David Bowie and Eastbourne’s Club Continental

David Bowie performed in Eastbourne at the dawn of his career
David Bowie performed in Eastbourne at the dawn of his career

Stellar musician David Bowie, who died on Sunday at the age of 69, performed in Eastbourne nearly half-a-century ago.

He appeared at the Club Continental (The Belfry) on February 28, 1966, with his then band The Buzz.

The Continental was definitely the place to see and be seen in the Swinging Sixties, and even featured in a novel about 1960s Eastbourne called A Terminus Place. So popular was it, that on big nights the line of parked Vespas and Lambrettas would stretch up Bolton Road from Terminus Road to Lismore Road.

Situated above a gents outfitters called Meakers, where one of the entrances to the Arndale Centre now is, it consisted of three floors, the top a bare room called The Belfry, decorated in an abstract manner, which is where the groups performed, including not only David Bowie, but Alan Price, David Essex, and the Artwoods whose organist Jon Lord found fame with Deep Purple.

The next floor down was the games room containing pinball machines and table football.

Situated on the first floor directly above Meakers shop was the dimly lit coffee bar, just outside at the top of long flight of stairs was a tiny admission booth. Admission was 2 shillings (10p) or 3s 6d if a top group was appearing.

Performing on that long-ago February evening were Bowie (vocals, guitar saxophone), John ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson (guitar), Derek ‘Dek’ Fearnley (bass guitar), John ‘Ego’ Eager (drums) and Derrick ‘Chow’ Boyes (keyboards).

Curiously, Bowie’s The Laughing Gnome, released as a novelty single the following year, contains a reference to Eastbourne:

‘Well I gave him roasted toadstools and a glass of dandelion wine

Then I put him on a train to Eastbourne

Carried his bag and gave him a fag ...’

Bowie was born David Jones in Brixton, South London, on January 8, 1947. He changed his name in 1966 after The Monkees’ Davy Jones achieved stardom.

His career spanned six decades.

He was in several bands (including The Konrads, The Hooker Brothers, The King Bees, The Manish Boys and The Lower Third) before he signed with Mercury Records, which released his album Space Oddity in 1969, with the title track becoming his first UK number one

His breakthrough came with 1972’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars.

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