Written by: David Bowie
Recorded: 18 October 1966, 25 February 1967
Producer: Mike Vernon
Engineer: Gus Dudgeon
Released: 2 December 1966
David Bowie: vocals
Derek Boyes: piano
Dek Fearnley: bass guitar
John Eager: drums
Unknown session musicians
Released as a single in December 1966, ‘Rubber Band’ was David Bowie’s first recording for the Deram label. It was later re-recorded for his 1967 debut album.
In the studio
The first version was recorded on 18 October 1966 at RG Jones Studios, situated in Morden Manor on London Road in Morden, a district in south-west London.
It was one of three songs recorded at the studio, the others being ‘The London Boys’ and an early version of ‘Please Mr Gravedigger’ with the working title ‘The Gravedigger’. The recordings were used by Bowie’s manager Kenneth Pitt to help secure a recording contract with Deram.
The RG Jones recording featured Bowie, Derek Boyes on piano, Dek Fearnley on bass guitar, and John Eager on drums. They were all members of Bowie’s band The Buzz. Acetates of the 18 October recordings were played to Deram’s A&R manager Hugh Mendl and staff producer Mike Vernon, which led to a contract to record an album.
Like a lot of those songs, ‘Rubber Band’ we played on the gigs. Dek in particular gave David a lot of help with arranging. He was patient and capable – more than most rock ‘n’ roll bass players would have been.
David Bowie: Ultimate Record Collection (Uncut)
‘Rubber Band’ was released on 2 December 1966 as Bowie’s first single for the label. It was his first recording for which he adopted a style of singing inspired by Anthony Newley, which he retained for much of the 1967 debut album.
DAVID BOWIE is a bright and original new star who looks set to make his mark on the disc scene with this first DERAM release.
“RUBBER BAND” is a ballad of lost love – it’s original in production, unique in presentation and was written by David.
There’s a neat off-beat approach to the lyrics that touch on such topics as garden tea parties, waxed moustaches and the First World War. Yet the underlying sentiment reflects the ideals and humour of this London-born singer.
David is 18-years old, he studied art at Bromley Art School before drifting towards a musical career that encompassed the group scene and stints in Paris and London.
Now David lives with his family in Kent, works hard on a cabaret act and has high hopes that “RUBBER BAND” will advance his ambitions. Personally we don’t think he’ll have much difficulty in achieving them!
The single accrued some positive reviews in the UK music press, but was not a commercial success. Its fate was predicted by Disc and Music Echo in December 1967:
I do not think Rubber Band is a hit. What it is is an example of how David Bowie has progressed himself into being a name to reckon with, certainly as far as songwriting is concerned. He is not the David Bowie we once knew. Even a different voice – distinctly reminiscent of a young Tony Newley – has emerged.
Listen to this record then turn it over and listen to The London Boys, which actually I think would have been a much more impressive topside. But both are worth thinking about.
‘Rubber Band’ was re-recorded on 25 February 1967 for Bowie’s self-titled debut album. The new recording was 20 seconds longer owing to a slower tempo, and contained a lyrical change of 1912 to 1910.
The 1967 recording was released by Deram as a single in the US. It again failed to sell well, and copies are highly sought after by collectors.
The re-recording was also featured in Bowie’s 1969 promotional film Love You Till Tuesday.
There’s a rubber band that plays tunes out of tune
In the library garden Sunday afternoon
While a little chappie waves a golden wand
In 1910 I was so handsome and so strong
My moustache was stiffly waxed and one foot long
And I loved a girl while you played teatime tunes
Dear Rubber Band, you’re playing my tune out of tune, oh
Won’t you play your haunting theme again to me?
While I eat my scones and drink my cup of tea
The sun is warm but it’s a lonely afternoon
Oh, play that theme
How I wish that I could join your Rubber Band
We could play in library parks throughout the land
And one Sunday afternoon, I’d find my love
In the 14-18 war I went to sea
Thought my Sunday love was waiting home for me
And now she’s married to the leader of the band, oh
Oh sob… I hope you break your baton