David Bowie

  1. Uncle Arthur [2.07]

  2. Sell Me A Coat [2.58]

  3. Rubber Band [2.17]

  4. Love You Till Tuesday [3.09]

  5. There Is A Happy Land [3.11]

  6. We Are Hungry Men [2.58]

  7. When I Live My Dream [3.22]

  8. Little Bombadier [3.24]

  9. Silly Boy Blue [3.48]

  10. Come And Buy My Toys [2.07]

  11. Join The Gang [2.17]

  12. She's Got Medals [2.23]

  13. Maid Of Bond Street [1.43]

  14. Please Mr. Gravedigger [2.35]

Bonus tracks on 2010 Deluxe Edition:

  • Rubber Band (Single Version) [2.04]

  • The London Boys [3.22]

  • The Laughing Gnome [2.59]

  • The Gospel According To Tony Day [2.49]

  • Love You Till Tuesday (Single Version) [3.01]

  • Did You Ever Have A Dream [2.08]

  • When I Live My Dream (Single Version) [3.52]

  • Let Me Sleep Beside You [3.27]

  • Karma Man [3.06]

  • London Bye Ta-Ta [2.38]

  • In The Heat Of The Morning (Mono Vocal Version) [2.48]

  • The Laughing Gnome (Stereo Mix) [3.00]

  • The Gospel According To Tony Day (Stereo Mix) [2.52]

  • Did You Ever Have A Dream (Stereo Mix) [ 2.09]

  • Let Me Sleep Beside You (Stereo Mix) [3.22]

  • Karma Man (Stereo Mix) [3.06]

  • In The Heat Of The Morning [3.00]

  • When I'm Five [3.08]

  • Ching-a-Ling (Stereo Mix) [2.52]

  • Sell Me A Coat (Remix) [2.58]

  • Love You Till Tuesday (Top Gear 18/12/1967) [3.00]

  • When I Live My Dream (Top Gear 18/12/1967) [3.35]

  • Little Bombardier (Top Gear 18/12/1967) [3.28]

  • Silly Boy Blue (Top Gear 18/12/1967) [3.25]

  • In The Heat Of The Morning (Top Gear 18/12/1967) [2.36]

David Bowie

Released:

  • Deram DML 1007 - June 1967 (Mono)

  • Deram SML 1007 - June 1967 (Stereo)

  • Deram DOA 1 - August 1984

  • Deram 800 087 2 - April 1989 (CD)

  • Deram 531 79-5 - January 2010 (2 CD Deluxe Edition)

  • Deram 532 908-6 - August 2010 (1 CD Stereo Edition)

Personnel:

  • David Bowie: Vocals, Guitar

  • Dek Fearnley: Bass

  • Derek Boyes: Organ

  • John Eager: Drums

Recorded:

  • Decca Studios, Hampstead, London

Producer:

  • Mike Vernon

The chart failure of Bowie's third Pye single "I Dig Everything" in August 1966 compounded his disenchantment with a label that had done little to promote or encourage his work. In September, David took his grievances to his new part-time manager Kenneth Pitt, who arranged for him to be released from his Pye contract. Almost immediately, David began recording.

 

On October 18th David was joined at R G Jones Studios in Surrey by Dek Fearnley, Derek Boyes and John Eager, three members of his current band The Buzz, along with a pair of session musicians. Together they embarked on a four-and-a-half-hour session that produced three new recordings: a revamped version of the previously rejected Pye track "The London Boys", and two new compositions, "Rubber Band" and "Please Mr Gravedigger". On October 24th Pitt played acetates of the three tracks to Hugh Mendl, A&R Manager of Decca's new subsidiary label, Deram, which had just signed the up-and-coming Cat Stevens. In turn, Mendl played the tracks to Decca staff producer Mike Vernon, whose first production work had been for The Yardbirds in 1963. A deal was struck at once: in addition to purchasing the three recordings, Decca contracted Bowie to make an album to be produced by Mike Vernon, paying £150 plus a royalty agreement for the three tracks, and a further advance of £100 against royalties on the album. Kenneth Pitt considered it "a good deal". It was also a most unusual arrangement for the time - for an artist to win an album contract before proving his commercial value with a hit single or two was rare indeed.

 

After a delay caused by Derek Boye's suspected appendicitis, sessions began on November 14th with the recording of "Uncle Arthur" and "She's Got Medals" in Decca's Studio No. 2 in West Hampstead. This would remain the venue throughout the sessions, which were slotted in around The Buzz's rapidly depleting gig schedule. November 24th saw the recording of "There Is A Happy Land", "We Are Hungry Men", "Join The Gang" and the B-side "Did You Ever Have A Dream". The Buzz played their last gig on December 2nd, and on the same day Deram released their first David Bowie single, the October recording of "Rubber Band".

