top of page
E | The Songs From A to Z | E

A  | B | C | D | E | F | G | H| I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | WY | Z



  • Album: Hunky Dory

  • Live: Bowie At The Beeb (Bonus Disc)

  • B-Side: April 2015

On Hunky Dory's most overlooked number, Bowie gives a virtuoso vocal performance against a gentle piano and an almost tongue-in-cheek Country & Western guitar line from Mick Ronson. Describing the song at the time of Hunky Dory's release, David remarked cryptically that "The city is a kind of high-life wart on the backside of the prairie." The lyric is an impressionistic snapshot of a city room, in which a cat has just knocked over a spinning mobile while a cactus sits enigmatically in the window. Swamped by the big production numbers surrounding it, "Eight Line Poem" is quiet, mysterious and strangely magnificent. In 1973 William Burroughs told Bowie that he considered the lyric "very reminiscent of The Waste Land," and although David denied having read T S Eliot, it's hard to believe that there's no influence here, and that the cactus isn't a close relative of the one in The Hollow Men. A second version, featuring a different vocal and some minor lyrical variations, and omitting the dramatic reverb effect on the word "collision", appeared on the seven-track Hunky Dory sampler pressed in August 1971 by Tony Defries; an adulterated version of this cut, with stereo channels swapped in poor audio quality, appeared on the B-side of the 2015 Record Store Day picture disc of "Changes". The song was only given one more performance, during a BBC session recorded on September 21st 1971, and this excellent rendition was later included on Bowie At The Beeb.


  • Album: Never Let Me Down

  • B-Side: August 1987

  • Download: May 2007

  • Live: Glass Spider (2207 CD/DVD Release)

Of the last five tracks on Never Let Me Down only "'87 And Cry" rises above the mire to offer something with a bit of punch, and like "New York's In Love" it's also a clear prefiguring of Tin Machine. According to Bowie, "It started off when I was originally writing it as a kind of indictment of Thatcher's England, but then it took on all these surreal qualities of a pushy person eating the energies of others to get to where they wanted and leaving the others behind: 'It couldn't be done without dogs'. It was a Thatcherite statement made through the eyes of a potential socialist, because I always remained a potential socialist, not an active one."

     But on closer inspection, it's tempting to speculate on whether the "pushy person eating the energies of others" has a more precise nature. If Bowie is railing against "a one-dollar secret, a lover's secrets in the UK", and "just the ghost of a story", adding "you can't make love with money", and "only you whisper these things aren't true", he's doing so at the very moment that his personal life has been invaded by an upsurge of intrusive kiss-and-tell copy. Just prior to the Never Let Me Down sessions, Peter and Leni Gillman's Alias David Bowie was published, dredging up for the first time a parade of half-forgotten relatives and lovers eager to stake their claim on Bowie's past. After preview extracts appeared in The Sunday Times, Bowie launched a counterblast in Today against biographers who "drag out long-lost aunts to supply all the details, aunts I've had absolutely no contact with for maybe twenty years - who have no knowledge of me - and absolutely unbelievable, blatant lies are told". While there's no proof that "'87 And Cry" sets out to address these concerns, the resonance is certainly there.

     The song later became a B-side and featured throughout the Glass Spider tour. A series of doodles scrawled on a piece of notepaper from the Westwood Marquis Hotel in Los Angeles was displayed at the David Bowie is exhibition, revealing Bowie's grandiose plans for the staging of the number: a "Rockin' Russia" setting with a hammer-and-sickle backdrop, armed guards patrolling the gantries, and the scribbled idea: "Put a tank together on stage."




An unreleased track from the Lodger's sessions, recorded in Montreux in September 1978.



Although mentioned in Kenneth Pitt's memoir The Pitt Report, Bowie's unrealised 1968 "rock opera" remained an almost complete mystery until a demo tape came up for auction at Christie's in 1996. It went unsold and has yet to see the light of day.

     Under the collective title Ernie Johnson, the linking narrative seems every bit as tenuous as the "non-linear gothic drama hyper-cycle" of 1.Outside, and its colourful parade of characters bears a superficial similarity to the style of the rock opera projects devised by Bowie's sometime idols The Who. The story, such as it is, runs something like this: Ernie Johnson, nineteen, invites friends to a party at which he intends to commit suicide. One of the guests, Tiny Tim, describes it as a "most exquisite party, darlings. Everyone was there. They busted me for masquerading as a man!" Ernie reminisces about past loves and has a rascist conversation with a tramp; he addresses himself in a mirror; and he takes a trip to Carnaby Street to purchase a tie in which to kill himself.

