When David Bowie played York – do you remember that night?

With two of his fellow bandmates from The Lower Third – David Bowie
11 Jan 2016 @ 7.30 pm
| News

David Bowie played New York many times. But he only played old York the once.

The world has been paying tribute to the legendary musician and artist, who has died from cancer aged 69.

He was a global and globe-trotting superstar. But as far as we can ascertain, he graced a stage in York on a single occasion more than 50 years ago.

It was in his very early days, three months before he stopped appearing under his own name, Davy Jones, and he was the lead singer of the five-piece band The Lower Third.

Before then Bowie had sported long hair and a hippie look, but The Lower Third was a mod band and so it was smart haircuts all round.

The change in look was overseen by Ralph Horton, who had just appeared on the scene as Bowie’s first full-time manager.

It was Horton who booked a series of summer gigs for The Lower Third, including, we must assume, the one they played at The Boulevard on Tadcaster Road in York in June 1965.

The exact date appears to have been lost in time. Two online gig directories put it after an appearance at the White Bear Tavern, Leeds, on June 14, and before they returned to their residency at a Margate hall on the 18th.

A commenter on the Press website, Born N Bread, recalled the night:

I was DJ at The Boulevard nightclub and I also did the lighting and introduced the groups. I remember Davy Jones And The Lower Third, I think it was 1965.

The Boulevard was not in Dringhouses, it was at the side of the A64 dual carriageway at Bilbrough Top. The site is now a Premier Inn.

It was owned by entrepreneur Ken Doughty who brought some great groups up from London and other places. The Kinks and Lulu & the Luvvers were among them.

David Jones and the Lower Third were not very good when they did our gig, but he certainly went on to better things.

‘Booed off stage’

David Bowie was equally harsh about The Lower Third. Quoted in Nicholas Pegg’s book, The Complete David Bowie, he said:

We used feedback and sounds and didn’t play any melodies. We just pulverized the sound, which was loosely based on Tamla-Motown.

We had an ardent following of about a hundred mods, but when we played out of London, we were booed right off the stage. We weren’t very good.

What about the Boulevard itself? In the mid Sixties York still didn’t have many places for groups to play, as Van Wilson recalled in her book, Something In The Air: An Oral History Of Popular Music In York:

Beat groups starting out would play in youth clubs and church halls and then graduate on to pubs.

But as the 1960s progressed, there were other options. ‘York’s answer to the Cavern’, the Boulevard on Tadcaster Road, held its grand opening in December 1963 with guest stars Peter Jay And The Jaywalkers supported by Steve Cassidy And The Escorts.

A post by Call Me Al on the website Locarno Boy recalled:

The Boulevard along Tadcaster Road was something else! There was a casino next door and the Wild Man further along. If there was the odd scrap the bouncers knew how to sort things out.

Do you have memories of Davy Jones and The Lower Third playing in York? Or any other Bowie recollections? Drop us a line.