David Bowie (1967)



1. Uncle Arthur: Traces the empty life of Uncle Arthur who still reads comics and lives under the thumb of his overbearing mother, until he meets little Sally, gets married but Sally cannot cook so he moves back in with mother. Quirky, harmless and very silly – a questionable opener.  3.0

2. Sell Me a Coat: A first person narrative this acoustic guitar ditty, “Sell me a coat with buttons of silver…‘cause I feel cold”. Not entirely horrible but like most of the album, painfully ornamental and archaic. 3.5

3. Rubber Band: The Rubber Band is essentially playing tunes out of tune, which does not bode well for the narrator who is quite concerned about these proceedings but is “eating scones” and then to “drink my cup of tea”. Ideally he’d like to join said band and meet his love. No joy though, it doesn’t transpire. “I hope you break your baton” rounds things out bitterly. 3.0

4. Love You Till Tuesday: Not unlike The Laughing Gnome, and a memorable melody unfortunately weighed down by swirling strings via twee oddball novelty mush ends up sounding like the theme to George and Mildred. 3.0

5. There is a Happy Land: Tune-free ode to a land where children live in the rhubarb fields, a secret place where ‘Mr Grownup’ is far from welcome. 3.0

6. We Are Hungry Men: This interesting in concept lyrically and melodically, but misses the mark by a long long way. The narrator essentially is the messiah and he and his followers are here to eat you in order to reduce the population of the world. Reminiscent of some tracks off The Man Who Sold the World (say Running Gun Blues or Saviour Machine at a push) arranged in a now-tiresome music-hall orchestration. 3.0

7. When I Live My Dream: A nice slow-tempo and some impressive singing from David however the instrumentation and arrangement are antiquated. 3.5

8. Little Bombardier: A waltz. An old WWI musical hall number of sorts. Trumpets, tubas, whirling strings and crooning vocals all round. Oddly charming. 4.0

9. Silly Boy Blue: A lovely folky melody and Beatles rhythm, sung very well. A rare album highlight. 4.5

10. Come and Buy My Toys: Some pleasant acoustic guitar plucking and a subtle bass guitar accompany Bowie on this, anther highly forgettable number. 2.0

11. Join the Gang: Compared to the rest of the materiel on the album this is the ‘rocker’, if it can be labelled as such. The instruments following the lyrics (sitar, piano), the gang being the band, includes a plethora of sound effects and some wild drumming everywhere. 2.5

12. She’s Got Medals: Another ‘rocker’, a spoken word piece about a girl taken to wearing an army uniform of sorts, changed her name to Tommy, sent to the front line, essentially turning into a man until the bomb was dropped, but luckily changed her name back to Eileen and bound for London just in time or something. 2.5

13. Maid of Bond Street: Another story about a girl, a lonely girl with a number of issues including being unable to make it with a boy she really wants being one of them. Another vaudevillian jingle. 2.5

14. Please Mr Gravedigger: Bowie was shuffling around in a tray of sand fake-sneezing in the studio, just picture that. It’s a cute and regularly hilarious closer. The rain and birds sounds nice as does David’s blocked nose. Like an old radio show piece. 4.0


VERDICT: This eponymous debut LP is, on one hand, an intriguing pre-rock novelty piece from a charming Anthony Newley-obsessed family entertainer with West End matinee aspirations, displaying an idiosyncratic talent. On the other, it’s an album of tiresome relentless whimsy and odd character studies consisting of a grab-bag of overbearingly saccharine musical styles, from baroque pop to parping tubas, crossed with quaint music hall eccentricity, adorning unmemorable melodies and sung in an unwavering English-gent accent. It does not shed any light on Bowie’s future career and certainly no sign of impending stardom here. Whatever audience he and then-manager Ken Pitt were aiming for with David Bowie it wasn’t a rock audience. Actually there was no audience. Released on the same day as Sgt Pepper, David Bowie was a breathtaking failure, and the artist was quickly dropped from the Deram label. Countless reissues over the decades include various tracks from around the same period that did not make the cut, some quite good (London Boys, Karma Man and In the Heat of the Morning – all 6.0), others not so much (The Laughing Gnome 1.0).

NEXT: David Bowie take two!

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