Monday, 7 April 2014

Interlude: Bowie and the Riot Squad (1967)

It's a sign of the sheer amount of stuff available nowadays that a song I've been wanting to hear for a decade was released last year and I completely failed to hear about it.  I've James Gent to thank for the heads up, because if he'd not included David Bowie's version of 'Silver Treetop School for Boys' in the imaginary playlist for what would be the best Bowie out-takes box set ever, I'd never have known that Record Day last year included the release of an EP of himself with the Riot Squad back in the last sixties (interestingly, this is presumably at the same time he was recording the Deram David Bowie LP - some of the musical and vocal choices on here are pretty familiar to fans of that great debut album).

It's a shame The Riot Squad are really not very good, though.   Another cover of the Velvets' 'Waiting for the Man', with Bowie really pushing the Lou Reed impersonation is fine, if uninspiring, and listening to Bowie as Lou Reed on perennial bootleg favourite, 'Little Toy Soldier' is never wasted time, but the backing on a solo version of 'Silly Boy Blue' is difficult listening at times - and 'Silver Treetop' is a bit rubbish really.

But skip back a bit.  'Silver Treetop School for Boys', I hear you ask (actually, I probably don't - I imagine that, of my eleven regular readers, about eight will know the track already!) ?  What's that then?

Most obviously it's one of four tracks on the ep , but it's also the 'lost' Bowie track I've most wanted to hear, ever since I picked up a copy of the Beatstalkers' 2007 collection which includes a fabulous tight, fast cover of the track. 

The Beatstalkers - apparently known at the time as the Scottish Beatles - did another couple of Bowie covers (they were managed by Ken Pitt, as was Bowie's manager too at the time) and are well worth seeking out.  The Riot Squad, though, aren't, except for those of us who would buy any new Bowie.  For us, it's worth it - of course it is!