Rupert The Riley

Rupert The Riley.

“Rupert the Riley,” the silliest and most endearing of Bowie outtakes, is Bowie’s ode to his car, a Riley Gamecock. With its sound effects, nightclub saxophone and its droning engine of piano, bass and hummed backing vocals (the last similar to those in Fairport Convention’s “Cajun Woman“), it could be a rough mix from Roxy Music’s first record.

The track was another go at creating a fake rock & roll singer. Bowie had already tried out Freddi Buretti (alleged lead singer of The Arnold Corns), and now he gave a song to a character known as Mickey or “Sparky” King (whose stage name, at least for this unreleased single, was Nick King). King was part of the Bowie circle in the early ’70s: in Bowie’s words, he was “a ‘club boy’ who I encouraged to sing.” King lived brightly, dangerously and not long—around 1974 he was stabbed to death by someone allegedly hired by one of his lovers, a colonel who King was attempting to blackmail. He left behind only this happy ghost of a song.

Recorded 23 April 1971 by the “Nick King All Stars” and never released, though it made the shortlist for Bowie’s greatest hits/rarities box set Sound and Vision. There are two versions, one with a Bowie lead vocal and the other (linked here) sung by the late Mr. King, with Bowie on backing vocals.

Top: 1971 Bentley T1.

7 Responses to Rupert The Riley

  1. davidbelbin says:

    Not sure I agree about ‘most endearing’ but silly, certainly. Happy birthday!

  2. Nelson Lord says:

    OMG – That’s The Bull in Long Melford!

  3. leonoutside says:

    Bowie persevered with his Rupert The Riley. Til it almost killed him.

    Bowie: “It was an old racer from the… you know, I think it probably goes back to the thirties or something, and a mate of mine and me had put it together – not very well as it happens – and it stalled outside Lewisham police station one day. I had really long hair in those days, so I was standing round the front of the car, trying to pump it back into life again and all the cops were at the windows laughing at me and the bloody thing started up and I’d left it in first gear and it came at me (laughs).

    The crankshaft went through my leg and I was pumping blood like a fountain, and I broke both my, well, I cracked both my knees as the bumper had kind of got me pinned to another car that was just behind it.

    I sold it as soon as I got out of Lewisham Hospital. The most fortunate part is that it was the police station where I broke down. I was bleeding profusely, but their medics were on the street in about 30 seconds flat.”

    (The crankshaft was millimetres away from a main artery, and Bowie spent a week in hospital)

    • col1234 says:

      just so you know, a lot of this stuff is in the book

      • leonoutside says:

        Chris. I love your book. Big time sir. I’m forever pottering about with it. But I didn’t see the car accident at police station – I thought I checked too. Looking forward to Ashes book. Won’t that need to be an even longer affair?

      • col1234 says:

        yes it will be long.

        I thought i mentioned the Riley accident (& a subsequent Cyprus car crash) in the endnotes somewhere

      • leonoutside says:

        Ah, yes, I see it now. You mention the Crankshaft and Cyprus incidents in note 178.

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