‘You didn’t hear them from me’ (Part 2)

Record Collector

December 1996

Cliff McLenehan concludes his survey of Bowie’s unreleased recordings Last month, we charted the many demos, alternate takes and unreleased songs discarded by David Bowie on his slow but certain rise to fame during the 60s and the early months of the new decade.

….We pick up the trail after the release of “The Man Who Sold The World” in April 1971, through to 1980’s “Scary Monsters” album, after which Bowie embarked upon a quite different phase in his career. In short, we’re about to hit the glorious 70s, when David was catapulted into superstardom via a procession of beguiling alter-egos and the finest work of his career – that is, until his remarkable artistic renaissance with the “Buddha Of Suburbia” and “Outside” albums. After the great watershed of 1977, Bowie was one of the few pre-punk artists to retain any shred of credibility.

….But let’s go back to mid-71 when, despite the failure of his third album, “The Man Who Sold The World”, and its attendant singles, Bowie was able to find a publisher willing to bank-roll studio time so that he could demo new material. He was equally fortunate in having a forceful new manager, Tony Defries, who soon extricated him from his deal with Mercury Records. The main venue for this new phase in his career was the recording studios of Radio Luxembourg.

SUPERSTAR

Three projects occupied Bowie for the rest of the year, the combined effect of which was to transform him from a fading one-hit wonder into that most 70s of creations, the Superstar. The first was producing a follow-up to “The Man Who Sold The World”: by the time Bowie had signed to RCA in August 1971, this was virtually in the bag.

….Among the songs demoed and fairly easy to locate are “Kooks” and “Changes“, plus two which didn’t make the final album, Jacques Brel’s “Amsterdam” and “Bombers“. The first three can be found on the “Naked And Wired” CD; “Bombers” circulates only on tape. “Changes” and “Bombers” are simple piano demos with more or less complete lyrics, dominated by Bowie’s clumpy piano-playing; “Changes”, in particular, includes some rather dodgy chords – maybe he should have hired Mrs. Mills? Also evident on the track, incidentally, are the heavily breathed “hah’s”, which reappeared later on “Hang On To Yourself” on the “Ziggy Stardust” album. Fortunately, the “Kooks” and “Amsterdam” demos are performed far more proficiently by Bowie on acoustic guitar. The take of “Amsterdam” is more restrained that the version eventually coupled with “Sorrow” in 1973.

….To this quartet can be added two further mid-’71 out-takes. Rykodisc unearthed a mildly interesting demo of “Quicksand” for the “Hunky Dory” reissue, while in 1988, a cassette featuring a demo of “Life On Mars” was sold at Philips for £90 – though this has yet to emerge on the collector’s market. Another “Life On Mars” demo in existence – but not in circulation – captures Bowie working on the song with (probably) Mick Ronson at the piano.

….Other material was taped with no clear idea of where it would end up. Having recorded “Oh You Pretty Things“, Peter Noone picked up on another Bowie original, “Right On Mother“, a song apparently referring to his mother’s opinion of his lifestyle. Bowie’s piano demo for this, and “He Was Alright” (a early version of “Lady Stardust“), first emerged on the “Little Toy Soldier” bootleg.

….A third song, “How Lucky You Are“, also exists, this time with Bowie backed by drums and bass. To date, this has only appeared on tape. Finally, another version of “The Supermen” was cut at Trident just after the “Hunky Dory” reissue – and it’s far the best version.

….While preparing material for the album that would eventually become “Hunky Dory“, Bowie began a second project during the spring of ’71 under the name Arnold Corns. Ostensibly a band formed to highlight the vocal talents of dress designer Freddi Buretti, this was actually a front for Bowie and the Spiders to work out new material.

PSEUDONYM

Publisher Bob Grace thought this was of a sufficiently high standard to warrant a release, but there was one problem: at this stage Bowie was still signed to Mercury, for whom he had no further intention of recording. Hence the Arnold Corns pseudonym.

….Two demos, “Moonage Daydream” and “Hang On to Yourself“, were released on B&C Records. While they’re similar to the eventual “Ziggy” versions, they sport different lyrics and are obviously inferior. This pairing has more recently been included (rather inappropriately) on “The Man Who Sold The World” reissue.

