Parlophone is continuing its series of David Bowie demo releases this June with a new volume, The Mercury Demos. Arriving on June 28, The Mercury Demos follows the recent Spying Through A Keyhole and upcoming Clareville Grove Demos (due on May 17). An LP rather than a collection of singles, it presents ten early, one-take recordings from the future superstar, recorded on a Revox reel-to-reel tape machine in Bowie’s flat in spring 1969, with accompaniment from his friend and collaborator John “Hutch” Hutchinson on guitar and vocals.
Longtime fans will be familiar with the take of “Space Oddity” heard here, which was originally released in edited form on the classic Sound and Vision box set. The remaining nine demos are previously unissued in any form, including covers of Roger Bunn’s “Life in a Circus” (another version of which is on The Clareville Grove Demos) and Lesley Duncan’s hauntingly beautiful “Love Song,” later recorded by artists as diverse as Elton John, Dionne Warwick, and Neil Diamond. Bowie announces his “Conversation Piece” as a new song, and “Janine” incorporates a short, 19-second section sung to the melody of The Beatles’ then-recent “Hey Jude,” the U.K.’s top-selling single of 1968.
This release represents a basic recording of the “Bowie & Hutch” duo’s setlist at the time. It was recorded at the request of Mercury Records’ A&R man Calvin Mark Lee, who wanted the tracks to send them to his boss Bob Reno. Both Lee and Reno are mentioned during the 41-minute session, and the demos were pivotal in earning Bowie his recording deal with the label. “Space Oddity,” “Janine,” and “An Occasional Dream” would all be featured on Bowie’s self-titled Mercury debut, released in November 1969.
The Mercury Demos is housed in a replica of the original tape box, and includes the LP, a print, two photo contact sheets, and new liner notes by Mark Adams. The LP’s labels feature the same EMIDISC acetate style as Spying Through A Keyhole and Clareville Grove Demos, with the song titles in Bowie’s own handwriting. Look for this release on June 28 from Parlophone. You’ll find the track listing and pre-order links below!
- “Space Oddity”
- “An Occasional Dream”
- “Conversation Piece”
- “I’m Not Quite (aka Letter To Hermione)”
- “Lover To The Dawn”
- “Love Song”
- “When I’m Five”
- “Life Is A Circus”
David Bowie – vocals, guitar and Stylophone
John ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson – vocals and guitar
The LP is mono and plays at 33 1/3 r.p.m.