The Baroque Pop of David Bowie’s 1967 debut album

Revisiting the self-titled David Bowie debut released on the Deram label

The Baroque Pop of David Bowie’s 1967 debut album

In 1967 the 20 year old David Bowie wasn’t particularly new to the London music scene. Since age 15 he had been playing with bands and releasing singles without much visibility. In 1967, he signed with the then trendy and new label Deram, a subsidiary record label of Decca Records intend for new and less known young artists. Hated by many, the David Bowie self-titled debut it’s essentially a baroque-pop album with hints of Psychedelic and Vaudeville Music Hall and a selection of songs that are notable for a 20 year old composer. It’s interesting to listen to The Beatles and The Kinks influence and even more interesting to notice how he already was one step ahead of the game. Accidentally, he ends up using a lot of the vaudeville music influences The Beatles used on “Sgt Peppers” before The Beatles masterpiece was even released. The album was a sales flop, and, could had meant the end of David Bowie, if it wasn’t for his insistence in pursuing music. The date set for the release wasn’t the happiest neither, June 1st, 1967, exactly the same day The Beatles “Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band” was going to invade the record stores, which means all eyes (or ears) were on The Beatles during those early days of June. But even if Bowie himself tried to scratch this album from his discography, by releasing another self-titled album in 1969 that would became known as “Space Oddity”, there are good songs on it. There are some very fine baroque pop on songs such as “Rubber Band”, “Love You Till Tuesday”, “Little Bombardier”, and “Sell Me A Coat”. The vaudevillian “Little Bombardier”, a glimpse into what would define Bowie in the future. Melodic pop songs such as “When I Live My Dream”, Silly Boy Blue” (one of the best songs in the album) and folk hybrids like “Come And Buy My Toys” or the Psychedelic “She’s Got Medals” which is a gender-bending tale with gay and lesbian connotations that predated the bisexual/androgynous character of Ziggy Stardust. The album closes with the odd “Please Mr. Gravedigger” a song featuring nothing but Bowie’s vocals and rain sound effects, a very interesting choice to be featured on a debut album. The 1967 David Bowie it’s not a weak album, and when compared to some of his later albums such as the 1987 “Never Let Me Down”, it’s definitely a much better musical journey, but, it also cannot be compared to albums such as “The Man Who Sold The World”, “Aladdin Sane” or “The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust”. For the late 1960’s music fans, it’s an essential album, but also for the Bowie fan. It’s understandable why David Bowie wanted to “bury” a song such as “The Laughing Gnome”, not featured on the album but released as a promotional single in April 1967 (a novelty pop song), but not understandable to bury songs such as the ones on “David Bowie”. Ten years later, in 1977, the discreet 1967 Bowie was a world superstar releasing “Low” and “Heroes”.

All tracks were written by David Bowie, except where noted

Side 1
1 “Uncle Arthur”
2 “Sell Me a Coat”
3 “Rubber Band”
4 “Love You Till Tuesday”
5 “There Is a Happy Land”
6 “We Are Hungry Men”
7 “When I Live My Dream”

Side 2
8 “Little Bombardier”
9 “Silly Boy Blue”
10 “Come and Buy My Toys”
11 “Join the Gang”
12 “She’s Got Medals”
13 “Maid of Bond Street”
14 “Please Mr. Gravedigger”

Personnel
David Bowie: vocals, guitar, saxophone, arrangement
Big Jim Sullivan:banjo, sitar, guitar
Derek Boyes: organ
Dek Fearnley: bass guitar, orchestral arrangements
John Eager: drums

Produced by:Mike Vernon
Recorded during:14 November 1966 – 25 February 1967 at Decca Studios, London
Released:June 1, 1967
Label: Deram

Singles:
“Rubber Band” Released: 2 December 1966
“Love You till Tuesday” Released: 14 July 1967

Strongest tracks:
“Sell Me a Coat”, “Rubber Band”, “Love You till Tuesday”, “Little Bombardier”, “Silly Boy Blue”, “She’s Got Medals”

Watch David Bowie performing “Love You till Tuesday” in 1969

Also watch David Bowie performing “Rubber Band” in 1969

Listen to the album “David Bowie” on Spotify

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