….Later in the year, “Hang On to Yourself” was released a second time, this time coupled with the vastly underrated “Man In The Middle“, easily the best of the Arnold Corns songs. All three were reissued in 1984 by the Scandinavian-based Krazy Kat label, a 12” release which added the previously unheard “Looking For A Friend” for good measure. Rykodisc ignored both tiles (probably because Freddy sang the lead vocals), but thankfully, the bootleggers didn’t, and both are now available on “Missing Links One Ziggy”.

….Other studio tracks dating from this period may well be further Arnold Corns recordings. “Rupert The Riley“, a bonkers song about Bowie’s car, definitely features him on backing vocals, though someone else appears to singing lead vocal. A second, more fully produced version of “How Lucky You Are” is in a similar vein – though the main vocalist, which is definitely not David Bowie, is likely to be Freddi Buretti. While “Rupert The Riley” has turned up on many bootleg CDs, this version of “How Lucky You Are” is more difficult to locate, though it was included on the extremely rare “Shadow Man” CD.

….Another song from this period, and so far restricted to circulation in tape form, is the Bolanesque “Don’t Be Afraid” (alias “Oh Darling”). Its sound has inevitably prompted speculation that Bolan plays on the song; well, he doesn’t. Unfortunately, this track is only available in inferior sound quality to the other material.

….By the end of August 1971, Bowie had completed work on “Hunky Dory“. The sessions themselves have produced just one definite out-take, the semi-comic “Bombers“. In circulation for years on bootleg 45, it was no surprise when it was included as a bonus track on the “Hunky Dory” reissue.

….Though there is only one basic take of “Bombers”, there are a few variations available. “Bombers” was originally planned to precede “Andy Warhol”, and it was in this format that it appeared on a promo disc issued by Bowie’s new management. The white label disc, identified by the matrix number BOWPROMO 1A-1/1B-1, features one side by Bowie and one side by another MainMan artist, Dana Gillespie.

….However, there are two versions of the “Bombers”/”Andy Warhol” segue in existence: one features the segue at 3’14” into the piece, the other 10 seconds later. More recently, a shorter, 2’36” version of “Bombers” has begun to circulate on tape.

….The promo disc also contains some other oddities. While most of the tracks – “Oh You Pretty Thing“, “It Ain’t Easy“, “Queen Bitch” and “Quicksand” – are identical to the released versions, “Kooks” comes in a marginally different mix, and Bowie’s phrasing on “Eight Line Poem” is quite different. It’s likely that this is the version which has prompted rumours of its existence as a RCA promo 45.

….This album also suggests that the inclusion of “Fill Your Heart” on “Hunky Dory” may well have been an eleventh-hour decision. RC contributor David Wells notes: “The link between the spacy effects of “Bomber” and the opening of “Andy Warhol” (with some extended laughter from Bowie) sounds far more natural and deliberate than the “Hunky Dory” link between “Fill Your Heart” and “Andy Warhol”. He also points out that Dana Gillespie’s version of “Andy Warhol” on the flip sounds like a “Hunky Dory” backing-track, with Bowie on acoustic and Ronson playing an electric break. “Her other songs are quite different musically,” he says.

INTERVIEW

Shortly after completing “Hunky Dory”, Bowie was already thinking about his next album. In a contemporary radio interview, he mentioned that the record would include “Bombers”, “He’s A Goldmine” and “Something Happens”. “He’s A Goldmine” eventually emerged as “Velvet Goldmine on the flip of the 1975 “Space Oddity” reissue 45, and is now widely available on the “Ziggy Stardust” reissue. “Something Happens” does the rounds on tape, but the quality of the recording is so horrendous that it’s difficult to comment on the song.

….Another between-sessions cut found Bowie and his band, soon to be christened the Spiders, recording a new version of “Holy Holy“, which cuts the original 1971 single to shreds. Originally slated for “Ziggy Stardust“, it was dropped, and eventually appeared as the flip of the “Diamond Dogs” single in 1974. It’s since been erroneously added to the reissue of “The Man Who Sold The World” album.

