La la la la la la la la (etc.) Gather you all and listen here I'll tell you a tale if you lend me an ear I rode a horse through many a town But the devil rode me down to the ground I was to marry a very rich girl I loved her as only I can But the father was shot and his gold was stoled And now I'm the devil's man, na na na And now I sing a tale of woe Through the bars of the county jail, na la la la la la la la la la La la la la la la la la (etc.) I walked into the room one night I found her mother and gun Well, the man was dead and I kneeled and cried The sheriff ran in and said "I'm holding you, son" La la la la la la la la (etc.) Through the day I sing and play For time is on my side But when the moon and stars come out I lay me down and cry For the Saviour, mar I lied Now I will not have a ride Beside the window the scaffold was made On the morrow I will hang... La la la la la la la la (etc.)
Being another of the previously unreleased demos that have been put on the 1991 early-Bowie anthology Early On, this song was probably recorded at some time between July and October 1965 when producer Shel Talmy gave young David a platform to try out his musical talent.
Turns out that all these recorded demos justifiably remained only demos (and never became a single) – as ‘Bars Of The County Jail’ demonstrates. You can go on about the lack of musical coherence and the lack of direction all the songs have in common. But as all the other demos this demo also offers something positive: Bowie’s interest in musical styles beyond R&B love stories and soul music.
Quite different in its style than his other demos ‘Bars Of The County Jail’ is strongly influenced by Western-themed story songs of the early 60s. The narrator tells his story of how he was wrongly accused of the murder of the father of his ‘girlfriend’, “a very rich girl / I loved her as only I can” – and now he sings about it in the bars of the county jail. And as was common in these type of Country-folksongs the story ends with him being hanged on the next morning. Sung in a style similar to Johnny Horton’s ‘Battle Of New Orleans’ and Marty Robbins’ ‘El Paso’ David Bowie sings this song in Cockney-style vocals, especially during the chorus part (“na na na na…”). The demo remains flawed but also gives a glimpse to Bowie’s playfulness with words and musical experiments.
- CD Early On (1964-1966) 1991
- David Jones (vocals, guitar, saxophone)
- Dennis Taylor (guitar)
- Graham Rivens (bass)
- Phil Lancaster (drums)
- Produced by Shel Talmy