Well, there’s a lot of truth here

‘Devoid of personality’: BBC verdict on early Bowie audition unearthed
A new documentary reveals the scathing dismissal of the BBC Talent Selection Group on one of Bowie’s first groups, the Lower Third

That was DaviD Bowie as Davy Jones.

The audition took place four years before Bowie found fame with his eponymous 1969 album and the single Space Oddity. While the BBC’s decision looks comic in retrospect, no Bowie aficionado would suggest that his mid-60s output contained much intimation of his future genius.

I’ve said this before and there’s a truth to it even if it’s not the whole and entire such. He adopted a personality along the way. There’s much more of Bowie being an actor performing a role in each song – perhaps album, perhaps character across a few – than there is with most. Yes, extremely talented musician and all the rest. But an untrue but useful view is that he performed a series of 3 minute skits in character rather than was “Bowie.”

As to why, well, Davy Jones didn’t cut it, did he?

22 thoughts on “Well, there’s a lot of truth here”

  1. The BBC treated lots of folk with contempt in the 60s.

    Including Jimmy Saville . Who, far from being the “King” of the BBC as modern CM fantasy has it , walking in and out at will, commandeering dressing rooms to molest young girls, in possession of more authority than the DG-was treated with contempt. Not because of any supposed abuse antics but because the BBC snob axis regarded him as a jumped up pleb ex-Bevin boy who had ideas above his station. The documents exist. They tried to cheat him out of contract payments and a memo to their legal dept exists asking if they “have” to pay him. They did.

    All very different from the marx-femm “narrative” that the media have induced almost everyone to accept and believe.

    As for Bowie–I never liked any of his music. But now he is dead I am sort of nostalgic for the vanished music age of the 70s/80s etc. Of which he was a part.

    Which I suppose is what happens in some context to all of us if we live long enough.

  2. Bowie never had a lot of confidence in his voice; he said the theatricality was to bolster his act.

    Wrote some great songs though.

  3. Is it surprising? BBC are broadcasters and were primerily looking for entertainers, not necessarily good musicians. There’s a bunch of people I knew, second half of the sixties, were studiously ignored by the BBC. And most of the record industry. With a couple of them, working at the Walls pork pie factory was a vital source of income. Went on to form some of the most influential bands of the latter part of the C20th.
    Think I remember seeing Bowie at the Marquee, somewhere around ’67. Or he might have been Davy Jones, still. Didn’t leave much impression. But then, I saw Queen at Kingston Poly & thought the best part of the evening was going for Chinese afterwards.

  4. I think Davy Jones did well enough playing in the Monkees.

    There might just have been a reason for Bowie to differentiate his brand at the time.

  5. Bowie was a character even back then, although not to the extent he later became. I’d suggest he was trying to play the role of straight, mainstream entertainer at that point, but it wasn’t something he was good at because it involved repressing too much of his personality.

  6. Andrew C|

    That was always going to be the right verdict. The surprise is that that is what was actually delivered by the Supreme Court. But, yes, a good result.

  7. This was a two/three later four channel TV world, more radio but not much and largely governed by the existing major companies. What might have been if there were a number of TV channels of which several were into “pop” as their major feature and very different ownership and management. There were very many good singers and groups out there who never had the chance. What did we lose?

  8. @Demitrius
    One wonders. I was heavily into the blues/rock scene. Which was very big. If you spent your time round Portobello Road, Kensington Market, Soho & a few universities. Half a dozen stops on the Central Line in either direction & it was almost unheard of. BBC was concentrating on Benny Hill – Fastest Milkman in the West.

  9. Houston = torture

    Bowie = extremely talented


    Anyways, I fully support an individual’s right to hyperbolise.

  10. bloke in spain:
    True, many movements in popular culture are portrayed as being far more widespread than they actually were, partly because those writing about them, at the time and later, were excessively focused on them and ignored the wider world.

    Anyone not there at the time would be forgiven for thinking that punk dominated the late 1970s. One look at the pop charts (and punk was very much a singles phenomenon) reveals that there were hardly any punk singles made it to No 1 and ABBA probably outsold the lot of them single-handedly. Well, four-handedly.

    The media of course is obsessed with the novel and flashy so a quick delve into the photo libraries will come up with lots of pictures of multi-coloured Mohicans and safety-pinned faces. Those pictures get reproduced as a symbol of the period and everyone thinks that most youths looked like that, when in fact hardly anyone who isn’t actually in those pictures did.

  11. Eight handley, shurely?

    Bit too young for punk, but ISTR Danny Baker noting that it really only lasted a couple of months from May ’78. The only full-on punks I ever saw were at the Tower of London and the Clock Tower in Brighton, charging tourists for photos.

    The guy in Brighton was still there 15 years later.

  12. @ PJF
    Torture was followed by Whitney Houston = adding insult to injury.
    Injury = broken bones and scalding water on genitals.
    Also: you’re on the wrong thread

  13. Well, there is that case to be made that the early punk bands, especially the Sex Pistols, were like it was said of the Velvet Underground, that hardly anyone listened to them, but everyone who did, went off and formed their own band.
    I read somewhere that the audience at the Pistols gig in Manchester included people like Morrissey, future members of Buzzcocks, Magazine, Joy Division/New Order etc.
    I was a lad at the time, and I remember that a lot of people were listening to this sort of music, but very few bothered to dress up in punk gear etc. Hair did get shorter and jeans narrower, though.

  14. There was always a curious lack of substance at the core of Bowie. Was he an excellent musician? Yes. Was he an excellent songwriter? Yes. But he was also forever mining other people’s ideas for his own use. His most representative album, in my eyes, is The Man Who Sold The World. It’s far from anything other than mediocre, but it clearly shows the technique he would master and use the rest of his career… That of grabbing onto others’ ideas and trying to rework them into something he could use.

    I only own Ziggy Stardust and Scary Monsters. Ziggy was as close to being original as Bowie got. Scary Monsters was about as fun as he got.

  15. Well, there is that case to be made that the early punk bands, especially the Sex Pistols, were like it was said of the Velvet Underground, that hardly anyone listened to them, but everyone who did, went off and formed their own band.

    Only when you look for the tree of bands that sprang up from the Velvets, you don’t find anything. The most over-rated art band that rock ever produced… And it took Lou Reed decades to recover from the discovery the Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention did everything the Velvets tried to do, but did it earlier and better.

  16. The thing with Bowie is that it’s a mix of theatre and production.

    There’s a few cracking songs like Heroes, but there’s a lot of stuff that’s really all about arrangement and production. It’s why so few Bowie cover versions exist. You can’t strip them down to a piano or guitar and do something with it. It’s not like Ray Davies where a load of people have taken his songs and re-styled them.

  17. >It’s why so few Bowie cover versions exist. You can’t strip them down to a piano or guitar and do something with it.

    As someone who plays piano and guitar I can say that this is not true. While some of his songs are all about the production, a great many work really well in basic form.

    The real reason wjy no-one does cover versions is that the songs are too Bowie-ish, whereas Ray Davies writes songs that anyone can perform with plausibility.

  18. john 77 wrote:
    “Also: you’re on the wrong thread”

    Nope, this is the post I intended to comment on.

    Also, I was addressing Tim’s headline implication of Whitney Houston’s wailing being torture, not the details in that story.

    So: whatevs.

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