Thursday, June 1, 2017

50 years ago: David Bowie released his self-titled debut album

6/1/1967: David Bowie debut album released

David Bowie

David Bowie

Released: June 1, 1967

Peak: -- US, 125 UK, -- CN, 67 AU

Sales (in millions): --

Genre: folk rock/glam rock


Song Title [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. Uncle Arthur [2:07]
  2. Sell Me a Coat [2:58]
  3. Rubber Band [2:17] (12/2/66, --)
  4. Love You Till Tuesday [3:09] (7/14/67, --)
  5. There Is a Happy Land [3:11]
  6. We Are Hungry Men [2:59]
  7. When I Live My Dream [3:22]
  8. Little Bombardier [3:23]
  9. Silly Boy Blue [4:36]
  10. Come and Buy My Toys [2:07]
  11. Join the Gang [2:17]
  12. She’s Got Medals [2:23]
  13. Maid of Bond Street [1:43]
  14. Please Mr. Gravedigger [2:35]

All songs are written by David Bowie.

Total Running Time: 37:07


2.612 out of 5.00 (average of 7 ratings)

About the Album:

David Bowie’s first album was a very different style from the glam rock sound which became so identified with him in the 1970s. At this point, Bowie was influenced by “theatrical tunes of Anthony Newley, music hall numbers by acts like Tommy Steele, whimsical 'British' material by Ray Davies of the Kinks, Syd Barrett’s psychedelic nursery rhymes for the early Pink Floyd, and the Edwardian flair shared by such contemporary songs as the Beatles’' ‘Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!’” WK

Bowie himself said the album “seemed to have its roots all over the place, in rock and vaudeville and music hall.” WK Ken Pitt, his manager at the time, wanted Bowie to be more of an “all-round entertainer” than a rock star. WK Biographer David Buckley described it as “the vinyl equivalent of the madwoman in the attic.” WK It is “a remarkable piece of work” AMG which “sounds less like anything else he’s ever done than any subsequent record in his catalog.” AMG

Rubber Band, the first single, “was a marching tune that employed tuba as the lead instrument.” WKLittle Bombardier and Maid of Bond Street were in waltz time, and also made extensive use of brass and strings.” WK

The album did offer hints of the Bowie persona which developed in the 1970s. We Are Hungry Men, “a tale of a world in which food is so scarce that people have resorted to cannibalism,” AMG “is told by a self-styled messiah whos persona would reappear in different forms” WK later in Bowie’s career. “There Is a Happy Land was an early manifestation of Bowie’s vision of children as a race apart from their elders, a theme revisited” WK on later albums. “She’s Got Medals was a gender-bending tale with gay and lesbian connotations.” WK

Love You Till Tuesday and Come and Buy My Toys were among the few songs on the album with a lead (acoustic) guitar, the former heavily augmented by strings. Join the Gang was an excursion into contemporary youth culture, an acerbic observation of peer pressure and drug use, which included sitar in its instrumentation as well as a musical quotation of the Spencer Davis Group’s recent hit ‘Gimme Some Lovin’.” WK

Uncle Arthur was about “the archetypal mommy’s boy, whose one stab at snapping the apron strings shatters when he realizes his new love cannot cook.” AMG “The final track, Please Mr. Gravedigger, “with its storm-swept lament for a murdered little girl,” AMG “was ‘a macabre duet for voice and sound effects,’ and has been described as ‘one of pop’s genuinely crazy moments.’” WK

In early 1969, Bowie recycled a number of songs from the album as well as other material for a collection of music videos called Love You Till Tuesday. The film was directed by Malcolm J. Thomson. Bowie’s intent was to use it to promote himself to record companies. He recorded one new song for the collection – “Space Oddity.” The film wasn’t released at the time (it finally saw the light of day in 1984), but Bowie did land a deal with Mercury Records based on an audition tape that included a demo of “Space Oddity.” WK

Notes: A 2010 reissue added a second CD with A and B-sides of singles from the era, including “The London Boys” (B-side of “Rubber Band”), “The Laughing Gnome” / “The Gospel According to Tony Day,” and “Did You Ever Have a Dream” (B-side of “Love You Till Tuesday”). It also included unreleased singles “When I Live My Dream” / “Karma Man,” “London Bye Ta-Ta,” and “In the Heat of the Morning.” There were also some alternate recordings and BBC performances.

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Last updated 7/29/2021.

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