Released: 28 June 2019
David Bowie: vocals, guitar, Stylophone
John ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson: vocals, guitar
- ‘Space Oddity’
- ‘An Occasional Dream’
- ‘Conversation Piece’
- ‘I’m Not Quite’ (aka ‘Letter To Hermione’)
- ‘Lover To The Dawn’
- ‘Love Song’
- ‘When I’m Five’
- ‘Life Is A Circus’
The ‘Mercury’ Demos is a collection of ten mono recordings made by David Bowie and John ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson in spring 1969.
The album contains four songs which appeared on Bowie’s eponymous second album (sometimes known as Space Oddity) in 1969: ‘Space Oddity’, ‘Janine’, ‘An Occasional Dream’, and ‘Letter To Hermione’.
The recording of ‘Space Oddity’ had been released on the Sound + Vision box set. The other nine recordings are all previously officially unreleased.
The recording of ‘Janine’, meanwhile, contains a brief section sung to the melody of the Beatles‘ Hey Jude.
Of the remainder, ‘Conversation Piece’ was released in 1970 as the b-side of ‘The Prettiest Star’, and was also re-recorded in 2000 for the shelved Toy album. The later version was issued on the bonus disc with initial copies of Heathen.
‘Ching-A-Ling’ was written in 1968 and given a full studio recording on 24 October that year by Tony Visconti. It was intended as a single credited to Turquoise, Bowie’s band at the time, but plans for its release came to nothing.
‘Lover To The Dawn’ bears a resemblance to Bowie’s song ‘Cygnet Committee’, while ‘Love Song’ was written by singer-songwriter Lesley Duncan and later recorded by Elton John.
‘When I’m Five’ was another 1968 composition, recorded that May for a BBC radio session. That version also appeared in Bowie’s 1969 film Love You Till Tuesday.
A different demo of ‘Life Is A Circus’ had been previously released on the Clareville Grove Demos box set earlier in 2019. It was written by Roger Bunn and originally recorded by the band Djinn.
The ‘Mercury’ Demos was released as a box set containing a photographic print of Bowie, two reproduction contact sheets, and sleeve notes by Mark Adams. It received considerable criticism upon its announcement for its high retail price, which in the United Kingdom was set at £80.
The box set followed the release of the Spying Though A Keyhole and Clareville Grove Demos 7″ single sets, which similarly gathered early recordings, presumably in a bid to extend the copyright for the recordings for Bowie’s estate.
The ‘Mercury’ Demos was announced on 25 April 2019. Here’s the full press release:
“I recall how we lived on the corner of a bed”
DAVID BOWIE (WITH JOHN ‘HUTCH’ HUTCHINSON)
THE ‘MERCURY’ DEMOS 1 LP BOX SET FEATURING PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED DAVID BOWIE RECORDINGS
RELEASED ON PARLOPHONE 28th JUNE 2019
As part of the ongoing celebrations marking 50 years since David Bowie’s first hit, Space Oddity, and following the recent Spying Through A Keyhole and Clareville Grove Demos collections, Parlophone is releasing a further set of recordings known as The ‘Mercury’ Demos.
The ‘Mercury’ Demos are 10 early Bowie recordings captured live in one take to a Revox reel to reel tape machine in David’s flat in spring 1969, with accompaniment from John ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson on guitar and vocals.
The version of ‘Space Oddity’ from the Demos, originally released with edits on the Sound & Vision boxset, is presented here in its true context for the first time. The other nine recordings on the album are all previously unreleased. In addition to Bowie originals, the session also includes the Roger Bunn composition Life Is A Circus (which features as an earlier demo version on the Clareville Grove Demos set) and the Lesley Duncan composition, Love Song, later recorded by Elton John for his Tumbleweed Connection album. David’s own ‘Conversation Piece’ is announced as ‘a new song’ and ‘Janine’ features a short nineteen second section sung to the melody of The Beatles’ Hey Jude.
The session was a basic recording of the ‘Bowie & Hutch’ duo’s set list at the time and was committed to tape at the request of Mercury Records A&R man Calvin Mark Lee who wanted the tracks to send them to his boss Bob Reno. Both Calvin and Bob are referenced during the 41-minute recording, and the demos were key in securing David his recording deal with Mercury Records.
The ‘Mercury’ Demos set will come in a replica of the original tape box and will feature 1 vinyl LP, a print, two photo contact sheets and sleeve notes by Mark Adams. The labels of the LP feature the same EMIDISC acetate styling as Spying Through A Keyhole and Clareville Grove Demos with the song titles in David’s own handwriting.