David Bowie
David Bowie


2.5
average

Review

by Major Tom CONTRIBUTOR (139 Reviews)
July 25th, 2011 | 28 replies


Release Date: 1967 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Buddhism, gender-bending, paedophilia, and infanticide flirt with Anthony Newly-esque vaudeville.

David Bowie is one of those inexplicable albums, sounding unlike anything else England’s iconic musical chameleon would produce in the following four decades. It’s an anomaly in Bowie’s recording history, produced under the Deram label who poorly backed this Brixton boy’s debut LP, and in the process, transformed it into one of music’s great overlooked curios.

There’s been a lot written and said about this very early phase of Bowie’s career - most commonly quips at the record’s youthful innocence, oddity, and its more than vague similarity to Anthony Newly’s music hall tones of the same era. Bowie has never denied the influence that ‘Tony Newly’ played at the time of his naïve entry into the music business - a sentiment which the 14 tracks on David Bowie echo perhaps too strongly. The future would leave Bowie rather embarrassed about this vaudeville-tinged juvenilia, and whilst it does sound immediately less concerned and rocking than his seventies masterpieces, it does have more going for it than initial prejudice might suggest.

The songs are light and innocent with Bowie’s vocals sounding a little less passionate and technically skilled than on later recordings, whilst still remaining thoroughly charming with his ‘cheeky-chappy’ cockney delivery. We hear eloquent string sections alongside whimsical horns, organs, and plenty of silly, juvenile sound effects, such as a stereotypical German-accented squeal barking orders in the background of the Orwellian ‘We Are Hungry Men’.

Aside from the mostly jovial short-story excursions, Bowie touches on incredibly serious topics such as infanticide, present on the eerie closing number ‘Please Mr. Gravedigger’. The quirky cut is delivered a cappella in front of a soundscape comprised entirely of atmospheric sound effects, evocative of a walk through a stormy graveyard, with ‘Mr. Gravedigger’s snotty sniffles and inaudible mumbles adding to the already overwhelming weirdness. ‘Little Bombardier’ touches on paedophilia, whilst ‘She’s Got Medals’ sows the seeds for Bowie’s future tales of confused sexuality. Here, it’s delivered in a semi-comical fashion, made all-the-more humorous by the knowledge that ‘medals’ was sometimes used as a slang term for ‘balls’, back in the day.

Sure it’s juvenile, whimsical, odd, and perhaps a little too influenced by Anthony Newly at times, but David Bowie shouldn’t be as big a source of embarrassment for it’s creator as it sadly seems. The youthful exuberance gives the album a gentle, lovable quality, evocative of a carefree romp through a fairytale world, complete with its many caricatures and eccentricities. The package is made all the more compelling by the tentative attempts at darker lyrical themes, dotted throughout. It doesn’t sound like the Bowie most appreciators are familiar with, but the man is hardly known for sticking with one sound. In other words, understanding his eclectic nature makes the album much easier to understand, digest and enjoy. David Bowie was simply a natural and necessary step in his musical evolution.

Ultimately, it’s far too odd and curio-worthy to be recommendable to all but devoted Bowiephiles, nor is it an ideal starting point for neophytes - it’s uniqueness serving as a poor representation of Bowie’s defining sound. Having said that, for those that do wish to venture into this naïve, youthful incarnation of David Bowie, there’s enough substance here to pick apart and devour for long enough to seem just about worthwhile, even if it does come in the unfamiliar flavour of whimsical folk-pop.


[Side Note - Anyone seriously interested in this early chapter of Bowie’s work would be better off investing in The Deram Anthology 1966-68. It contains David Bowie in its entirety, and adds the majority of singles and outtakes Bowie recorded whilst operating under the Deram label. If you’re going this far it makes more sense to see the complete picture, rather than just catch a brief glimpse.]



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user ratings (144)
Chart.
2.6
average

Comments:Add a Comment 
Tom93M
Contributing Reviewer
July 25th 2011


1106 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

Can’t believe this hadn’t been reviewed yet. Anyway, here begins my reviews of David Bowie’s studio discography.

MutnikSpusic
July 25th 2011


560 Comments


good luck but intro is yuck-esque

Acanthus
July 25th 2011


9543 Comments


Great start Tom!

Digging: Falls of Rauros - The Light That Dwells in Rotten Wood

Xenorazr
July 25th 2011


438 Comments


You have my best wishes, good sir. I was actually considering doing him for my next discography review, but I'll be curious to see what you have to say instead.

My stepfather is obsessed with Bowie, so that's what has me curious in his music.

Tom93M
Contributing Reviewer
July 25th 2011


1106 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

Thanks for the good lucks and all that ppl. Space Oddity will be up tomorrow.

AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
July 25th 2011


7338 Comments


Looking forward to this discog, I'm just getting into Bowie

Tom93M
Contributing Reviewer
July 25th 2011


1106 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

AliW1993 - Cool. What have you checked out so far?


omnipanzer
July 25th 2011


21459 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Nice job Tom, looking forward to these.

Tom93M
Contributing Reviewer
July 25th 2011


1106 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

omnipanzer - Cheers, dude.


AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
July 25th 2011


7338 Comments


So far I have Hunky Dory, Ziggy and Low, of which the latter is my favourite.

Tom93M
Contributing Reviewer
July 25th 2011


1106 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

AliW1993 - Low is prob my fave too. There's plenty more great stuff he did in the 70s but thats a nice start.

AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
July 25th 2011


7338 Comments


Yeah I'll get them all eventually but I'm still getting to grips with those first

Tom93M
Contributing Reviewer
July 25th 2011


1106 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

AliW1993 - Good idea. Those albums are too important to pass by quickly.


Jethro42
July 25th 2011


12440 Comments


Man you rule for doing that endless discog. I'm really interested in reading the whole thing. Keep the good work up and have a big pos.

Tom93M
Contributing Reviewer
July 25th 2011


1106 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

Jethro42 - Thanks a lot man. Look forward to reading your future comments.

13themount
January 23rd 2012


173 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I like his Tony Newley era; better getting images than this as it has all the songs.

Ire
October 20th 2012


41780 Comments


hehe poopy album

NightProwler
October 20th 2012


6350 Comments


Best album-cover ever

Digging: Captain, We're Sinking - The Animals Are Out

Trebor.
Contributing Reviewer
August 2nd 2013


50380 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

This album is pretty lol

Digging: Viper the Rapper - You'll Cowards Don't Even Smoke Crack

omnipanzer
August 2nd 2013


21459 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

It's what you would expect from the time, hence my rating of average.



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