The songs

Bowie At The Beeb contained various rarities and unusual performances, with a handful of tracks unavailable elsewhere.

‘In The Heat Of The Morning’ was rejected as a potential single by Deram, which led to Bowie’s departure from the label. The song remained unreleased until 1970, although Bowie had recorded versions for Top Gear in 1967 and 1968. The second of these was included on Bowie At The Beeb.

‘Karma Man’ was another failed Deram contender. It was written as a potential b-side for the rejected singles ‘Let Me Sleep Beside You’ and ‘When I Live My Dream’ and, as with ‘In The Heat Of The Morning’, remained unreleased until the 1970 compilation The World Of David Bowie. Bowie recorded it twice for the BBC; the first, with backing vocals by Tony Visconti and Tyrannosaurus Rex’s Steve Peregrine Took, can be heard on Bowie At The Beeb.

Bowie recorded ‘Silly Boy Blue’ during his first two BBC sessions. The second of these was arranged by Tony Visconti for strings, keyboards and percussion, and featured Tibetan cymbals and gongs, and a chant of “Chime Chime Chime” in tribute to Bowie’s Buddhist mentor Chime Youngdong Rimpoche.

The earliest known version of ‘The Width Of A Circle’ was recorded for the BBC’s The Sunday Show on 5 February 1970, and included on Bowie At The Beeb. This was an embryonic version, significantly different from the one heard on The Man Who Sold The World, and omitted some of the song’s lengthy instrumental passages and the second half of the lyrics.

‘Almost Grown’ was a 1959 Chuck Berry song which Bowie recorded for the BBC on 3 June 1971. Performing with the Spiders From Mars, Bowie shared vocals with his former schoolmate Geoff MacCormack, here using the pseudonym Geoffrey Alexander.

The song was an early contender for the Ziggy Stardust sessions, but was dropped in favour of Berry’s ‘Round And Round’.

Recorded at the same session was ‘Looking For A Friend’, which found Bowie sharing vocals with guitarist Mark Carr-Pritchard. ‘Looking For A Friend’ was intended as a follow-up to the Arnold Corns’ versions of ‘Moonage Daydream’ and ‘Hang On To Yourself’. It was never released by the short-lived band, making it exclusive to the Beeb collection.

A better-known track is ‘Eight Line Poem’, which appeared on the Hunky Dory album. However, Bowie never performed it live, making the 21 September 1971 recording the only known non-RCA version.

The Hunky Dory outtake ‘Bombers’ was recorded for the BBC on 3 June 1971. This version contained a slightly different ending from the album recording, with the lines “Except a man, dear Lord, who looked like you/Used to look in my holy book”, in place of “Floating high up in the sky”.

Cover artwork

The cover of Bowie At The Beeb featured a painting of David Bowie by Guy Peellaert.

This was Bowie’s final collaboration with Peellaert, who had previously illustrated the sleeve of 1974’s Diamond Dogs. The artist died of cancer in November 2008.

The Bowie At The Beeb artwork was based on a photograph by Mick Rock, who also contributed an image of Bowie in the centre pages of the album’s booklet. Other photographers whose work was included were Jeff Griffin, Brian Ward, Sukita, Vernon Dewhurst, Keith Macmillan, Sarah MacCormack, and Bowie’s former manager Kenneth Pitt.

Initial copies of Bowie At The Beeb also came with a bonus CD, BBC Radio Theatre, London, June 27, 2000, a live performance recorded at BBC Broadcasting House on Portland Place, London.

The artwork for the bonus CD was designed by Rex Ray, who also worked on the Best Of Bowie compilation and the ‘hours…’ and Reality albums.

After the release of ‘hours…’ I worked on various posters and material to coincide with the small tour Bowie embarked on. Design elements from the ‘hours…’ package were elaborated on for the design of BowieNet. In 2000, I designed a bonus CD that was included in the collected BBC sessions release, and the first ‘collage’ BowieNet poster was resurrected in 2002 for use on the Best Of Bowie greatest hits CD and DVD packages.
Rex Ray, May 2008
RockPoP Gallery

BBC Radio Theatre, London, June 27, 2000 was reissued in November 2021, with five additional songs recorded that day, as part of the box set Brilliant Adventure (1992-2001).

The release

Bowie At The Beeb was released on 26 September 2000. The first pressing mistakenly repeated the song ‘Ziggy Stardust’ recorded on 16 May 1972. They issued a single-track CD containing the correct 18 January 1972 rendition, and later editions corrected the error.

The Japanese edition of Bowie At The Beeb came with a bonus track, a version of ‘Oh! You Pretty Things’, which was also included in the four-disc vinyl box set in 2016. The vinyl edition also included a version of ‘The Supermen’ from 25 March 1970.