 

Recording continued for the next fortnight. "Little Bombardier", "Sell Me A Coat", "Silly Boy Blue" and "Maid Of Bond Street" were cut on December 8th and 9th, with "Come And Buy My Toys" and the album version of "Please Mr Gravedigger" following on December 12th and 13th respectively.

 

Mike Vernon found the sessions "a lot of fun" and David "the easiest person to work with," adding that "Some of the melodies were extremely good, and the actual material, the lyrics, had a quality that was quite unique." He was assisted by studio engineer Gus Dudgeon, who also admired the work, telling David Buckley that "the music was very filmic, all very visual and all quite honest and unaffected and therefore unique."

 

Dek Fearnley, who assisted David with the arrangements, recalled a collaborative working method broadly similar to the process Bowie would still be using more than thirty years later. "He had a song in its basic form," Fearnley told the Gillmans, "and we would just work it out. He would say 'I'd like to have a violin,' and I'd say, 'Yes, let's keep a soulful feel, let's have a trombone,' and he'd say that'd be a great idea. He was so bloody inspiring...he spurred me on to things I could never otherwise have done." With only the most rudimentary training between them - neither could read music - the pair furnished themselves with the Observer's Book Of Music in an attempt to read up on the terms used by Vernon's session musicians, many of whom were from the London Philharmonic Orchestra. "It was awful," Fearnley recalled of the embarrassing gaffes they committed, "and David left all that to me."

 

As well as the classical musicians, Vernon enlisted a number of session players whose uncredited contributions helped to define the sound of the album: principal among them were folk guitarist John Renbourn, whose acoustic playing comes particularly to the fore on "Come And Buy My Toys", and multi-instrumentalist Big Jim Sullivan, whose contributions include the banjo on "Did You Ever Have A Dream" and the sitar on "Join The Gang". During a visit to the studio in December, Dek Fearnley's friend Marion Constable was roped into the chorus of backing vocals on "Silly Boy Blue".

 

In a move that would later be echoed during the recording of more celebrated albums like Ziggy Stardust and Young Americans, a provisional tracklist was drawn up midway through the sessions, offering a glimpse of a subtly but significantly different album: while the second side was identical to the finished article, the first side consisted of "Uncle Arthur", "Sell Me A Coat", "Your Funny Smile", "Did You Ever Have A Dream", "There Is A Happy Land" and "Bunny Thing". While "Did You Ever Have A Dream" would ultimately be relegated to B-side status, two other tracks, the R&B throwback "Your Funny Smile" and the spoken monologue "Bunny Thing", were destined to remain unreleased. They would be replaced on the album by three January recordings which are now among the most familiar tracks from Bowie's Deram period: the re-recording of "Rubber Band", the previously abandoned "Love You Till Tuesday", and the new composition "When I Live My Dream".

 

Kenneth Pitt, who had been absent from the sessions due to a major promotional tour of America and Australia with his client Crispian St Peters, returned to London on December 16th. Months of financial mismanagement finally prompted Bowie to approach Pitt over his concerns about Ralph Horton who, after a series of mutual discussions, willingly relinquished all managerial responsibility on January 19th. Initially overseeing David's affairs on an unofficial basis, Pitt would take over as his full-time manager in April.

 

Meanwhile, recording at Decca resumed on January 26th with the backing tracks for both sides of the forthcoming single, "The Laughing Gnome" and "The Gospel According To Tony Day"; vocals were added to these songs the following month. On February 25th the album versions of "Rubber Band", "Love You Till Tuesday" and "When I Live My Dream" completed the principal sessions, with a few final touches added on February 29th and March 1st.

 

David Bowie was released on June 1st 1967 in a sleeve photographed by Dek Fearnley's brother Gerald. The photo session took place in Gerald's basement studio beneath a church in Bryanston Street near Marble Arch, where David and Dek had also conducted rehearsals during the album sessions. "That military jacket, I was very proud of that...it was actually tailored," Bowie recalled many years later of the outfit he had chosen to complement his Robert James pageboy haircut. The sleeve also included some elegantly written hype from the pen of Kenneth Pitt, describing Bowie's vision as "straight and sharp as a laser beam. It cuts through hypocrisy, prejudice and cant. It sees the bitterness of humanity, but rarely bitterly. It sees the humour in our failings, the pathos of our virtues."

