Monday, January 11, 2016

Now it's farewell to David Bowie

The torrent of music deaths that we've seen over the last year or so is fast turning into a flood. Now it's the turn of the Thin White Duke, David Bowie, at the age of 69.
There has been an outpouring of grief at the death of this remarkable man, a true trendsetter who influenced many people in his career, as he moved through his many phases. Although I very much
liked early classics like Space Oddity, Life On Mars, Starman and Suffragette City I was, on the whole, fairly ambivalent towards Bowie. I was surrounded by his records for many years, but they were not my choice but those of my ex wife. I liked them but never loved them. Yet I admired the man's unique approach to his art, which transcended mere pop music. Much of his later work left me cool, if not cold, but he was always a cultural phenonenom and someone who excited interest.
My memories of David Jones, as he then was, go back to the period 1962 to 1964, long before he was well known. Every Friday night I would go to the Justin Hall in West Wickham, Kent, where I grew up where a beat group would be playing. The best of these, a band which attracted quite a following locally, was the Konrads, David Bowie's first band. David was a local lad from Bromley and I remember seeing him not long afterwards working as a bar man at the Three Tuns pub in Beckenham, His early records as Davie Jones and the King Bees, Davy Jones and the Lower Third and the Manish Boys, are now highly collectable and show that his influences were the blues and early soul music, and that the music he loved was much the same as the stuff I loved at the time. Over the years he has brought pleasure to millions and was always a leader of trends, never a follower. RIP David.
There have been several other music deaths in the first few days of 2016. One of these is the one hit wonder Troy Shondell, who had a huge hit in 1961 with This Time - a great record in my opinion. From Indiana, he had enjoyed some success in the midwest as a rock and roll singer with Kissin' At The Drive In, but follow ups to his big hit, including Island In The Sky and I Got A Woman, sank without trace. Apparently Tommy James, who had many sixties hits including Mony Mony, named his group the Shondells after Troy.
Another death is that of Kitty Kallen at the age of 94, who had success from the 1930s to the 1960s. She was a singer with the Jimmy Dorsey and Harry James bands in the 1940s and went on to have an international number one with Little Things Mean A Lot in 1954. 
Another singer who has died is Red Simpson, famous for his truck driving songs such as Roll Truck Roll in 1966, The Highway Patrol and I'm A Truck. Originally from Bakersfield, he was 81.
It's goodbye also to to Ed 'Stewport' Stewart, aged 74, who began his DJ career at the pirate Radio London, before going on to achieve fame at Radios 1 and 2, most famously as the host of Junior Choice. Also to Nick Caldwell of soul group The Whispers.


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