As we were playing some very early Bowie clips in the last post, I thought it was about time that we tried to illustrate the Anthony Newley influence that all early Bowie articles refer to. Here’s Newley in some different eras performing in the US and the UK. He was a singer a songwriter, an actor, he collaborated with composer and lyricist Leslie Bricusse to write successful musicals, such as Broadway hit, Stop The World I Want To Get Off in 1961, What Kind Of Fool Am I and Once In A Lifetime featured. In 1965 he and Bricusse wrote The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd where he also starred and sang Who Can I Turn To. In 1971 he and Bricusse wrote the soundtrack for Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.
My first experience of Anthony Newley (that I remember) was as Matthew Mugg in Doctor Dolittle (1967) – (Bricusse wrote, Talk To The Animals). Allegedly, Newley was under constant attack from an anti-semitic Rex Harrison throughout the film – oh the wonderful ignorance of childhood.
In 1960 Newly had two No.1 hit singles in the UK charts, Lionel Bart’s Do You Mind and Why, a cover of Frankie Avalon’s US No.1 from 1959. Between 1959 and 1962 Newley hit the UK Top Ten eight times, with one song reaching No.12 and three others in the Top 40. You might say he was a ‘roaring’ success whether he sang, wrote, appeared on stage or in films. In 1958 he successfully starred in No Time To Die loosely based on Elvs Presley and his role as a singer getting drafted.
He co-wrote the title song to Goldfinger with Bricusse and John Barry as well as Feeling Good (with Bricusse) immortalised in 1965 by Nina Simone and recorded as a jam by Traffic on the second side of their 1969 album, Last Exit, recorded live at the Fillmore West.
When you listen to Newley’s style, his vocal delivery, you can tell that Bowie loved the dramatic vibrato, the passionate theatrical display and probably the fact that Newley’s songs seemed easy on the ear but often dealt with despair and helplessness. A major talent and a major influence on Bowie, you hear Newley clearly in Bowie’s work and vice-versa. Newley died in 1993 from renal cancer at the age of 67. Thanks to Bowie (and you tube) the legend lives on.