 

The American release, which omitted "We Are Hungry Men" and "Maid Of Bond Street", appeared in August 1967. Thanks to the Deram label's progressive leanings, David Bowie was one of the first albums to be released in both mono and stereo, the two variants featuring a number of minor differences in instrumentation and mixing: both stereo and mono versions were later included on 2010's excellent two-disc David Bowie: Deluxe Edition.

 

Reviews, although thin on the ground, were extremely positive. The NME's Allen Evans hailed the record as "all very refreshing" and Bowie as "a very promising talent. And there's a fresh sound to the light musical arrangements by David and Dek Fearnley." Disc & Music Echo called the album "a remarkable, creative debut album by a 19-year-old Londoner" and declared, "Here is a new talent that deserves attention, for though David Bowie has no great voice, he can project words with a cheeky 'side' that is endearing yet not precocious...full of abstract fascination. Try David Bowie. He's something new."

 

Kenneth Pitt, who sent copies of David Bowie to numerous showbusiness contacts in an attempt to drum up interest in his client, received letters of congratulations from figures as diverse as Lionel Bart, Bryan Forbes and Franco Zeffirelli.

 

Nonetheless, David Bowie was not a success, and its commercial fate was sealed by Deram's lack of interest in promoting it. Decca's head of promotion Tony Hall, a long-time friend of Pitt's who had been instrumental in securing Bowie's contract, had left for another company in May. Even before the album's release, it became apparent that David had lost his champion within the company, but the miserably low profile accorded to his Deram releases reached its nadir a year later when Pitt and Bowie attended a Decca promotion at Selfridge's. Seeing no evidence of Bowie on display, they innocently asked a saleswoman about his album; having rifled through her files, she informed them that David Bowie was not with Decca but with Pye.

 

By this time, David had recorded various other tracks for Deram, most of which were later collected on The Deram Anthology 1966-1968 and David Bowie: Deluxe Edition. With the exception of the second version of "Love You Till Tuesday" (recorded on June 3rd 1967 with the second version of "When I Live My Dream", and released as a single in July), the remainder of David's Deram material had been systematically rejected by the label, and rumours of a planned second album are no more than supposition. In the spring of 1968 David and Kenneth Pitt drew up a rough track-listing for an LP comprising a number of songs lately demoed by David ("C'est La Vie", "Silver Treetop School For Boys", "When I'm Five", "Everything Is You", "Tiny Tim", "Angel Angel Grubby Face", "Threepenny Joe" and "The Reverend Raymond Brown"), but there is no indication that the label was the slightest bit interested. In May 1968, shortly after the Selfridge's incident, Deram turned down David's latest putative single "In The Heat Of The Morning" and Hugh Mendl told Pitt, "I cannot blame you if you wish to leave us." They did, and from a promising mid-1967 peak David's career went into freefall until the arrival of "Space Oddity" eighteen months later. It was not time wasted, however; although lacking apparent direction, this was the period during which David forged his associations with Lindsay Kemp and Tony Visconti, both essential participants in what was to come.

 

In the long run, the failure of David Bowie, while disheartening to its creator at the time, was in all probability a blessing. One of the most astonishing twists in the story of Bowie's early career was a monstrous blunder made by Ralph Horton at the time of the album sessions in December 1966, without which David's life might have mapped out very differently. Before departing on his trip to America, Kenneth Pitt had negotiated an advance of £1000 as part of a publishing deal with Essex Music but, certain that he could do better had declined to close the deal and told the company he would reconsider the offer on his return. In America he pulled off a major coup, negotiating with another company (believed to be Koppelman & Rubin) a three-year deal with an advance of $30,000 for exclusive worldwide publishing rights to David's songs. When he returned to London in December to break the good news, Pitt found that in his absence Ralph Horton had signed a contract with Essex Music for an advance of £500 - half of what Pitt had already agreed and a fraction of the amount that would have come with the now-invalidated American deal. It was a crushing blow, and after confiding in David's father Pitt elected not to tell David about it until several years later. What might have happened in 1967 with a $30,000 publishing deal to fall back on is matter for conjecture, but with sufficient finance for a major publicity push it's perfectly conceivable that David Bowie might have become a substantial hit, and the ensuing years of struggle that eventually bore the fruit of Bowie's 1970s career might have been entirely bypassed. "I'd probably be in Les Misérables now," said Bowie in 1996. "Oh, I'm sure I would have been a right little trouper on the West End stage. I'd have written ten 'Laughing Gnomes', not just one!"

