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Essential early Dave!
on 27 July 2002
...This ain't rock'n'roll! This is...well, what exactly? This is a definitive collection of Bowie's releases for Deram in 1966 and 1967. DB was listening to the Velvet Underground, Scott Walker, and The Mothers of Invention at this time but these songs seem more influenced by music hall and big bands of the '20s and '30s, with waltz tempos aplenty and lots of oompah-ing brass arrangements! There's some twee psychedelia on "Sell Me A Coat" and "Ching A Ling", ultra-fey teen pop on "Love You Till Tuesday" and some semi-autobiographical cynical vignettes of Swinging London "Join The Gang", "Maid Of Bond Street" and "London Boys".
For the most part, however, it's like Listen With Mother hosted by Edgar Allen Poe. Beneath the rinky-dink arrangements are songs about a lonely bombardier who befriends two children and is run out of town as a suspected paedophile; a woman who drags up as a man to join the army; and a future in which the government has enforced mass abortion, suicide and sterilisation to stop the population explosion!
There's also some poignant songs that yearn for an idyllic childhood that never was - "Come And Buy My Toys" and the brilliant "There Is A Happy Land" (a forerunner of "After All" on MAN WHO SOLD THE WORLD).
Bowie's continual interest in Buddhism ("Quicksand", "Seven Years In Tibet") makes its first appearance here with "Silly Boy Blue".
The stand out song is "Please Mr Gravedigger",a spoken word monologue about a gravedigger who is digging a grave for the child-murderer he is contemplating killing! The only backing is a FX tape of a storm, DB stomping on a tray full of gravel, and a very convincing 'fake sneeze' ("Scuse me"). Outstanding, wierd and his first 'acting' role.
You can have fun spotting ideas and themes that Bowie has recycled on later occasions. Never one to waste an idea, the bass riff in the middle of "Join The Gang" (itself ripped off from "Gimme Some Lovin'") reappeared on "Strangers When We Meet", thirty years later; and "Ching A Ling"s melody was reworked as the synthesiser part on "Saviour Machine" from THE MAN WHO SOLD THE WORLD.
Oh, and "The Laughing Gnome" is on there too. The Bowie song no one will admit to liking, but we all secretly know all the words!
This album will make you wonder where David would be know if he had never discovered The Velvet Underground, Neitzsche and the influences that shaped his 1970s work. One thing's for sure, I'd rather listen to this CD than "Tonight" any day!