Released: 22 April 2023
David Bowie: vocals, tenor saxophone
Roger Bluck, Pete Hampshire: guitar
George Underwood: guitar, harmonica, vocals
John ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson: guitar, vocals
Dek Fearnley: bass guitar, vocals
Dave Howard, Dave Clague: bass guitar
Derek Boyes: keyboards, organ
Bob Michaels: organ
Colin Wood: organ, Mellotron, flute
Big Jim Sullivan: banjo
Robert Allen, John Eager, Tat Meager: drums
Gus Dudgeon: vocals
Unknown session musicians
- ‘Liza Jane’
- ‘Louie, Louie Go Home’
- ‘Rubber Band’
- ‘The London Boys’
- ‘The Laughing Gnome’
- ‘The Gospel According To Tony Day’
- ‘Love You Till Tuesday’
- ‘Did You Ever Have A Dream’
- ‘Space Oddity’ (Love You Till Tuesday TV film version)
- ‘The Laughing Gnome’ (Vocal Take 1, Mix 1)
Laughing With Liza (Vocalion And Deram Singles 1964-1967 Plus) was a 2023 box set released in the UK for Record Store Day.
It contained five 7″ vinyl singles, plus a booklet and reproduction autograph card. The set was limited to 1,000 copies.
Laughing With Liza collated Bowie’s earliest singles, from his debut ‘Liza Jane’, originally released in 1964. It also contained a previously unreleased mix of ‘The Laughing Gnome’ (Vocal Take 1, Mix 1).
Here’s the press release:
LIZA JANE/LOUIE LOUIE GO HOME
Original copies of this 7” single are something of a holy grail for Bowie collectors, its historical importance far exceeding the two raw cover versions contained within its grooves. The seventeen and a half year old Davie Jones teamed up with school friend George Underwood, recruited three older musicians (whom he claimed to have met in a barber shop) and recorded two sides of energetic 1964 rhythm and blues, nominally produced by manager Leslie Conn who had secured a one-off single deal with Decca. What is truly remarkable is that from the get-go David fully understood the importance of publicity no doubt inspired by the work of his public relations executive father. And for this, his first record release, Davie Jones generated press coverage, appeared as a guest on BBC television’s Juke Box Jury (the record was correctly judged a ‘miss’), and with the King Bees performed ‘Liza Jane’ live twice on national television via Rediffusion’s Ready Steady Go! and BBC2’s The Beat Room.
Bowie’s Pye Records deal had expired in September 1966 and to attract interest from a new record company David’s management self-funded studio recordings of his compositions ‘Rubber Band’, ‘The London Boys’ and ‘The Gravedigger’. The results of this session so impressed Decca executives that Bowie would sign an album deal with their new Deram label a mere nine days later on the 27 October 1966. In addition the rights to these three recordings were bought by Decca for £150 and two tracks were issued as a single as part of the Deram label launch campaign in December. ‘Rubber Band’ signified a huge shift in the style of David’s writing and performance. Long gone are the American accent and the R&B references as Bowie presciently embraced English whimsy, Edwardiana and the music hall flavours that would fully flower the following year during the summer of 1967. ‘Rubber Band’ achieved a little radio play, a few encouraging reviews (some of which picked up on the Anthony Newley influence) and was regarded well enough to be rerecorded in stereo for inclusion on Bowie’s eponymous debut album issued by Deram in June 1967.
THE LONDON BOYS
‘The London Boys’ was itself a re-recording but of an unreleased Tony Hatch produced version made for Pye by David and the Lower Third, nearly a year earlier. This ‘partly autobiographical cameo of the brave and defiant little mod racing uphill along Wardour Street to an empty paradise’ features a world-weary theatrical performance by David and is rightly regarded as one of the most important of his earlier works.
THE LAUGHING GNOME/THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO TONY DAY
In the spring of 1967 ‘The Laughing Gnome’ was such a ubiquitous turntable hit that on the 29 May, The Times newspaper remarked it ‘was ecstatically plugged by the pirate stations but steadfastly remained the flop it deserved to be’ as a withering aside in its august state-of-pop review of Sgt Pepper. It’s also worth noting that diminutive mythological creatures were clearly loitering in the zeitgeist undergrowth, as on the 19th March Pink Floyd would record Syd Barrett’s composition ‘The Gnome’ for inclusion on their debut album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. Bowie’s ‘The Laughing Gnome’ is a kiddie-pop melange of David’s puntastic vaudevillian humour with a giggling Newleyesque delivery, all bound together by varispeed gnome voices and an unimaginably surreal nod to the chugging instrumentation of the Velvet Underground’s ‘Waiting for the Man’. Although not a chart hit in 1967, ‘The Laughing Gnome’ was popular enough to be kept on catalogue by Decca who successfully repromoted it during the first wave of Bowiemania, whereupon it reached No. 6 in the charts during October 1973. ‘The Gospel According To Tony Day’ is a flip side of Bowie’s humour, sardonic and embittered, as in sprechgesang he drolly roll calls acquaintances and lists their perceived failings – including one real-life Tony Day, a successful session musician who hung out with David in Denmark Street’s La Gioconda cafe (and who may, or may not, have taken one of David’s girlfriends away…).
LOVE YOU TILL TUESDAY/DID YOU EVER HAVE A DREAM
‘Love You Till Tuesday’ David’s third single for the Deram label had all the aspirations of a hit. A souped up rerecording of a track from his recent debut album, with a punchy new orchestral arrangement by Ivor Raymonde (recent successes with The Walker Brothers and Dusty Springfield under his belt), using London’s finest session musicians. The reviews were near unanimously encouraging, with Melody Maker going as far to say that with this release David was ‘one of the few really original solo singers operating in the theatre of British pop’. ‘Love You Till Tuesday’ was released in the UK, the USA, Germany, Holland and South Africa – but even with that international exposure and support it flopped everywhere and proved to be his last contractual new single release for Decca.
The ‘b’ side ‘Did You Ever Have A Dream’ recorded back in November 1966 was originally intended as an album track (even being included in the running order of an early album acetate) and in a typical Bowiesque obtuse flourish is surely the only instance in which astral flight and Penge (a London suburb neighbouring Beckenham) are referenced in the same song.
SPACE ODDITY (Love You Till Tuesday TV film version) / THE LAUGHING GNOME (Vocal Take 1, Mix 1)
David’s Decca’s recording contract lapsed on the 22 April 1968 and so as with ‘Rubber Band/The London Boys’ this first studio recording of ‘Space Oddity’ was financed by Bowie’s manager Ken Pitt. Pitt had commissioned and underwritten the making of a half-hour television special to showcase David’s talents and in early production meetings it became apparent that the programme was missing its one big musical moment. David had been recently blown away by the themes of alienation and isolation in Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (the lead character’s name ‘David Bowman’ also must have resonated) and it was from that well that the idea of ‘Space Oddity’ flowed.