As the 1960s drew to a close, whilst Kirkcaldy’s night life may not have been as busy as earlier in the decade, it remained a thriving spot for live music.
In 1969 folk music was well represented at the Elbow Room with established and up-and-coming acts Rab Noakes, Barbara Dickson, Christy Moore and Aly Bain all appearing over the course of the year.
On the pop music scene local soul favourites Gaels Blue played regularly, Rory Gallagher and his band Taste played at the YMCA, with a number one hit earlier that year with ‘(If Paradise Is) Half as Nice’ Amen Corner appeared at the Raith Ballroom, whilst Templehall Community Centre hosted some unknown mob called the Bay City Rollers.
But one act who made a solitary appearance in the Lang Toun would go on to eclipse them all – it was 50 years ago this week on Friday, November 14, 1969 that David Bowie played at the Adam Smith Theatre.
Despite being only 22 at the time, he already had a five year recording career behind him. His first single ‘Liza Jane’ when he was lead singer of the King Bees, was released when he was just 17.
However, in all that time he had only one chart success to his name with ‘Space Oddity’ earlier in 1969 and it was its attendant album, the self-titled ‘David Bowie’ that he was touring when he came to the Kingdom.
It was actually Bowie’s second appearance in Fife that month – the short jaunt around Scotland was actually his first ever solo tour after changing his surname from Jones – having appeared at the Kinema in Dunfermline five days earlier.
The tour would also include Perth, Kilmarnock, Glasgow and Edinburgh, whilst shows in Stirling, Aberdeen, Hamilton and Dundee were cancelled due to poor ticket sales.
Backing him, as they did on the album, were the band Junior’s Eyes and tickets were sold at May’s Travel Agents on the High Street.
The show itself was sparsely attended as were most of the dates. Bowie had switched from the earlier music hall sound of his debut album to acoustic folk rock and it didn’t go down well.
He later recalled: “They couldn’t abide me. No way! The whole spitting, cigarette-flicking abuse thing by audiences started long before the punks of 1977 in my own frame of reference.”
Later that same evening Bowie headed over the Forth to Edinburgh to play another show at midnight in Frisco’s, a club just off the Royal Mile, a short distance from the Drummond Street flat where he was to live with his mime teacher Lindsay Kemp for a few months in 1970 and the STV Gateway Studios where he had filmed ‘Peirrot in Turquoise’ the previous year.
It would be another three years before Bowie made it big with his Ziggy Stardust album in 1972, a year which saw him again make a Fife connection when he invited Dunfermline’s JSD Band to be his support.
Fiddle player Lindsay Scott then just 18 years old, recalled: “We played with David from mid-May until July 18, our final gig with him was at the Friars Club in Aylesbury.
“Meanwhile we’re driving overnight in our battered blue Transit from Southampton to Aberdeen to fulfil a prior commitment. When we get back, I’m asked to play electric violin on a track that’s earmarked as his next single.
“So on June 26, 1972, after a leisurely lunchtime pint in the beer garden of the Red Lion with my guitarist mate Mick (Ronson), I lay down some screaming double-tracked electric violin on what will become the top 20 hit, ‘John, I’m Only Dancing’ at Olympic Studios in Barnes.
“My lasting memory of that ground-breaking ‘Ziggy’ tour, is playing at a sell-out ‘Save the Whale’ benefit concert at London’s Royal Festival Hall.
“After our set, then one by our Glaswegian mates The Marmalade, the compere, DJ Kenny Everett, introduces the man who would go on to be one of the most influential artists of his era.”