David Bowie – The ‘Mercury’ demos (2019)

Dear Record Company man

How many releases from the “Space oddity” demos era can there be? This is getting absurd!

The Bowie estate has run amok with this. During 2019, celebrating 50 years since these recordings, they have released three super expensive vinyl things and one slightly less expensive 5-CD box. There has been a 4-vinyl singles box, a 3-vinyl singles box and one vinyl LP box with fancy packaging. I don’t care for singles, it is only a mess to change the speed on the turntable, and I thought the “The ‘Mercury’ demos” box was way too expensive. But I also have this OCD, I am a compulsive collector, and in the end, I needed to have it.

This is a 42 minutes long heavy duty LP with wooden music recorded early in 1969. David and his friend John “Hutch” Hutchinson play their set of songs from the time. Hermione Farthingale, the third member of their short-lived band Feathers, had recently left for America and these demos are done as a duo.

In between songs we hear banter between the boys as well as instructions from David to the record company man. Several songs would end up on David’s next album “David Bowie” also known as “Space oddity” released in 1969.

The first song is the uncut version of the demo of “Space oddity” that was released in the “Sound and vision” box in 1989. “Janine” is great with the chorus from The Beatles’ “Hey Jude” sung in the end. Inspired!

David is singing about the Swedish room in “An occasional dream”. On the “Space oddity” album the song “Conversation piece” was in or out depending on which release you have. It went in and out through the years. Here we get the early demo of the song, in its purest form. Delicate and nice.

The next song is “Ching-a-Ling”, which is a curiosity at its best. Is it a new track? Maybe… but no, it was on the CD deluxe version of David’s first album. David speak about Hermione before the song. This was pre-Angie mind you. The song is a folk tune that never made it to any studio album. It would have suited better on the 1969 album than on the debut from 1967 anyway.

The last song on the first side, “A letter to Hermione” is very soft and even more heartfelt than on the album proper.

The second side has two covers, “Love song” by Lesley Duncan and “Life is a circus” by Roger Bunn. It’s nice mushy folk music, but nothing to break the bank for though.

The only new song to me is “Love to the dawn” which is a mellow little piece that isn’t that bad. It has the feeling of “The man who sold the world” album, but of course it would have been played with a full band setting.

“When I’m five” is a curious song that seems to have been hanging around in David’s first years as an artist. The lyrics is as naïve as its content. I have heard it before on the “Love you till Tuesday” compilation LP from 1992. That LP is a collection of baroque pop and music hall tunes. Put it together with “Let’s dance” and prepare to have your mind blown.

I will chew and spit tabacco as my grandfather Jones!


My rating: 4/10


Side A:

  1. Space oddity
  2. Janine
  3. An occasional dream
  4. Conversation piece
  5. Ching-a-ling
  6. I’m not quite (Letter to Hermione)

Side B:

  1. Love to the dawn
  2. Love song
  3. When I’m five
  4. Life is a circus

Best songs: “An occasional dream”, “Conversation piece”, “Letter to Hermione” and “Love to the dawn”.

Produced by: Tony Visconti

Media: Mono heavy duty vinyl LP in a fancy box

Released: June 28, 2019


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