The grotesque “Bombers” is a throwback to the psychedelic comic-strip songs of Bowie’s first LP. Pilots, having received the all-clear sign, drop their bombs on a waste dump inhabited only by a old man. The smoke clears and the old man’s still sitting there, so they keep dropping bombs on him; the Pentagon and Queen Elizabeth II get involved, nothing is revealed. “A skit on Neil Young,” Bowie called it in 1972, so maybe “Bombers” is a parody of something like “After the Gold Rush.”
Bowie debuted the song at his BBC session in June 1971, a performance that’s restrained and tasteful compared with the bizarre studio take, which features doo-wop bassman vocals doubling Trevor Bolder and what may well be Bowie’s all-time-worst studio vocal.
Bowie considered putting “Bombers” on Hunky Dory but ultimately cut the track (though it was included an early promo version of the LP). He kicked around the idea of using it on a later record (including a stillborn LP meant to bridge the gap between Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust) but finally consigned it to the bottom drawer. First performed at the BBC on 3 June 1971, and recorded between June-August 1971. Finally released on Ryko’s 1990 reissue of Hunky Dory.
Top: The legendary Green Lantern #85, August-September 1971, “Snowbirds Don’t Fly.” (O’Neil/Adams).