David Bowie – Spying Through A Keyhole box set coverRecorded: 1968

Released: 5 April 2019

David Bowie: vocals, acoustic guitar, harmonica, Stylophone
John ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson: vocals, acoustic guitar

Tracklisting:

  • ‘Mother Grey’
  • ‘In The Heat Of The Morning’
  • ‘Goodbye Threepenny Joe’
  • ‘Love All Around’
  • ‘London Bye, Ta-Ta’
  • ‘Angel, Angel, Grubby Face’ (Version 1)
  • ‘Angel, Angel, Grubby Face’ (Version 2)
  • ‘Space Oddity’ (Alternative Lyrics, Demo Excerpt)
  • ‘Space Oddity’ (Alternative Lyrics, with Hutch)

A collection of acoustic and predominantly solo demo recordings by David Bowie from 1968, Spying Through A Keyhole was first released in 2019 as a box set of four 7″ vinyl singles.

The initial press release was published on 8 January 2019, what would have been Bowie’s 72nd birthday. Here’s the announcement from davidbowie.com:

“…spying through a keyhole from the other room…”

On what would have been David Bowie’s 72nd birthday and with 2019 marking 50 years since David Bowie’s first hit, Space Oddity, we are excited to announce that Parlophone is set to release a 7″ vinyl singles box set of nine previously unreleased recordings* from the era during which Space Oddity was first conceived.

DAVID BOWIE – SPYING THROUGH A KEYHOLE (DEMOS AND UNRELEASED SONGS)

PARLOPHONE SET TO RELEASE 7″ VINYL SINGLES BOX SET OF PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED* DAVID BOWIE RECORDINGS, INCLUDING EARLIEST KNOWN VERSIONS OF SPACE ODDITY.

With 2019 marking 50 years since David Bowie’s first hit, Space Oddity, we are excited to announce that Parlophone is set to release a 7″ vinyl singles box set of nine previously unreleased recordings* from the era during which Space Oddity was first conceived.

The title: Spying Through A Keyhole, is a lyric taken from the previously unknown song: Love All Around, and though most of the other titles are known, these versions have never been officially released until late last year (see footnote). Most of the recordings are solo vocal and acoustic home demo performances, unless otherwise stated.

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Mother Grey (demo)

This mid-tempo tale of a fledgling son fleeing the nest features multi-tracked vocals, guitars and harmonica from David.

In The Heat Of The Morning (demo)

A well-known early Bowie song but presented here in demo form with final lyrics.

Goodbye 3d (Threepenny) Joe (demo)

A charming demo from 1968.

Love All Around (demo)

A delightful love song from whence the title of this collection came: “I see a pop tune spying through a keyhole from the other room”.

London Bye, Ta-Ta (demo)

An early demo version of the song with completely different lyrics in a couple of the verses compared to those of the later full band versions.

Angel, Angel, Grubby Face (demo version 1)

The first and only previously known demo of this song.

Angel, Angel, Grubby Face (demo version 2)

A later version of the same song with alternative lyrics.

Space Oddity (demo excerpt)

The lyric and arrangement variations lend weight to the theory that this is possibly the first ever recorded demo of one of Bowie’s most famous songs.

Space Oddity (demo – alternative lyrics) (with Hutch)

Originally conceived as a song for a duo to perform, this is the first known version to feature John ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson again with lyric and arrangement variations.

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Due to the nature of some of the solo home demos where Bowie accompanied himself on acoustic guitar, the recording quality isn’t always of a usual studio fidelity. This is partly due to David’s enthusiastic strumming hitting the red on a couple of the tracks, along with the limitations of the original recording equipment and tape degradation. However, the historical importance of these songs and the fact that the selections are from an archive of tracks cleared for release by Bowie, overrides this shortcoming.

Spying Through A Keyhole will be limited to a vinyl only release in the spring. However, the recordings may appear in the future on other formats. More details and actual release date to follow from Parlophone.

*FOOTNOTE: Although this will be the first physical release of these tracks, Parlophone did make them available on streaming services for a limited period only in December.

The end of the press release noted that the recordings were briefly made available online at the end of 2018. They were posted on sites including Apple Music, Deezer, and Akazoo, presumably to retain copyright on the recordings. The streams were credited to JRD, and the album was temporarily titled Grey Angel Joe.

Spying Through A Keyhole tracks on Apple Music, credited to Grey Angel Joe, December 2018

The four mono 7″ singles were each housed in brown cardboard covers and white inner sleeves. The labels featured the song titles in Bowie’s own handwriting, and bore the insignia “BowieDisc – Recording Blank”. This was intended as an approximation of the way Bowie’s demos tended to look, although they were originally cut to EMIDISC acetate.

The box set also contained a postcard-sized image of Bowie. This and the cover image was taken by Ray Stevenson, taken in the flat of Tony Visconti’s flat in the summer of 1968.

Spying Through A Keyhole was sold on Bowie’s official web store alongside an exclusive black t-shirt bearing Bowie’s name and the title from the cover. The two items were also sold in a limited bundle.