THE BUZZ

FEBRUARY 10th - DECEMBER 2nd 1966

Musicians:

  • David Bowie: Vocals, Guitar

  • Derek Boyes: Keyboards

  • Derek Fearnley: Bass

  • John Eager: Drums

  • John Hutchinson: Lead Guitar (February - June)

  • Billy Gray: Lead Guitar (June - November)

Repertoire included:

Can't Help Thinking About Me | Do Anything You Say | Good Morning Girl | I Dig Everything | I'm Not Losing Sleep | You'll Never Walk Alone | Breakout | Take It With Soul | Harlem Shuffle | It's So Easy | It's Getting Back | Join The Gang | The London Boys | One More Heartache | Dance, Dance, Dance | Land Of A Thousand Dances | See-Saw | Come See About Me | (Please) Stay | What Kind Of Fool Am I? | It Doesn't Matter Anymore | Shake | Jenny Takes A Ride | Hold On, I'm Coming | Bunny Thing | Monday, Monday | Nobody Needs Your Love

​The disbanding of The Lower Third left David Bowie with a single to promote and no band to back him. From February 3rd - 6th 1966, auditions were held at the Marquee Club. Among the first to attend was drummer John Eager, followed by be-quiffed bassist Derek Fearnley, whose audition was rapidly followed by a compulsory haircut in Ralph Horton's bathroom. Scarborough-born guitarist John Hutchinson had just spent a year working in Sweden, and suspected that David was more impressed by his Scandinavian suede jacket and trousers than his musicianship. He in turn recommended an organist from Scarborough called Derrick Boyes (whose first name would be spelled "Derek" throughout his association with Bowie). This motley collection came together as The Buzz, apparently so named by Earl Richmond, a disc jockey from Radio London. David immediately assigned them with nicknames: John "Hutch" Hutchinson, Derek "Chow" Boyes, Derek "Dek" Fearnley and John "Ego" Eager. The Buzz promptly went into rehearsal and a string of gigs began at Leicester University on February 10th, in some cases fulfilling engagements booked for David's previous band; several early Buzz gigs were erroneously billed as David Bowie and The Lower Third, including a Marquee performance on February 11th whose audience included David's disgruntled former band-mates, who declared themselves unimpressed.

David Bowie & The Buzz - Onstage 1966

On March 4th The Buzz appeared on Associated Rediffusion TV's Ready, Steady, Go!, miming "Can't Help Thinking About Me". Three days later the band recorded a new single, "Do Anything You Say", which would be the first release credited simple to "David Bowie". There was to be none of the jockeying that had persisted in David's previous bands: "From day one," Eager told the Gillmans, "we knew this was David and a backing band." Ralph Horton's new strategy for marketing David as a star included the insistence that he play no instruments on stage: "Ralph would never let David play guitar on stage, or the sax," Fearnley later told Kevin Cann. "In fact, I never, ever heard him play the sax."

​Shortly before the release of "Do Anything You Say", David's financial backer Raymond Cook tired of Ralph Horton's importunity and withdrew his assistance. On March 31st, the day before the single came out, Horton renewed his appeal to Kenneth Pitt.

On April 17th Pitt attended the second in a series of ten Sunday afternoon concerts at the Marquee, sponsored by Radio London and billed as "The Bowie Showboat" in recognition of David's modest but loyal following. "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," Pitt writes in his memoir. "He oozed confidence and was in total command of himself, his band and his audience." At Horton's flat in Warwick Square a deal was struck the same evening: effectively Pitt now became Bowie's manager while Horton assumed the role of assistant and gigging scheduler. Pitt also assumed financial responsibility for the unpaid debts run up by Horton over the previous months, and set about disentangling David from a web of half-baked contractual agreements.

