Love You Till Tuesday soundtrack album cover artworkWritten by: David Bowie
Recorded: 24 October; 27 November 1968
Producer: Tony Visconti

Released: 13 May 1984

Available on:
Conversation Piece


David Bowie: vocals, 12-string guitar, handclaps
Tony Hill: guitar, vocals
Hermione Farthingale, John ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson: vocals, handclaps
Unknown: bass guitar, drums, chimes

‘Ching-A-Ling’ was written by David Bowie in 1968 for his groups Turquoise and Feathers. It was recorded later that year for a single which was never released.

David was trying to find a nonsense song that you could build up sound with, like Marc Bolan’s. You know, there are numerous ditties of Marc Bolan’s which really have very little content, but there’s this build-up of the sound. If it carried on building up you might have something, but it didn’t work and it was a rubbish song. Everybody knew it. But for some reason Tony Visconti liked it, so it got recorded.
Hermione Farthingale
The Complete David Bowie, Nicholas Pegg

Bowie was dropped by Decca/Deram after the commercial failure of his debut album, and the recording of his next single was financed by Essex Music. The session took place on 24 October 1968 at Trident Studios.

David was keen to record ‘Ching-A-Ling’ and David Platz had agreed that Essex Music should finance the independent production of the record, which would feature Feathers.
Kenneth Pitt
The Pitt Report

It was Bowie’s first time in Trident, the central London studio where he would record his breakthrough albums in the 1970s. Producing ‘Ching-A-Ling’ was Tony Visconti.

They were very enthusiastic about one song they had written and were anxious for me to record it with them. It was called ‘Ching-A-Ling’ and, after I’d heard it, I begged Denny and David Platz to let me record it. But Denny was explicitly anti-Bowie: ‘You know I’ve never “got” him’ was Denny’s take on things. ‘I’m not about to finance another of Bowie’s follies’, was how a slightly less than generous Platz put it. I was slightly baffled because it was he who had initially wanted me to work with Bowie. Once again, I did my ’embezzling’ gambit and booked Trident Studios in St Anne’s Court in late October to record ‘Ching-A-Ling’ and a second song written by [guitarist Tony] Hill, which was called ‘Back To Where You’ve Never Been’. Unfortunately within a few days Hill was out of the band and David’s friend John ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson was in. I needed another day in the studio to take Hill’s voice off and put Hutch’s voice on. I thought Platz would be over the moon with the results of this session.
Tony Visconti
Bowie, Bolan and the Brooklyn Boy

On the recording, Bowie, Hermione Farthingale and Tony Hill each sang a verse. Hill’s vocal contribution was replaced by one from John ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson. The version featuring Hill was believed lost until a tape reel and acetate disc containing the recording and ‘Back To Where You’ve Never Been’ was discovered. The disc was dated 31 October 1968.

According to Bowie’s manager Ken Pitt, Visconti was dissatisfied with Hutchinson’s performance, and the overdub session – which took place on 27 November – was not harmonious.

We successfully recorded ‘Ching-A-Ling Song’ for Essex Music to put away ‘in the can’, to be sold for large profits in the years to come no doubt. The session produced a good result in spite of Visconti trying to make me sing harmonies well above my admittedly somewhat limited vocal range (a physical impossibility of course) and generally being a prat towards me in the studio. Visconti had apparently told David he didn’t want me on the recording, but David stood his ground and kept me in, and seemed to be as annoyed as I was at the rough treatment I was receiving from his producer.
John ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson
Bowie & Hutch

The ‘Ching-A-Ling’ single was originally to have been credited to Turquoise, but the group opted to change their name to Feathers after the departure of Hill. Ultimately, however, the single was never released.

David’s publishing contract with Essex Music was due to expire on December 7, but David Platz took up his option to extend the original term by six months, as he was entitled to having not recouped the advance of royalties paid to David. In his letter taking up the option David Platz also said: “With regard to ‘Ching-A-Ling’, I have now heard a re-mixed version which I think is a great improvement and we are submitting the master to various record companies.” There were no takers.
Kenneth Pitt
The Pitt Report

An edited version of ‘Ching-A-Ling’, which omitted Bowie’s opening verse, was included in the 1969 film Love You Till Tuesday. The sequence was filmed at Clarence Studios in Greenwich, London, on 1 February 1969.

The performances to be filmed that day were to be of Feathers miming to ‘Ching-A-Ling Song’, for which of course Ken already had our vocals on tape, and to ‘Sell Me A Coat’, another track from the David Bowie album on which Hermione and I had ‘overdubbed’ our vocal parts earlier that week during our very brief recording session at Morgan Studios in Willesden.

For ‘Ching-A-Ling Song’, Malcolm had the three on us sit on very large cushions arranged in a semi-circle on a totally white film set. We were dressed, as on Hampstead Heath, in our Ossie outfits, but David had hung up his school blazer for the day. We mimed (strumming acoustic guitars and singing), smiled and acted as instructed on take after take, and ‘Ching-A-Ling Song’ was soon ‘in the can’ without a hitch.

John ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson
Bowie & Hutch

The edited audio was released in May 1984 on the Love You Till Tuesday soundtrack album, and on the compilation The Deram Anthology 1966-1968, despite Deram’s non-involvement in the recording.

It was just garbage. It’s so misrepresentative of what we were actually up to. And that’s what’s left! My children and my nieces and nephews can see this video, and I cringe.
Hermione Farthingale
The Complete David Bowie, Nicholas Pegg

Although ‘Ching-A-Ling’ was never released as a single, the riff towards the end was reused by Bowie on 1970’s ‘Saviour Machine’.

In this song we play a jazz waltz beat, with a little nod to Dave Brubeck. Again, the Moog playing is amazing, emulating symphonic instruments, a high Bach trumpet solo, a piccolo and French horns. We were very much influenced by the Walter Carlos album Switched On Bach, a brilliant party piece that displayed what a Moog in the right hands could do. By the way, the trumpet and guitar melody in the instrumental is a melody David wrote a couple of years earlier when he was in a folk trio called Feathers. It was a vocal line in a song called ‘Ching-A-Ling’.
Tony Visconti, May 2015
Five Years (1969-1973) book

Demos of ‘Ching-A-Ling’ recorded in early 1969 were released on the 2019 box sets Clareville Grove Demos and The ‘Mercury’ Demos.

The two demos, and the Trident recording, were all included in the box set Conversation Piece, released in November 2019.

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