David Bowie began recording ‘Memory Of A Free Festival’ on 8 September 1969.
On ‘Memory Of A Free Festival’ was recorded at London’s Trident Studios, with Tony Visconti producing. Bowie was backed by Junior’s Eyes, the band who accompanied him for much of the Space Oddity album. Mick Wayne and Tim Renwick played guitars, John Lodge was on bass guitar, and John Cambridge played drums.
This was written as a homage to the Free Festival, organised by the Beckenham Arts Lab, which was held at Croydon Road Recreation Ground in Beckenham on 16 August 1969. There were Arts Labs all over the UK around that time. I was there, it was a very moving event and the song portrays it beautifully. David plays what was considered a toy electric organ, a Rosedale, sold through Woolworths, but it had a beautiful sound. Marc Bolan bought one as well and used it on a song called Children Of Rarn. It was only electric in the sense that a motor blew air past real miniature organ reeds, there was no circuitry inside.
Junior’s Eyes were back. We invited all our friends to sing in the end repetitive choir, many came from Beckenham. It was a blissfully chaotic session. If you were blindfolded and threw a doughnut across the room with ricochets you’d hit 15 hippies at any given angle.
Five Years (1969–1973) book
The song was completed the following day. A re-recording for release as a single was begun at Trident on Saturday 21 March 1970, with work continuing over the following two days.
The original album version was recorded at Trident on 8 and 9 September 1969, just three weeks after the event. David himself played the shaky psychedelic intro on a Rosedale electric chord organ.
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Also on this day...
- 2005: Live: Radio City Music Hall, New York
- 1990: Live: Festa Nazionale de l’Unità, Modena
- 1974: Live: Universal Amphitheatre, Los Angeles
- 1971: Travel: London to New York
Want more? Visit the David Bowie history section.