Gnome Thoughts .... (influences on David Bowie)



This is a guide to a loosely connected series of posts speculating about possible influences on the young David Bowie. Anthony Newley, Alan Klein, Ray Davies and the "larky" songs of Myles Rudge and Ted Dicks, amongst others, are discussed along the way.

Not all of the posts are directly about Bowie. Some are overviews of fifties Britain and the impact of rock'n'roll and radio comedy on British teenagers generally.

Songwriter Alan Klein, who was also a client of Ken Pitt's, features in several posts. His 1964 album Well At Least It's British and the earlier musical What a Crazy World (a Theatre Workshop production and a film) are examined in detail. Damon Albarn has talked about "an embryo of cynicism" in Klein's work, and Klein has talked about his conscious intention to avoid American cliches in his writing; Klein himself is certain that Bowie would have been aware of his work through the Ken Pitt connection.



1: Gnome Thoughts From a Foreign Country: the Vintage David Bowie
Prompted by the purchase of a book of Deram-era songs I began to think about how Anthony Newley's singing style, and the sense of his being distanced from his subject matter, influenced Bowie.


2: Anthony Newley, Alan Klein
More about Newley's attitude to singing and some initial thoughts about Alan Klein, writer of the Stratford East musical What a Crazy World, later made into a film.

3: Three Hats for Lisa
A film musical which, like What a Crazy World, starred Joe Brown. 

4: What a Crazy World
A more detailed account of What a Crazy World.


5: What a Crazy, Violent Playground
Changes made in the 1975 Stratford East revival of What a Crazy World, a key scene in the Basil Dearden film Violent Playground, and some thoughts on Paddy Roberts (who wrote the music for that film) as another possible influence on Bowie's early comic songs.


6: Music Hall to Rock
In which Bowie and Ken Pitt (in the author's imagination anyway) absorb different messages when watching Violent Playground.

7: Bowie and the Kinks
Bowie's comic vignettes vs Ray Davies'.


8: Waterloo Sunset
An analysis of Waterloo Sunset - Bowie features tangentially.


9: Ray is in the details
In which the lyrics to Panic in Detroit prompt a colleague to think of Ray Davies.


10: Son of Hickory Holler's Tramp
The general theme of stories in song prompts me to remember Dallas Frazier's Son of Hickory Holler's Tramp (and if you think I'm too off-message he also wrote a song referenced by both Bowie and Bolan).


11: Well At Least It's British
A detailed consideration of Alan Klein's album Well At Least It's British, which has been cited by Damon Albarn as an influence on Bowie and Ray Davies, in particular via Klein's refusal to rely on upbeat American-style cliches in his writing. Vivian Stanshall and Benny Hill are also mentioned.


12: Damon Albarn on Alan Klein
Here's what Albarn actually said about Well At Least It's British.


13: Alan Klein interview
An overview of Alan Klein's pop career based on a 2008 radio interview by Spencer Leigh and some PR writing by Ken Pitt.

14: Alan Klein: corrections and clarifications
More information about Alan Klein's career taken from sleevenotes for the CD releases of At Least It's British, What a Crazy World (Kieron Tyler) and the New Vaudeville Band's Winchester Cathedral.


15: Myles Rudge and Ted Dicks alert
The lost art of "larky" songs - see also the link for post 18 below.


16: JP Long and My Old Man's a Dustman
The 1922 song reworked as My Old Man's a Dustman as sung by Lonnie Donegan, and the differences between the two pieces.


17: More songs by JP Long
More comedy songs by the composer of the above.


18: Myles Rudge and Ted Dicks programme
More detailed notes about the "larky" songs of Myles Rudge and Ted Dicks, and the role of producer George Martin, drawn from a radio programme about the pair. Not so much a review as a summary plus some additional thoughts.


19: Reasons to Be Cheerful, Lipstick on Your Collar, Joe Brown
A ragbag featuring: Paul Sirett's Ian Dury musical Reasons to be Cheerful (produced at Stratford East, like What A Crazy World); the change-anticipating mood in Dennis Potter's fifties-set series Lipstick on Your Collar; the experience of recently seeing Joe Brown live ... and if you're wondering where Bowie is in all this, well, I explain that too - to my own satisfaction, at least.


20: Stop Dreamin' at Guildford
Review of an early tryout of Ray Cooney's musical using the songs of Chas and Dave.


21: 1950-53 UK charts, Hoagland concedes
Not too much discussion in the next few posts, more lists of fifties UK hits from a CD series with youtube links to most songs. This post covers 1950-1953 and has some notes about Hoagy Carmichael.


22: 1954 charts, Goon Rock
1954 UK hits and the Goons' take on My September Love.


23: 1955 charts
Bill Haley's Rock Around the Clock is the portent of change to come.

24: 1956 charts, Hullensian overtaken
1956 UK hits and Ronnie Hilton momentarily withstanding the onslaught of rock'n'roll.

25: 1957 charts, Lipstick, Macca plays The Fool
1957 hits, more on Dennis Potter's Lipstick on Your Collar and Paul McCartney's version of Stanford Clark's The Fool.


26: Private Hopper, public Craddock
The Gene Vincent sequence from Lipstick on Your Collar.


27: The Atomic Mr Haley and others
" Instead of existing in the past, it was time to live in the moment": nuclear terror and rock'n'roll.


28: Ringo forever?
Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse imagine an evergreen Beatles. (Appropriately enough the embedded links are dead).

29: 1958 charts, Humph & Big Joe, 50s Lennon
1958 UK hits followed by a discussion of Big Joe Turner and John Lennon.


30: 1959 charts and early Britrock
1959 UK hits plus a review of a 1956-1964 British rock'n'roll compilation.


31: The Man from Mendips
Continuing the theme of the influence of rock'n'roll on British teenagers, an interview with Colin Hall, the curator of John Lennon's childhood home (transcribed from raw interview audio for the documentary LENNONYC).


32: That Was Fifties Britain That Was
An overview of 50s Britain (based on Humphrey Carpenter's introduction to That Was Satire That Was).


33: Fifties radio comedy
"Writing comedy prose for radio shows": an overview of 50s radio comedy in Britain, drawing on interviews in David Nathan's The Laughtermakers. Plus John Lennon's review of The Goon Show Scripts.


34: The first rock'n'roll record?
Bowie and Lennon's first experience of rock'n'roll and a list of fifty records in contention for the title of "first rock'n'roll record." (There are youtube links for most of these titles but be warned that I haven't checked them recently.)


35: If John had stayed with Mimi ...
A John Lennon competition. (There were no entrants so I won by default.)


36: My memories of John Lennon's death
Page of a letter to Stuart Sutcliffe.


37: Over the Wall We Go
This final post ties things together more neatly than might be expected as the Bowie-penned Over the Wall We Go clearly borrows from a Spike Milligan song produced by George Martin. 

38: Toll the Bell for Minnie Dyer
A late addition to the series (technically making the previous post the penultimate one unless there are more to come), this was prompted by the discovery that Bowie was a fan of the Kenneth Williams song above, recorded for Decca the same year as Bowie's Deram debut.

No comments:

Post a Comment