In the studio
The first song taped for the album was ‘Space Oddity’, which Bowie had originally recorded in February 1969 for the TV film Love You Till Tuesday. ‘Space Oddity’ was remade on 20 June, and completed a few days later, at Trident Studios in central London, where much of Bowie’s groundbreaking early 1970s work was recorded.
Bowie had worked with Tony Visconti on a number of prior recordings, but the American producer declined to record ‘Space Oddity’, considering it a novelty song and not to his taste. Instead it was handed to Gus Dudgeon to produce, with a different line-up of backing musicians.
I thought the song was a cheap shot to capitalize on the first moon landing. I also thought it was too vocally derivative in style of both John Lennon and Simon and Garfunkel. I had already started to work on the material for David’s first album since he had signed to Mercury and his style was characteristically in a folk-rock vein; ‘Space Oddity’ was totally out of the bag. David said to me. ‘It’s a condition of my contract that I record the song.’
‘Okay, but I’m not the one to do it; I’m afraid I don’t think it’s right for you.’ (I was a very principled hippy back then.)
I suggested Gus, who had after all involved me in the Strawbs’ recording; he also wanted to work with David very badly, and he adored ‘Space Oddity’ after I played it for him.
‘Tony are you absolutely sure you want to pass?’ asked Gus.
I was adamant, so the session went ahead without me. Gus used my current favourite guitarist Mick Wayne, and I also recommended Rick Wakeman for keyboards (Rick had to play a Mellotron, which he’d never seen before that day). Rather than using the rest of Junior’s Eyes, who backed David on the remainder of the album, Gus used two respected session men, Herbie Flowers on bass and Barry Morgan on drums. (David later told me that Gus had very little to do with the recording: it was all Bowie’s arrangement and his ideas, as his original demo will support.)
The recording was a complete success and my first reaction was to assume that David would continue to work with Dudgeon. To my utter amazement David came to me afterwards and said, ‘Well, I’ve got that out of the way, now let’s carry on with the rest of the album.’
I couldn’t believe this act of loyalty, but I needed no second invitation, I wanted to do it. Ironically ‘Space Oddity’ was not an immediate success as a single, but would prove to be a hit with a subsequent re-release. My mistake was seeing what was wrong externally with this song — the subtle rip-offs. What I didn’t realize at the time was that the music was just window dressing for a subtler subject – alienation – and the setting was outer space.
Bowie, Bolan and the Brooklyn Boy
Although there were no lasting hard feelings, Bowie later publicly apologised to Dudgeon for passing him over for the rest of the album in favour of Visconti. The following year Dudgeon began working with Elton John, and produced the singer’s acclaimed early albums.
I did the rest of the album with Tony, which I think hurt Gus at the time. Sorry Gus, I didn’t mean to do that to you! I was friends with Tony you see, and I didn’t know you very well. You were petit bourgeois, you had an apartment!
If things had gone another way I guess I would have stayed with Gus. I might have been Elton John, mum!
Any Day Now, Kevin Cann
Recording for the second David Bowie album continued at Trident on 16 July 1969. Three songs – ‘Janine’, ‘An Occasional Dream’, and ‘Letter To Hermione’ – were laid down on that day, with the sessions running from 2-5pm and from 7pm to midnight.
The core of the backing band – Tim Renwick, John ‘Honk’ Lodge, Mick Wayne and John Cambridge – were from the band Junior’s Eyes, who also performed with Bowie for a handful of live dates and a BBC session in October 1969. Drummer John Cambridge joined Bowie’s next band Hype, and towards the end of the production introduced Bowie to guitarist Mick Ronson, who would play a key role on future recordings.
At the mixing stage of this album, John Cambridge, the drummer in Junior’s Eyes, introduced us to his guitar player friend from Hull – Mick Ronson. Mick came to the mix of ‘Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud’, and was persuaded to play a little guitar line in the middle part and joined in the handclaps on the same section. That is actually the first appearance of Mick Ronson on a David Bowie album.