The Past Grows Larger


As you’ll see in Ashes to Ashes, I made a joke that I expected the Bowie estate to release “Blaze” or another Blackstar outtake on his birthday, thus rendering the book incomplete before it published. This, surprisingly, did not happen (still a few hours left, though). But there is “new” Bowie music today nonetheless.

This Parlophone set of demos, perversely to be issued only on 7-inch vinyl singles for the time being, could have been titled DB ’68, as it seems to be mostly material written and demoed that year (or at the dawn of 1969, with “Space Oddity”). The “new” songs are:

Angel, Angel, Grubby Face. Demoed for Bowie’s never-made second Deram album, it was described by Nicholas Pegg as Bowie still being under the influence of British writers Keith Waterhouse and Alan Sillitoe, from whom he’d taken plotlines and titles for his first album (“Uncle Arthur,” “There Is a Happy Land,” “Little Bombardier”).

Mother Grey seems to be along the same lines, another piece of DB’s “surreal naturalism” period, lyrically. Demoed around late 1967/early 1968, and likely another “2nd Deram LP” contender.

Goodbye 3d (Threepenny) Joe. A title circulating for years, and I wondered in Rebel Rebel if it was the midway point between the transformation of “London Bye Ta Ta” (which has a new demo version in this set) into “Threepenny Pierrot” for the Looking Glass Murders in 1970. It seems possibly not, but we’ll see soon enough!

Love All Around. The scoop! Not even the title had been mentioned in Bowie histories, lists of bootlegs, etc., until now, I believe.

In addition, an upcoming auction lists three more unknown DB demos from 1965—“How Can i Forget You,” “I Live In Dreams” (“which includes a false start and some discussion around the key of the song”) and “It’s My True Love.”

The Parlophone set seems in part to be a copyright dump (hence the notice that the songs appeared for likely six hours on “streaming services” in December) and thus suggests in the years to come, we might get official releases of the heap of unreleased Bowie demos from that period—“Right on Mother,” “Rupert the Riley,” etc.

So as the Strokes once said, the end has no end. Here’s to Bowie’s birthday, and hope all of you are well.

Requisite hype coda: bookNYC tour dates.



16 Responses to The Past Grows Larger

  1. Paul F says:

    Reading Rebel Rebel right now and enjoying it immensely. I thought of you as soon as I heard this news. The job ain’t over yet, my friend.

  2. Phil O. says:

    Down the road, when you’ve retired, these “new” songs will give you a good opportunity to get us all to buy Rebel Rebel and Ashes to Ashes again (and yes, OF COURSE I will buy them again… to sit next to my 3+ copies of Pegg’s book, too!)

  3. I must admit, I never would have expected anything like this to be released any time soon, regardless of the copyright extension tricks.

    The fact that this material was posted on streaming services last month for a few hours fascinates me. Is this a common practice among labels these days? Were the songs public and tagged appropriately? Have other unreleased early Bowie recordings come and gone under our noses? Ernie Johnson up for four hours on Spotify? Love Is Strange an hour and a half on Amazon Prime?? Bunny Thing spends a whole three days on Deezer???

    • col1234 says:

      i’m joking on the “six hours” bit but I saw utterly no sign any fan was aware this stuff was streaming. made me wonder if they did it on Xmas day or something.

      & was thinking specifically of Van Morrison recently putting up a legendary “Astral Weeks” era 1968 concert for less than a day on UK iTunes, then yanking it

  4. postpunkmonk says:

    I had long thought that as a radical move from a man no stranger to those, he could have released all of the output under his copyright ownership into the public domain upon his death. That would have been a game changer! His family and children could not possibly want. I guess I’m still waiting for a star with the clout of Bowie to make such a move, but instead we will get projects like this, from the likes of Prince and Bowie until the end of my days. Then beyond. Sigh.

  5. whitenoiz1 says:

    What’s up with the other “Blackstar” demos left in the care of Tony Viscounti?

    • col1234 says:

      there’s 3 different things: the home demos that DB made for Blackstar, the studio outtakes from the Blackstar sessions (like “Blaze”), and the “last” home demos DB made soon before his death. i think the most likely ones to be released are a couple studio outtakes, maybe in the last box set. but who knows.

  6. audiophd says:

    Excited about this, but “meh” to the whole 7″ vinyl idea…those Parlophone guys & gals really know how to take roughly what we want and present it in the most convoluted/least accessible way possible. Who am I kidding…still buying it.

  7. Peter Haywood says:

    I hope all these songs surface on cd one day soon…

  8. Eamonn says:

    Sorry for being a bit slow but can someone explain the copyright 50 year thing and does this mean that there is a good chance we will hear of similar rare Bowie recordings from his 70s golden years as a Bowie Birthday announcement every Jan 8th during the 2020s?

    • col1234 says:

      it’s pretty much a EU thing. in the US, we only just got 1923 public this year, and the idea that, say, “Gone With the Wind” will ever be public domain is laughable.

      essentially you, as an EU copyright holder, have to “reboot” your copyright. In 2011, the EU sound recordings copyright term was extended to 70 years after release. so if you “release” “Angel Angel Grubby Face” in 2018, you’ve got copyright for another 70 years. So, in short, most of us will likely be dead or in a state where we won’t care about such things whenever much of DB’s music finally hits public domain.

      the plus is that they may have to finally release stuff like “Shilling the Rubes” to qualify for this. but the counter force is that no one else *has* these recordings. DB’s “Ernie Johnson” maybe technically in EU public domain now, but it’s not like anyone can listen to the thing.

      that said, could the person who buys those 1965 demos at auction (which I don’t know if DB ever copyrighted—no one like Pegg or Cann has noted these titles) release them on Spotify as “David Bowie’s Groovy Hits of 1965?” maybe?

    • Coagulopath says:

      Bowie recordings from his 70s golden years

      Sadly, things will dry up in the 70s because Bowie signed with RCA.

      A demo exists to attract the attention of a record label. Bowie would have had little reason to make one post-1971, and even less to release it.

  9. Coagulopath says:

    This will be interesting as connective tissue: more detail on how Bowie got from A to B in his artistic life, etc.

    And you never know, there might be an actual musical masterpiece on there.

  10. audiophd says:

    The thing I’m most intrigued by is the mention that they “briefly” had these up on streaming services, yet no one in the entire global Bowie community noticed it. What did they do, release them as bonus tracks on the Black Tie White Noise Digital single for 2 minutes on Christmas morning? It’s too ridiculous to be upset about it…I’m really just curious as to how it was actually done.

  11. Matthew says:

    The thing that I noted was the press release stating these tracks were taken from an archive approve by DB, which strongly suggests more tracks still to come at some later date. Here’s hoping.
    Ps how’s plans for a visit to UK going?

  12. sigma says:

    Shilling the Rubes will be released in 2025

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