….Of course, the planned album was quickly superseded by “The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust”, which Bowie began recording at Trident Studios in September 1971, with the bulk of the material being recorded during November (though sessions continued until January 1972). When Rykodisc reissued “Ziggy” in 1990, they included a previously unheard acoustic demo of the “Ziggy Stardust” title track, as well as an edited piano demo of “Lady Stardust” – both interesting, if not exactly essential.

….The real find was the blistering (and previously undocumented) “Sweet Head”, complete with stunning Mick Ronson guitar work and risqué lyrics. Interestingly, the booklet which accompanied early copies of the CD reissue refers to further out-takes. Two of these, “Only One Paper Left” and “It’s Gonna Rain Again”, remain unheard. The other two titles mentioned, a superior (BBC) version “Shadow Man”, have been around for years, most recently on the “Missing Links One Ziggy” bootleg CD. It’s difficult to imagine how they would have fitted in lyrically with the “Ziggy Stardust” concept, but both are fine songs deserving full release.

….No further “Ziggy” out-takes are known to exist, though at least one oddity is in circulation, namely an essentially instrumental backing track for “Starman”, now found on the “Naked And Wired” CD. This track, a rough mix of the song, was also included among a cache of 12 reel-to-reel recordings auctioned at Sotheby’s in 1990 – more about which later.

….While 1971 had been a productive year, 1972 saw the level of studio work decrease as Bowie spent time touring and producing other acts in the wake of his successful “Ziggy Stardust”. One of the most successful liaisons was with Mott The Hoople, a formidable live act who were unable to translate the acclaim into record sales.

DUDES

A tape featuring Bowie singing a guide vocal over the Mott backing track for “All The Young Dudes” exists, while a rumoured version of Bowie, Lou Reed and Mott The Hoople tackling Johnny Kidd and the Pirates’ “Shakin” All Over” has yet to come into circulation. Bowie’s own version of “All The Young Dudes” was recorded for the “Aladdin Sane” album late in 1972, but was dropped from the final track listing. For years, this was available on various bootlegs, before being released last year on the “Rarestonebowie” package. The version here is longer that the previously known take, but the mix is decidedly inferior. Ultimately, Bowie’s stab at the song doesn’t match Mott’s definitive version.

….In addition to this, there’s the great “John I’m Only Dancing” saga. A version of the song had been cut at the tail-end of the “Ziggy” sessions and issued as a single in September 1972. Something during the course of the “Aladdin Sane” sessions, Bowie and the Spiders recorded a savage new version for inclusion on that album. However, RCA were dubious about the large proportion of previously released material that was slated to appear on the disc, so like “All The Young Dudes”, “John I’m Only Dancing” was dropped.

….Just to make things interesting, at some point RCA switched the matrix of the “John I’m Only Dancin” single to include the take from the “Aladdin Sane” sessions. Later, in 1976, they manufactured an initial pressing of around 1,000 copies of “ChangesOneBowie” which featured the remake. Later pressings reverted to the original 1972 single version. The “AladdinSane” take is currently only available on the “Sound And Vision” box set.

….The “Naked And Wired” bootleg CD features a shorter mix of “Dudes” and other “Aladdin Sane”-era material. Among these is a monitor mix of “The Jean Genie”, featuring even more prominent guitar and a much drier sound; and a demo titled “A Lad In Vein”. This six-minute track was the forerunner (at least title-wise) to “Aladdin Sane” – otherwise, its similarities to the finished song are superficial. It’s mainly instrumental, with Mike Garson’s melancholy piano and Mick Ronson’s fuzzed-up guitar taking centre-stage at various points. Bowie’s role is reduced to ad-libbing a melody line. Some of these passages were later incorporated into “Sweet Thing” on 1974’s “Diamond Dogs” album. Inexplicably, Rykodisc failed to include this as a bonus track on the “Aladdin Sane” reissue – and some people wonder why bootlegging exists!

ZION

Instrumental version of other “Aladdin Sane” tracks doing the rounds include “Time”, “Drive-In Saturday” and the “Aladdin Sane” title track, but these enjoy limited circulation and suffer from rather poor quality. Doubts have since been cast on the authenticity of these recordings.

….One out-take from this era which has always caused some puzzlement is “Zion”. Cited by Charles Shaar Murray in a contemporary piece shortly before the albums release in 1973, it crops up on collector’s lists – but only as a fragment of “A Lad In Vein”. Then again, that could be a misnomer.

