This year will mark the 50th anniversary of David Bowie’s first hit song “Space Oddity,” back in 1969, and a number of albums have been released recently, most notably The Mercury Demos. These Demos are 10 David Bowie recordings from his early career “captured live in one take to a Revox reel to reel tape machine in David’s flat in spring 1969,” with John “Hutch” Hutchinson on the guitar and vocals. This same version of “Space Oddity” had previously been released on Sound & Vision, except that version had edits. This is the first time the recording will be presented in its true context. Additionally, the other nine recordings in the album are all previously unreleased.
According to David Bowie’s website: “the session also includes the Roger Bunn composition ‘Life Is A Circus’ (which features as an earlier demo version on the Clareville Grove Demos set) and the Lesley Duncan composition, ‘Love Song,’ later recorded by Elton John for his Tumbleweed Connection album. David’s own “Conversation Piece” is announced as “a new song,” and “Janine” features a short nineteen second section sung to the melody of The Beatles’ “Hey Jude.”
They’ve really gone all out this time. The ‘Mercury’ Demos actually come in a replica of the original tape box. It features “a mono 33 1/3 rpm vinyl LP, a print, two photo contact sheets and sleeve notes by Mark Adams. The labels of the LP feature the same EMIDISC acetate styling as Spying Through A Keyhole and the Clareville Grove Demos with the song titles in David’s own handwriting.”
These releases are enjoyable enough, but sometimes they serve more as documents and memorabilia than actual music. They are a photograph of an unfinished work, where, by comparison, you can trace the process in which they were created. Do they add anything musically? Probably not. But once you get our own Mercury tapes, or, as they release the singles on different platforms, you’ll be able to compare and decide which version you like best. Here are the original and finished products of all of the songs in The Mercury Demos as we knew and loved them.
“An Occasional Dream”
“I’m Not Quite” (a.k.a. “Letter To Hermione”)
“Lover To The Dawn”
“When I’m Five”
The Story Of Loneliness And Isolation Behind Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’
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