Join The Gang

September 4, 2009

quant66a

Join The Gang.

Have You Helped to Keep London Swinging Today?

Poster in London shop windows, 1966.

“Join the Gang” is Bowie’s little dig at the London hip set, a tribute to a clique of bright young things—a top model, a sitar player who’s thinking seriously about Buddhism and a West End proto-version of Jim Morrison, raving drunk on stage to a paid audience. Bowie sings in a brisk, arch manner but there’s a slight acrid taste of envy to it. After all, Bowie had had his nose against the glass for years, watching the banquet go on without him. “It’s all a big illusion, but at least you’re in,” he sings. “At least you’re in.”

The music’s an assortment of mid-’60s pop cliches: there’s the funky drummer intro (anyone sampled this? ripe for the picking if not), the manic sitar that bleeds through the opening verse, a honky-tonk piano line and even a dig at the soul-inspired pop Bowie had just deserted—as Bowie touts a club called The Web (“this month’s pick“), the band parodies the opening riff of the Spencer Davis Group’s “Gimme Some Lovin’.”

High-strung from the start, the track ends in a nervous breakdown. Gus Dudgeon, asked by David Buckley to listen to “Join the Gang” again after 25 years, reveled in the noise-fest he had recorded: “There’s a hoover, there’s farts and there’s munching. I think the farts sound pretty genuine to me. One of them’s even got a delay on it.”

Recorded 24 November 1966, on David Bowie.

Top: Mary Quant’s 1966 collection for J.C. Penney.