….Bowie’s follow-up studio project to “Aladdin Sane” and Ziggy’s summer ’73 retirement was an album of mid-60s cover versions, “Pin-Ups”. Completed in one block of sessions during July at the Chateau d’Herouville in the Paris suburbs, it has yielded just one genuine out-take, a version of the Velvet Underground’s “White Light White Heat“. Left in the can, it was later given to Mick Ronson for inclusion on his second solo album, “Play Don’t Worry“, by which time Bowie’s vocal had been replaced by Ronson’s. The original no doubt remains in a vault somewhere, but has yet to be exhumed for public consumption. The chances of it being radically different to Ronson’s version are slim.

….As with his early enthusiasm for the Velvets, Bowie was quick off the ground in spotting the songwriting talents of the young Bruce Springsteen. Much has been made of Bowie’s versions of Springsteen’s songs, most of it exaggerated. However, Rykodisc’s “Pin-Ups’ reissue included a previously unheard take of ‘Growin’ Up”, featuring Ron Wood on guitar. It’s an enthusiastic run-through, but obviously incomplete. In fact, the recording doesn’t date from the “Pin-Ups” sessions at all – it was taped at Olympic in November 1973, by which time Bowie was working on “Diamond Dogs” and producing records for the Astronettes and Lulu.

….Prior to this, Bowie had recorded one last session with Mick Ronson as his main musical foil. The song they cut together was a medley of “1984/Dodo“, two tracks slated for Bowie’s projected ‘1984’ musical. The feel is different to that of later versions, with a 60s ambience at least as apparent as the song’s soul elements. This fascinating medley finally made is legitimate appearance on the “Sound And Vision” set in 1990.

LULU

It was something of a surprise when Bowie and Lulu began working together during winter 1973/74. It’s long been rumoured that Lulu cut a version of “Can You Hear Me“, but this has never been verified. However, on Rykodisc”s “Diamond Dogs” reissue, a previously unknown version of “Dodo” (alias “You Didn’t Hear It From Me”) was included, where Bowie’s vocals were weak and off-key in places. The reason was that this was merely a guide vocal for Lulu’s benefit. The pair should have been heard sparring on the song, as a version (which also lasts around a minute longer) in limited circulation verifies.

….Despite Bowie’s claim at the time that he’d recorded a whole batch of extra material for the “Diamond Dogs” sessions, little has emerged to confirm this. Ryko did include a track titled “Candidate” on their reissue, which was quite different to the similarly-titled “Dogs” cut, but that’s all we’ve had.

….During 1974, Bowie moved his base of operations to America, and in the summer began work on a new album, “Young Americans“. Producer Tony Visconti was now back into the fold (having split from Marc Bolan and mixed much of “Diamond Dogs”), and most of the sessions took place at Sigma Sound in Philadelphia, home of the then-fashionable ‘Philly Sound”.

….At the time the album was released, in March 1975, it was fairly common knowledge that three songs had been recorded for it, which were omitted from the final track-listing, These were “John I’m Only Dancing (Again)“, exhumed for single release in 1979, “It’s Gonna Be Me” and “Who Can I Be Now“. All three were added to the “Young Americans” reissue, while another out-take, the previously undocumented “After Today, was included on the “Sound And Vision” box.

….But that’s not where the “Young Americans” sessions end. Among that cache of reels auctioned at Sotheby’s in 1990 were several tracks taped during this period, and these may well have been the source for the different versions of “Right” and “Can You Hear Me” which are in limited circulation. These use the same basic tracks as on the finished record, but have incomplete instrumentation and feature Bowie’s guide vocals as opposed to finished takes. “Somebody Up There Likes Me” also exists in similar fashion, though it’s much closer to the finished version than the other pair.

….Even more interesting is the existence among the reels of two titles which are completely unfamiliar. Judging by the material they were included with, these may also be of 1974 vintage, though received opinion suggests that’s unlikely. That pairing, “Cyclops” and “The Invader” (misspelt on the tape box as “Invador”), has yet to leak to collectors, and so nothing else is known about them apart from the fact that the reels sold for a bargain £420.

