all of them short. They’re the six singles made by David Jones as he grew through assorted versions of his name and image to become, with great intentionality, the first incarnation of David Bowie. They’re a fun listen, though I don’t think they’ll stay in my listening rotation long. A few snarky comments:
Davie Jones and the King Bees, ‘Liza Jane’ (1964)
In which the future David Bowie discovers regretfully that he’s not Keith Relf of the Yardbirds. If you’d blind-taste-tested me on this song, I’d never guess it was him on the vocals. The best thing about the King Bees was David’s hair.
The Manish Boys, ‘I Pity the Fool’ (1965)
David continues to not be Keith Relf. I’m unclear who’s playing lead guitar for the short-lived Manish Boys, but he gets in a pretty good solo here.
Davy Jones and the Lower Third, ‘You’ve Got a Habit of Leaving’ (1965)
Not only is pre-Bowie not the Yardbirds, he’s also not the Beatles. The harmonic alternations in this song are right on the cusp between Help! and Rubber Soul. Pleasurable enough to listen to and instantly forget.
David Bowie with the Lower Third, ‘Can’t Help Thinking About Me’ (1966)
This is the earliest release under Bowie’s chosen name, the earliest song he’d later perform as anything other than a joke, and, to me, the earliest song where he sounds a little like himself (whoever that was). It also sounds like everything else from 1966 – that arresting jangling good-time incipient-hippie sound – and yet the unexpectedly askew and honest sentiment feels Bowielike in a new and reassuring way.
David Bowie, ‘Do Anything You Say’ (1966)
Bowie strikes out to prove that he’s not the Yardbirds, not the Beatles, and goshdarnit he’s also not the Small Faces (or is it the Spencer Davis Group)? I like this song, though, in a generic mid-60s way. With a different week of release, it might’ve been a hit. It wasn’t.
David Bowie, ‘I Dig Everything’ (1966)
Bowie goes full hippie in this gently descriptive and narrative song that anticipates my favorite of his early tunes (more on that later). His voice sounds natural, not straining to be someone else’s. And the dippy but thoughtful theme is worth contemplating. I contemplated it the first time I listened to ‘”Heroes,”‘ which happened to be while I was getting a root canal. “Wow,” I thought. “This is probably the only time I’ll be simultaneously this numb and this uncomfortable while listening to this great a song. That’s real life, man.”