This is the return of #BlowByBlowByBlow.
Bowie’s first album was released on the same day as The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” That fact
combined with the album being both a commercial failure and filled with a bizarre assortment of songs that veer wildly
between Syd Barrett and Burt Bacharach probably explains why I’d never even heard of this album until last week, when I
stumbled upon a couple of Bowie documentaries on YouTube.
The Wikipedia entry for this album says that Bowie’s manager at the time was trying to mold him into an “all-around
entertainer”, hence the noted absence of anything resembling rock n’ roll on this album. Yet, the songs are filled with
incredibly bizarre lyrics, even by Swinging London standards. It’s hard for me to single out any particular track, as they are
all oblique and campy, though album-closer “Please Mr. Gravedigger” is certainly memorable given that it’s comprised solely
of a solo vocal accompanied by sound effects.
I think that Yard would find this album either a) stupid or b) brilliant.
While there are some tiny shreds of allusion to Bowie’s later work, this album honestly sounds nothing like any Bowie with
which I am familiar. For the time being, I am lumping it in with what I’ll call Bowie’s “formative period”, i.e., everything that
leads us up to “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust”.