….Another song likely to have been taped during 1974 was “Here Today Gone Tomorrow“, which Bowie performed during his 1974 U.S. tour (a version is included on the “David Live” CD). It seems logical that a studio take of this song must exist in some form. Finally, it’s also been said that a track titled “You Can Have Her, I Don’t Want Her, She’s Too Fat For Me” was recorded but supposedly burnt at the end of the sessions. I doubt this very much – recording tape is difficult to burn and the last time I tried it I nearly suffocated from toxic fumes. I think we can conclude that the story is apocryphal.

….Early in 1975, Bowie had a stab at a second Springsteen song. That track, “It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City“, featuring an hysterical Bowie vocal, was included on the “Sound And Vision” box where it was described as a “Station To Station” out-take. In my opinion, it isn’t. Apparently, it was one of the last tracks delivered to Mainman prior to Bowie’s split from his management company in 1975; and it quite clearly utilises a Tony Visconti string arrangement. Neither strings nor Visconti were present during the making of “Station to Station” sessions. It seems that these have become mixed up, and that the “Sound And Vision” version in fact dates from the “Young Americans” era. Needless to say, the ‘second version’ wasn’t included on the “Station to Station” CD reissue, and remains unheard.

….No other ’75 material has emerged, though it’s known that Bowie cut a demo of a song called “Moving On” in Los Angeles that May, following an aborted Iggy Pop session. He also worked for a while on a soundtrack to accompany his starring role in “The Man Who Fell To Earth”, but this was rejected. Some of this was later reworked for “Low“, but Bowie’s original material remains unheard. In the early 80s, a bootleg titled “David Bowie Is The Visitor”, containing some of the lost soundtrack, was reportedly imminent, but only a photo of the mock-up of the sleeve ever appeared (in Roy Carr & Charles Shaar Murray’s ‘Bowie: A Illustrated Record’).

….Things don’t get much clearer for the 1976 sessions. It’s known that several hours’ of the material was taped for “Low“, and remains in the can in varying stages of completion. Although it’s often been hinted at that this material would soon be released, to date the only out-takes to emerge were tagged onto the Rykodisc “Low” reissue. “Some Are” and “All Saints” feature strong Brian Eno involvement, particularly the former, which is a delicate piece framed by a plaintive piano motif. Bowie seems more concerned with using his voice to create a mood than singing a developed lyric. The sinister-sounding “All Saints” is purely instrumental.

….It’s worth nothing that a bootleg called “Planned Accidents” (an early title for the “Lodger” album) is said to include “Low” out-takes, including an early version of “Be My Wife“. But after extensive research, I’ve come to the conclusion that this bootleg doesn’t actually exist. What is available is a Japanese double CD titled “A New Music Night And Day” (a working title for “Low”) which purports to feature out-takes from “Low” and “Heroes”. In fact, the material is the same as that which appeared on Bowie’s privately pressed CD, “All Saints” in 1993.

….If the “Low” reissue was mildly disappointing, then the reissue of “Heroes” was doubly so, with just one previously unheard instrumental, “Abdulmajid”, included. Perhaps the material was just not there: Brian Eno has stated that most out-takes were in fact second versions of familiar titles, recorded for safety reasons.

….To promote “Heroes“, Bowie appeared on Marc Bolan’s ‘Marc’ TV show, and this September ’77 reunion prompted them to record a demo, “Standing Next To You”. About 20 minutes of tape exists featuring the dynamic duo rehearsing the song, then titled “Sleeping Next To You”, but this is more tedious than you’d imagine.

MADMAN

Much better is “Madman”, a song the pair are alleged to have written together, though Steve Harley disputes this. It’s also possible that this track dates from March 1977, when Bowie stayed in London for a few days with Bolan. This is a far more fully developed piece, with both Bolan and Bowie on vocals and guitars, and Marc in particular firing away in punkoid frenzy. Two mixes of the song exist, together with an untitled instrumental also demoed at the session. Bowie returned to the song’s chord sequence (Am-F-G) for “Glass Spider” in 1987. Of course, Bolan’s death in September 1977 thwarted any notion that the pair might have gone public with the collaboration.

….Though it wasn’t issued until May 1979, the bulk of “Lodger” was recorded during September 1978, with the whole thing wrapped up the following March. To date, just one out-take have been in the possession of a European collector for many years – but they have not been circulated among anyone else.

