David Bowie leaves the Lower Third

David Bowie left the Lower Third on the evening of Saturday 29 January 1966.

They had been due to perform at the Bromel Club in Bromley, Bowie’s home turf. The venue was the ballroom at the Bromley Court Hotel on Bromley Hill.

Advertisement for cancelled David Bowie show in Bromley, 29 January 1966

As had been the case for some weeks by then, Dave travelled separately with Ralph in the Jag, no doubt adding even more fuel to the ‘them and us’ anger that was swelling.

We were in the car park unloading the equipment when Ralph and Dave pulled up, seemingly unprepared for what was about to follow. It felt like a scene from High Noon; there was no room for any small talk and the adrenalin was pumping. As he was getting out of the car one of us went directly over to Ralph and asked him straight out, ‘Are we going to be paid tonight or not?’

His answer was still ‘No,’ so that was it. We stood together gave Ralph our ‘No pay, No play’ ultimatum, which he immediately took as the dissolution of our relationship. There was no hesitation in his reaction to our ultimatum either, so we later agreed that he had already made his mind up on the matter. As neither side was prepared to budge, that was it.

Phil Lancaster, Lower Third drummer
At The Birth Of Bowie

Earlier that afternoon Bowie and the Lower Third had performed at London’s Marquee Club. Bowie had been growing apart from the band in recent weeks, and was noticeably detached on stage.

That evening they were due to perform at the Bromel Club in Bromley. However, the show never took place. The other members of the Lower Third argued with manager Ralph Horton over payment – he insisted their fee was needed for expenses.

Of all the places this could have taken place, it probably didn’t help that it was an important location for David – his old haunt, The Bromel Club in Bromley, just a short hop from his family home. Significantly, David has separated himself from us and remains clear of the argument, but neither is he standing alongside Ralph. He wants the gig to go ahead, dearly wants it to go ahead. He can’t openly agree with Ralph and alienate us completely, as that would aggravate the situation, but at the same time he is pissed off, upset that we three are making a stand at this venue – a hometown event.

It was an impasse. We weren’t going to budge, but nor was Ralph. ‘No pay, no play,’ we stated. This was our mantra, agreed earlier that same afternoon at the Marquee when, once again, we left the venue without payment. Our courage to do the unthinkable, renege on a gig commitment, came as the last straw in our dealings with Ralph and the changing relationships between him, David and the rest of us.

‘Well if you are not going to play, then I want the equipment I’ve paid for,’ said Ralph.

‘So that’s it, then,’ said Denis.

With that, Denis and Graham unloaded the remaining amps due to Ralph from the ambulance (our tour bus). We were finished as David Bowie and The Lower Third. I offered my hand to Dave as a parting gesture, but he declined it. He was torn between Ralph and us, or more likely between playing what was to him an important homecoming gig and ditching the Third.

Phil Lancaster
At The Birth Of Bowie

The Bromley gig was cancelled, and Bowie never again performed with the Lower Third. The band continued as a trio for several months before disbanding in the summer of 1966.

Last updated: 13 May 2022
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