     The individual songs begin with "Tiny Tim", borrowing from The Searchers' "Sweet For My Sweet" (it's uncertain whether this Tiny Tim is modelled on the novelty performer then renowned for his appearances on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In; it's worth noting that a character called Tiny Tim had already appeared in Bowie's "There Is A Happy Land"). "Where's The Loo" anticipates the swishy slang of "Queen Bitch" and the vapid chit-chat of Lou Reeds's "New York Telephone Conversation": "Where's the loo? What crappy chairs, what flabby clothes, is it true? / That after tonight there's no more you? And can we watch? Is it true? / Knock knock, who's there? It's all the rest / One's got tattoo marks on his chest..."

     The songs continue with "Season Folk", "Just One Moment Sir" (the rascist tramp song), and a suite under the collective title "Various Times Of Day", individually titled "Early Morning", "Noon-Lunchtime" and "Evening". The last three songs are "Ernie Boy" (a monologue in which Ernie addresses himself in the mirror while smoking a joint, including a surprising foretaste of "Modern Love" in its spoken introduction: "I'm not running away, I know who I am, I know what I'm made of"), "This Is My Day", and a final untitled number set in a Carnaby Street boutique.

     The 35-minute Ernie Johnson tape, probably dating from February 1968, was accompanied by a five-page manuscript detailing camera shots and stage-directions, suggesting that Bowie envisaged the project as a film or television play. Recorded on David's four-track home equipment, the tape features surprisingly sophisticated multi-track recording with layered vocal overdubs and expansive instrumentation. Ernie Johnson clearly offers compelling evidence that Bowie's consistent preoccupation with theatrical acts of self-immolation did not begin with "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide".

EVEN A FOOL LEARNS TO LOVE (Francois/Thibault/Revaux/Bowie)

In February 1968, while David's Decca career was beginning to stall, Kenneth Pitt busied himself finding work for his client writing English lyrics for overseas music publishers. One of the songs that fell in Bowie's lap was "Comme D'Habitude" by Claude Francois, Gilles Thibault and Jacques Revaux. As he began putting English lyrics to the song, in Pitt's words "it was becoming clear that he was writing a song that could and should be his next single."

     Bowie's English version, "Even A Fool Learns To Love" (a "pitifully awful title", he laughed many years later), was demoed by means of David singing over the original Claude Francois recording. Two versions were made: David's rough-and-ready home effort was followed by a more polished take recorded at Essex Music. Both are sung with genuine drama and passion, and it's clear that David's heart was very much in the project. His lyrics owe much to his then involvement with Lindsay Kemp's mime company, and perhaps a little to his new girlfriend Hermione Farthingale, telling how the easy laughter won by a clown is subjugated by the sudden arrival of love: "The clown turned around and saw her smile, oh how she loved me / She'd clap her hands and beg me stay / To make her laugh, to make her life gay / Who wants the love of all the world when here was love in the eyes of just one girl / That day, that previous day / When even a fool learns to love."

     On February 9th Pitt took the demo to his publishers at Essex Music and later to Decca, but plans for David to record the single were dashed when the French publisher raised an objection. As Essex Music's affiliate Geoffrey Heath recalled, "Their attitude was that they wanted a star to record the song, not this yobbo from Bromley." Not long afterwards Paul Anka's American translation immortalised the self-same song as "My Way". An extract of Bowie's demo was later aired in BBC2's Arena documentary about the number that became Frank Sinatra's signature tune.

     Referred to in some documentation under the alternative title "Reprise", "Even A Fool Learns To Love" was included in Bowie's abortive 1968 cabaret show. David laid paid tribute to "My Way" and its most famous interpreter with his classic composition "Life On Mars?", a reworking of the same chord sequence that was, in the words of Hunky Dory's sleeve-notes, "inspired by Frankie".



  • Album: Heathen

  • A-Side: September 2002

  • US Promo: January 2003

  • Compilation: Hope


A lush and nostalgic arrangement dominated by acoustic and rhythm guitars (the latter courtesy of David's long-time sideman Carlos Alomar), paired with an ostensibly cheerful lyric apparently addressed to a loved one abroad, led many reviewers of Heathen to assume that "Everyone Says 'Hi'" was addressed to David's grown-up son, and as such should be regarded as a sequel of sorts to "Kooks". This, however, was a complete misreading. As Bowie explained at the time, the song is in fact a meditation on bereavement. "When my father died in 1969, I couldn't actually believe that he was not going to come back again," David recalled. "I kind of thought that he'd just put his raincoat and his cap on, and that he'd be back in a few weeks or something. And I felt like that for years. It really took a long time for me to be able to take in the fact that I wouldn't see him again. So this one was just a little simplistic reference to that, about how it always feels like somebody has gone on a holiday of some kind. And there's something sad about ships as well. That's why this person in this song doesn't go on a plane. A ship took them away - I guess that's the boat that took people over the river Styx, isn't it?"

