Live: David Bowie and the Buzz, Marquee Club, London

The second of nine Sunday afternoon shows promoted as the Bowie Showboat took place at London’s Marquee Club on 17 April 1966.

The Bowie Showboat was offered to Bowie by the club’s manager Jack Barrie. It ran from 3-6pm every Sunday from 10 April to 12 June, except for 29 May.

Each event featured two shows by Bowie and the Buzz, plus DJ sets from Ray Peterson and, on occasion, Bowie himself.

On this occasion Bowie was watched by Kenneth Pitt, a London-based music manager who had been invited by Bowie’s own manager Ralph Horton. Pitt was impressed and, at a meeting at Horton’s Warwick Square apartment, agreed to co-manage the singer.

In spite of having travelled down from Scotland overnight Ralph Horton kept his April 5 appointment with me. He spoke enthusiastically of the giant steps forward that David had taken since we last met and again put to me the point that I held keys to the doors that were forever being shut in his face. I told him that I very much doubted that I was the all-powerful keeper of the keys that he imagined me to be, but that I should be pleased to help if I could, and if my heavy schedule permitted. Sensing the urgency of his plea I asked how soon I could see David work and he suggested that I came to the second Showboat performance, David being understandably nervous at the first one…

What David did that afternoon is only hazily remembered, but I have a vivid recollection of how he did it. From my favourite position, leaning against the wall at the back of the club, I could see that he was wearing a biscuit-coloured, hand-knitted sweater, round-necked and buttoned at one shoulder, its skin-tightness accentuating his slim frame. He sang songs from his Pye records, some R&B evergreens and several new songs of his own, all with intense conviction, as if each song was his ultimate masterpiece. He oozed confidence and was in total command of himself, his band and his audience. His burgeoning charisma was undeniable, but I was particularly struck by the artistry with which he used his body, as if it were an accompanying instrument, essential to the singer and the song. At the close of his performance he waited for the applause to die down then, after pausing a moment or two longer, he slowly walked a few paces forward, the group fell into darkness, a spot focussed on David and with his head held high he sang When you walk through a storm, the July Garland classic [‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’]. It was daring and delightful and there and then I began to think of Ralph’s unyielding doors and the keys that could unlock them.

The Marquee slowly emptied, the Buzz were packing their gear and David walked across the floor to greet me. He was buoyant, chirpy, laughed easily and I was delighted to find that he had a sense of humour. I immediately warmed towards him. We then went with Ralph to the Warwick Square flat where we had a long and fascinating conversation during which David suddenly turned to Ralph and said “Let’s do a deal with Ken.”

The deal, such as it was, was designed to relieve Ralph of much of the administrative work and the immediate financial worries, leaving him free to travel with David and the group. My duties were to handle the paperwork, the contracts, the search for work and to keep the accounts. Monies were to be advanced to Ralph and David against guaranteed income and almost immediately bills, including a long overdue telephone account, began to arrive on my desk.

Kenneth Pitt
The Pitt Report
Live: David Bowie and the Buzz, Starlite Ballroom, Greenford
Live: David Bowie and the Buzz, California Ballroom, Dunstable
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