Pitt arranged extra gigs for The Buzz, including a spot supporting Crispian St Peters (who now had two of the year's biggest hits under his belt) at Blackpool's South Pier. June saw the band's first attempt to record "I Dig Everything", adjourned when Tony Hatch decided to replace The Buzz with session musicians. With financial pressures bearing heavily, and with his wife expecting a baby, John Hutchinson handed in his notice on June 15th. One of his last gigs with the band was an open-air event at Brands Hatch on June 19th, where The Buzz's tour van - an old ambulance - was mobbed by fans, possibly under the impression that it contained some of the day's more celebrated names, who included Tom Jones, The Kinks and The Walker Brothers. Hutch played his last gig with The Buzz on June 20th and returned home to Scarborough; he would not see David again for more than two years. The band played on without a lead guitarist until a replacement was found in the form of 16-year-old Billy "Haggis" Gray from Kilmarnock, whose first gig was in Dunstable on June 27th. He, too, was informed that he was very much a backing musician. "I had always been a little raver on stage," he recalled, "but Ralph came up to me and told me to calm it down as it detracted from David."

With the re-recorded "I Dig Everything" due for release, Bowie led The Buzz through intensive rehearsals for a new stage act which was unveiled in Ramsgate on August 26th. The new show involved the use of pre-recorded backing tapes, the first David had used on stage, but the Ramsgate gig was bedevilled by technical problems and the tapes were scrapped after a similar disaster in Wembley the following night.

By September it had become clear that neither Tony Hatch nor Pye had their hearts in David's music, and it was without acrimony that Hatch released him from his contract. By now another season at the Marquee was under way; Radio London interviewed David at one of his concerts during September, when he revealed that he was working on a stage musical.

On October 18th David and The Buzz (minus Billy Gray but augmented by two session musicians) recorded the three studio tracks with which Pitt successfully won Bowie's Deram contract. However, by the time the David Bowie sessions got under way on November 14th, all was not well within The Buzz. David's songs were rapidly moving in a new, narrative direction, and although the band loved them his audiences were unconvinced. Furthermore, David was beginning to distance himself from The Buzz: on October 29th Dek Fearnley was left to sing lead vocals at a gig in Wembley, while David travelled to Bognor Regis to take solo billing at the town's new venue, the Shoreline Club. The day before the first album session the band performed its last Marquee gig, a show that John Eager recorded in his diary as "pathetic". According to Dek Fearnley, tastes were changing: "The kids didn't want David's songs; they didn't understand them. The songs were too pretty for them and there were no guts in the music. All they wanted was soul." Although The Buzz retaliated by writing "WE HATE SOUL" on the side of their touring ambulance, subsequent evidence shows that by late 1966 they had been forced to capitulate to their audience. In 1999 David posted a long-lost Buzz set-list on BowieNet, remarking that "It's astonishing to me that 99% of our stage songs were soul and that I was writing in such a musical/vaudeville way." Alongside "Join The Gang" and "Can't Help Thinking About Me", The Buzz were now performing numbers like Marvin Gaye's "One More Heartache" and The Supremes' "Come See About Me".

On November 19th, the same day that the tour ambulance broke down in Cromer, Billy Gray left the band and The Buzz continued as a trio. While Kenneth Pitt was out of the country, touring America and Australia with Crispian St Peters, financial matters came to a head once again. On November 25th Horton told The Buzz they would have to disband because of a lack of money. They offered to continue playing without payment but, according to Fearnley, "even with the band not being paid it couldn't survive. So we broke up."

Three engagements remained, and The Buzz officially ceased to exist after the Shewsbury gig on December 2nd 1966 - the very day that the "Rubber Band" single was released. Bowie later recalled that the band played The Velvet Underground's "Waiting For The Man" at the final gig, although the date of Kenneth Pitt's return from America, bearing a pre-release test pressing of the Velvets' first album, casts doubt on this recollection. The musicians continued to contribute to the David Bowie sessions until February 1967.

David Bowie & The Buzz 1966
The Complete David Bowie by Nicholas Pegg

The Complete David Bowie

by Nicholas Pegg

New Edition: Expanded and Updated

"This is the best Bowie reference book one could ever hope for"

Tony Visconti

David Bowie 1966