From Norman Mantovani: Music Correspondent for I.M.M. News
It was with great sadness that a telex has reached me this morning to say that Duncan Bowen had died. Duncan was an artiste of the very highest calibre and a close personal friend.
Mr Bowen was best known as a musician, playing both the xylophone and the euphonium but it was his deep booming bass voice that I will remember him best for. His vocal on his most famous hit, Major Tommy, laced with a melliflouos, chocolate flavoured, husky intonation invariably makes me weep.
He was born in Brighton in 1934, the son of a toad sexer and a wet nurse and was a precocious child, belting out his own lyrics during his primary school Nativity play. Hark the Hairy Angels Smell was possibly his first ever penned song.
Being invariably cast as the rear end of third donkey probably helped kick start his love of dressing up and his famous holistic sexuality. One will not go further than that as this is a family blog but it was no different to what we thought leaders experienced at boarding school when we were chaste young boys.
Bowen’s first chart topping LP was ‘The Wheels on the Bus’ a curiously cryptic concept album about the life and times of a public transportation vehicle. I usually better understood the lyrics after one of Griselda’s long herby cigarettes.
The wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round, round and round.The wheels on the bus go round and round,all day long
Bowen then changed from his light popular music persona, The Man from Uncle, to a much spacier character, Zombie Bombie. Zombie produced the seminal work Zombie Bombie’s Lonely Hearts Club Band with his then unknown backing band the Beetles
Bombie was also to last just one album and he sailed through the next decades continually re-inventing himself musically and as an artistic artiste in the art world.
I met the man after I had sold the world in 1983 to a hedge fund manager friend of mine. When I told him the story Duncan laughed and scibbled down some notes which I believe were the basis for his well known song ‘Norman is a Knob’.
In the nineties, Bowen, had DNA injections to help him make changes to his nuclear structure and he lived quietly in a Manhattan Zoo screeching out his back catalogue for peanuts and the occasional grape
But sadly all good things must end and we must report Duncan’s demise. He had been unwell for some time, having suffered from Sprout for a while, his extremities going green and flaky with and emitting a damp, musty aroma.
His final performance at Slough’s Municipal Baths was attended by the great, the good and some politicians. Sponsored by the I.M.M. it raised over £100 for the Osborne Home for Tax Avoiders in Mustique.
Duncan leaves an unknown number of children, 3 wives (well 4 actually but the others don’t know about that one) plus a back catalogue of immeasurable wealth consisting of finger paintings, recipes for boiled tortoise and several of his unfinished books. Dunc we will miss you.
Note to Ed – Is this ok? Only met the bastard once and he left me the bloody tab..