 

Bowie's Deram recordings, of which David Bowie is the most substantial legacy, have instead acquired their own almost mythological status. Mercilessly mocked as music-hall piffle derived from a passing Anthony Newley fad, the album is routinely passed off as, in David Buckley's words, a "cringe-inducing piece of juvenilia" only to be braved by "those with a high enough embarrassment threshold." The Deram period has long since been played down, if not disowned by David himself. "Aarrghh, that Tony Newley stuff, how cringey," he said in 1990. "No, I haven't much to say about that in its favour. Lyrically I guess it was striving to be something, the short storyteller. Musically it's quite bizarre. I don't know where I was at. It seemed to have its roots all over the place, in rock and vaudeville and music hall and I don't know what. I didn't know if I was Max Miller or Elvis Presley."

 

In their efforts to exonerate Bowie from what has long been considered an aberration, many fans have tried to put the "blame" on Kenneth Pitt, often portrayed as the man who sought to turn David into an all-singing, all-dancing, all-round entertainer. This theory holds no water whatsoever: the album was made before Pitt played any more than an administrative role in David's affairs, and he was absent from the country when the majority of it was written and recorded. For his part, David himself told Mike Vernon during the album sessions that he was a fan of Anthony Newley and, as Gus Dudgeon told David Buckley, "it bothered Mike Vernon and me because we'd say, 'Bowie's really good and his songs are fucking great, but he sounds like Anthony Newley'."

 

In his memoir, Pitt insists that he "was never happy with David sounding like Newley on some of his records and the decision to do so, conscious or not, was David's alone." Certainly it was Pitt who undertook to broaden David's education with trips to the West End theatre to see variety acts, and it was Pitt's library that exposed David to works like Oscar Wilde's The Picture Of Dorian Gray and Antoine de Saint-Exupery's The Little Prince, elements of which emerge in the overall tone of the Deram material. But the idea that Pitt represented some sort of throwback to the Edwardian nursery-room has been unfairly and inaccurately fostered. He managed Bob Dylan on his UK tours and was responsible for introducing Bowie to some of his key influences. When Pitt returned from abroad in December 1966 it was fresh from meeting Andy Warhol and Lou Reed in New York, and among his luggage was an acetate of The Velvet Underground And Nico. As yet unreleased, it was a record that would immediately have a profound effect on Bowie's artistic development. Writing in the New Yorker in 2003, David would describe the album's impact on him as "shattering. Everything I both felt and didn't know about rock music was opened to me on one unreleased disc...with the opening, throbbing, sarcastic bass and guitar of "I'm Waiting For The Man", the lynchpin, the keystone of my ambition was driven home. This music was so savagely indifferent to my feelings. It didn't care if I liked it or not...It was completely preoccupied with a world unseen by my suburban eyes...I played it again and again and again." Studio out-takes from the Deram period reveal a side to Bowie's musical palette only hinted at on the David Bowie album: they include his first version of "Waiting For The Man" and the demented "Venus In Furs" makeover "Little Toy Soldier".

 

Another record Pitt brought back from New York was the eponymous third LP by The Fugs, a Greenwich Village beatnik outfit whose work included setting the poetry of William Blake to hardcore avant-garde backings. The Fugs had a similar impact on Bowie's imagination (he later described them as "one of the most lyrically explosive underground bands ever"), and their "Dirty Old Man" was co-opted into his live repertoire in 1967 alongside "Waiting For The Man". Other sources have confirmed that Bowie was one of Britain's few Frank Zappa fans at the time, even attempting live cover versions of Zappa's early numbers in his Riot Squad concerts. The widely accepted perception of Bowie's Deram period as some sort of Cockney knees-up begins, thankfully, to recede.

 

In any case, the standard summation of David Bowie's musical achievement as sub-Newley vaudeville whimsy is entirely inadequate. For one thing, the much-vaunted resemblance to Anthony Newley only really surfaces on a handful of tracks like "Love You Till Tuesday", "Little Bombardier" and "She's Got Medals" - and, in keeping with the methodology that would characterise Bowie's later career, the vocal affectation is merely one ingredient in the album's synthesis of ideas. "I got into Anthony Newley like crazy," David recalled in 2002. "Before he came to the States and did the whole Las Vegas thing, he really did bizarre things over here - a television series he did called The Strange World Of Gurney Slade, which was so odd and off the wall. And I thought I like what this guy's doing, where he's going, he's really interesting. And so I started singing songs like him. But I was reading a lot of stuff by the Angry Young Men generation, Keith Waterhouse and John Osbourne and stuff like that, and so I was writing these really weird Tony Newley-type songs, but the lyrics were about lesbians in the army, and cannibals, and paedophiles, and things like that. I thought, yeah, this is my bag, this is what my career's gonna be like. And the first album really is the most extraordinary piece of work in that way. I mean - utterly forgettable, but there's no faulting its ambitions."