….In October 1979, Bowie joined ex-Velvet Underground man John Cale in Ciarbis Studios in New York. Two songs were recorded, neither remotely complete. They’re very simple demos with Cale on piano: Bowie ad libs on “Velvet Couch” and “la-la-la’s” his way through “Pianola”. Neither is particularly worthy of such a promising union. This material has yet to reach CD, and is only available on the poor quality “Two Gentlemen In New York” bootleg, issued in 1984.

….One other recording dating from 1979 was a new version of “Panic In Detroit“, originally issued on “Aladdin Sane“. Apparently taped with a view to forthcoming television appearances, this was eventually scrapped in favour of a reworked “Space Oddity“. It’s far weaker than the original, taken at too fast a pace and sorely lacking Mick Ronson’s searing guitar licks. Hear for yourself on the “Scary Monsters” reissue.

….The final significant batch of Bowie out-takes can be found on the “Vampires Of Human Flesh” bootleg CD. These date from sessions held at the Power Station Studios in New York, in March 1980. In total, the CD contains five genuine alternate takes – “Scream Like A Baby”, “Because You’re Young”, “Kingdom Come”, “Up The Hill Backwards” and “It’s No Game (Part Two)” – plus an instrumental titled “Is There Life After Marriage?”, which failed to make the “Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)” album.

….These alternate takes are stripped-down versions cut with Bowie’s core trio of the time – Carlos Alomar, George Murray and Dennis Davis – and they all seem to have been recorded live in the studio, suggesting the presence of a second guitarist and a keyboard player possibly (Bowie himself). All are muscular renditions, with a throatier edge to Bowie’s voice than on the smoother finished versions. At this stage, though, there’s no lead guitar or significant keyboard input.

….Points of interest include slightly different lyrics on “Scream Like A Baby“, which is also taken at a faster pace than the finished version. “Up The Hill Backwards” features altered lyrics and rather more powerful drumming than that heard on “Scary Monsters”. “Because You’re Young” is transformed most radically, simply because it features a completely different set of lyrics. It could well have been titled “Because I’m Young” at this point in its development, for the perspective – Bowie is now the young man, not his son Joey – is quite different.

INSTRUMENTAL

The one previously unknown track, the “Is There Life After Marriage?” instrumental, is a mystery. On the tape boxes from which the bootleg derives (sold at Christis’s in 1989 and again in1991), no title is listed, just a question-mark. The fact that a song called “Is there Life After Marriage?” was taped at the “Scary Monsters” sessions has been confirmed by producer Tony Visconti, though the finished version includes vocals from Bowie and Iggy Pop.

….One further “Scary Monsters” out-take also mentioned by Visconti is a version of Cream’s “I Feel Free“, and a close listen to the instrumental track reveals noticeable elements from the “I Feel Free” melody. Whatever the case, it’s certain that two full out-takes remain in the vaults.

….These “Scary Monsters” sessions bring the story of Bowie demos and out-takes to an end. Since terminating his contract with RCA, Bowie has maintained strong control over his career: you just don’t get leaks from the Bowie organisation any more, which perhaps confirms rumours that his associates are apparently asked to sign confidentiality clauses prior to working with him (nothing unusual about that these days, of course).

….David Bowie occasionally namedrops the odd demo in interviews, but the only stuff that ever gets ‘out’ is that which he sanctions. To that extent, the only out-take to emerge during the past 15 years has been the 1988 version of “Look Back In Anger“, which still didn’t make its debut until the 1991 reissue of “Lodger”. Still, given the quality of some of Bowie’s 80s albums, perhaps that’s a blessing. After all, what price a demo of “Magic Dance” or “When The Wind Blows“?

….Many thanks to David Wells for information relating to the Bowie/Gillespie promo album, and to Laurence Hallam and Steve Pafford for advice. For information on ‘Crankin’ Out! The International David Bowie Magazine’, send an SAE/e IRC’s to P.O. Box 3268, London NW6 4NH.

1 Comment

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One response to “‘You didn’t hear them from me’ (Part 2)

  1. Eva-Maria Hamann

    Brilliant, Thank you so much!

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