     Once this reading is digested, not only does the superficial cheeriness of the lyric dissolve into melancholy and yearning, but it also suggests a touch of black comedy in the reference to "the guy upstairs" (not to mention the narrator's hope that "the weather's good and it's not too hot"). Understood as a lyric of bereavement and denial, "Everyone Says 'Hi'" is one of Bowie's most emotionally affecting songs. The melancholy overtones are pressed home by the mournful chord changes, and there are even some evocative "Absolute Beginners"-style doo-wop backing vocals in the closing choruses as, in the only moment that's truly evocative of "Kooks", David sings "If the money is lousy, you can always come home / We can do all the old things". But whereas "Kooks" was full of optimism for the future, here the protagonist knows that it's too late.

     "Everyone Says 'Hi'" was performed live throughout the Heathen tour. Originally scheduled for a June 2002 single release in European territories, the 3'31" single edit eventually appeared on September 16th (coincidentally the 25th anniversary of Marc Bolan's death, which seemed oddly apposite) in a three-CD set which included several bonus tracks from the Heathen and Toy sessions. The single, which reached number 20 in the UK chart, was supported by a little-seen live video shot at the Cologne concert on July 12th 2002 (its few appearances included a screening during BBC2's coverage of the Mercury Music Awards, which conveniently fell in the week of the single's release). There were several television performances during Bowie's autumn 2002 tour, including a memorable rendition on BBC1's Parkinson, while Top Of The Pops screened the live performance Bowie had recorded for them the previous June. The song also featured in the BBC radio session of September 18th 2002.

     In January 2003 a horrible seven-minute remix by dance producers METRO (alias Brian Rawling and Gary Miller, who had also produced the original Heathen version) appeared as a 12" vinyl promo in America. An "interactive" version of this creation was subsequently included in the 2003 Sony Playstation 2 music-mixing game Amplitude, while the shorter radio edit appeared on the same year's War Child charity compilation album Hope.


This Bowie composition was demoed in May 1967 and offered, without success, to Manfred Mann's producer John Burgess. Both lyrically and vocally the original demo catches Bowie in the early stages of the Bob Dylan phase that would later influence his songwriting on the Space Oddity album. Backed by a standard mid-1960s Monkees-style vocal harmony, "Everything Is You" is a whimsical, folksy love lyric whose protagonist, a lumberjack working to raise money for his faraway love, sees her incarnated in everything around him: "I feel your grace in all the trees, your strength is in the axe I wield, I look around and everything is you."

     It seems unlikely that David ever recorded a full version, although on March 27th and April 18th 1968 he did contribute rhythm guitar and backing vocals to a cover recorded by The Beatstalkers at CBS Studios. This was released as the B-side of their June 1968 single "Rain Coloured Roses", and later appeared on 2005's The Beatstalkers and 2006's Oh! You Pretty Things. By replacing Bowie's reedy Dylan impersonation with lead singer Davie Lennox's no-nonsense baritone, together with some lolloping "Rawhide"-style bass guitar and a few lyric changes that efface the original demo's more ethereal images (the line "I see your eyes as buzzing bees, a painted butterfly your dress" is gone, to be replaced by "Your voice is in the wind that blows, I see your name on stony ground"), The Beatstalkers' version emphasises the song's borderline Country & Western potential, taking "Everything Is You" as close as Bowie ever came to a musical idiom for which he seldom expressed a great deal of enthusiasm.


On July 9th 1974, during the Diamond Dogs tour's residency in Philadelphia, Ava Cherry recorded a version of this composition by the tour's bandleader Michael Kamen, shortly to be popularised by Bonnie Raitt on her September 1974 album Streetlights. Recorded in the same session at Sigma Sound was Cherry's version of "Sweet Thing", backed by Kamen and other members of the tour band. It is unclear to what extent, if any, Bowie contributed to "Everything That Touches You" or to a third song recorded the same day, "Give It Away" (very likely a cover of the title track of The Chi-Lites' 1969 debut album). None of these recordings would be released, but in 2016 a 10" acetate emerged of Ava Cherry's "Sweet Thing" backed by "Everything That Touches You".

EVERYTHING'S ALRIGHT (Crouch/Konrad/Stavely/James/Karlson)

  • Album: Pin Ups

Originally a number 9 hit for The Mojos in 1964, "Everything's Alright" boasts some of the tightest ensemble playing on Pin Ups, with splendid turns from Mike Garson, Aynsley Dunbar and Bowie himself on honking sax and histrionic vocals. An energetic live version, complete with fantastically cheesy backing-vocalist choreography from The Astronettes, was recorded at The Marquee on October 19th 1973 for NBC's The 1980 Floor Show. Trivia buffs will be delighted to know that Pin Ups drummer Aynsley Dunbar joined The Mojos in late 1964 - as did bass player Lewis Collins, later to find fame as an actor in The Professionals - but their time with the band post-dated the original single.



Early Morning
Eight Line Poem
'87 And Cry
Emphasis On Repetition
The Enemy Is Fragile
Eno's Jungle Box
Ernie Boy
Ernie Johnson
Even A Fool Learns To Love
Everyone Says 'Hi'
Everything Is You
Everything That Touches You
Exalted Companions
Everything's Alright
bottom of page