“The Gospel According To Tony Steven”
Despite David Bowie refuting them himself, rumours have persisted over the years that our man was once so down on his uppers (or was that up on his downers?), he had to resort to session work as a vocalist for budget release cover version albums.
While this line of work may have suited a struggling Reginald Dwight, Bowie didn’t contribute to any such releases and now the real culprit has stepped forward to end any further speculation once and for all.
The February edition of Record Collector magazine (411) has a piece by Chris Groom on the actual singer of the songs mistakenly credited by some to Bowie, Tony Steven. Here‘s an edited excerpt from the article.
“One particular rumour that has been circulating for quite some time is that the cover version of Penny Lane which turned up on the budget-priced Hits ’67 LP was sung by one David Bowie, and despite repeated denials from the artist involved, it has failed to go away.
The idea of Bowie singing The Beatles is certainly a tantalising thought and although the album was once a staple of charity shops and car boot sales, Bowie collectors have snapped up copies for heavy prices just in case the fantasy became reality.
The truth is that the vocalist on this track is Tony Steven, formerly with the Johnny Howard Band and a highly respected session singer in his own right.
It was early in 1967 that Tony recorded the session that has sparked the “is it David?” rumour – or “Bowiegate”, as Tony calls it. The album in question was Hits ’67 (MFP 1089), the first budget collection of cover versions issued on the MFP (Music for Pleasure) label, and Tony recorded two tracks, covering The Beatles’ Penny Lane and The Monkees’ A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You. It was never his intention to mimic anyone, he confirms, and he was not trying to imitate Paul McCartney, let alone David Bowie.
It has often been noted that Bowie circa 1967 can sound like Anthony Newley and Tony can certainly take off Newley with ease – so maybe therein lies the answer to the vocal riddle.”
If you‘re a subscriber to Record Collector you can read the full article online now. It‘s fascinating stuff.