 

Furthermore, Gus Dudgeon's oft-quoted description of the David Bowie album as "about the weirdest thing any record company have ever put out" has inadvertently fostered the notion that there was nothing else like it in the 1967 charts. This is, of course, untrue. It takes no great leap of the imagination to realise that the album's blend of folk and short-story narrative took many of its cues from the commercial end of the burgeoning British psychedelia scene of 1966-7. The album's motif of wartime nostalgia, its Blakeian evocations of childhood innocence, and above all its rogues' gallery of lonely misfits and social inadequates, are all very much of a piece with contemporary work by the likes of Syd Barrett's Pink Floyd, The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, and, by no means least, The Beatles themselves.

 

Revolver had appeared in August 1966, bringing its tales of lonely people and yellow submarines to a mass audience. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was recorded at the same time as David Bowie and released on the same day, June 1st 1967. Sgt. Pepper went on to sell rather more copies and is generally acknowledged to be the better album of the two, but it's always been something of a nonsense that the same people who rubbish David Bowie for being "whimsical" and "music-hall" are happy to consider "Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite!" a stunning piece of experimental pop. Despite Sgt. Pepper's obvious superiority, the two albums have a great deal in common. Direct comparisons are hardly the point (although the oompah fairground waltz of "Mr Kite" is matched precisely on "Little Bombardier"), but "Uncle Arthur", "She's Got Medals" and "Sell Me A Coat" have more than a whiff of "Eleanor Rigby", "Lovely Rita" or "She's Leaving Home" about them. It has even been suggested that "Rubber Band", released as a single in December 1966, might have given The Beatles the idea for Sgt. Pepper's title. "I have no grounds for believing that," wrote Kenneth Pitt, but he adds that it was a view "widely held" in 1967.

 

Meanwhile, although the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band had only notched up a couple of flop singles by the time of the David Bowie sessions, they were a ubiquitous presence on the pub-gig circuit then being played by The Buzz, and although they have never been acknowledged as a direct influence there can surely be no reasonable doubt. Their debut single "My Brother Makes The Noises For The Talkies", released in April 1966, allowed the Bonzos to indulge a penchant for crazed Goon Show sound effects of the kind that saturated Bowie recordings like "We Are Hungry Men", "Please Mr Gravedigger" and "Little Toy Soldier". Their second was a cover of the Hollywood Argyles' novelty hit "Alley Oop", later cited by David as among his favourite singles and directly quoted in "Life On Mars?". In January 1968 Bowie had several meetings with Ray Williams of Liberty Records to discuss the possibility of the Bonzos covering one of his songs. Although the band dropped the "Doo-Dah" from their name at around this time, it seems more than a little suspicious that "the doo-dah horn" should turn up in Bowie's "Ching-A-Ling" later the same year, by which time Gus Dudgeon had become their producer. It must be one of the more amusing coincidences in pop history that both Bowie and the Bonzos should ultimately find their 1960s work overshadowed and sorely misrepresented by a runaway number 5 hit about a spaceman.

 

As with the juvenilia of any major artist, there is a temptation to over-interpret David Bowie in the pursuit of tenuous parallels with the mature canon. Certainly "We Are Hungry Men" foreshadows Bowie's interest in Orwellian and Messianic themes; certainly "She's Got Medals" anticipates his stock in trade of gender confusion; certainly "Come And Buy My Toys" is a pointer to the acoustic folk territory of his next album; certainly there are plenty of lyrics about play-acting and the silver screen; and certainly a preoccupation with the lonely, forsaken individual on the outside of society would remain a motif on every subsequent Bowie album. However, the attempts of some biographers to expose specific lyrics as a catalogue of dark secrets from David's family vault should be taken with a large pinch of salt.

 

Whatever we find in its fourteen tracks, it seems a pity that David Bowie is only ever considered in terms of what we can extrapolate from it, what light it may or may not shed on the important stuff ("picking through the peppercorns of my manure pile," as Bowie put it in 1999, "Looking for something that might indicate I had a future"). Thankfully, it does seem that pop musicologists are at last beginning to regard David Bowie not just as a quirky set of embryonic twitterings, but as an album that's actually worth considering in its own right. Nearly twenty years after the sessions, Dek Fearnley told the Gillmans that the album was "the most satisfying thing I have done in my life," and while Bowie is unlikely to join him in that sentiment, there is absolutely nothing here for him to be embarrassed about. David Bowie justifiably resides in the shadow of his later work, but those with open ears and open minds know it as a sweet, clever album that has borne four decades of derision with consummate dignity.