In the studio

On Saturday 8 March 1969 David Bowie recorded demos of 10 songs, including ‘Janine’, in an attempt to secure a record deal from Mercury Records. The recordings were made in the office of label executive Lou Reizner at their UK headquarters at 7 Albert Gate in Knightsbridge, London.

Bowie introduced the recording of ‘Janine’ with the words: “This is named after a girl that I met once, the girlfriend of a guy named George who does very nice album covers.”

Although the composition was mostly complete by the time of the recording, towards the end of the demo Bowie and Hutch aped the “na na-na na” coda of the Beatles‘Hey Jude’.

The ‘Space Oddity’ single had been completed by the end of June 1969, yet the sessions for Bowie’s second album did not start until Wednesday 16 July, at London’s Trident Studios.

The day’s sessions took place from 2pm to 5pm, and from 7pm to midnight. The musicians worked on three tracks: ‘Janine’, ‘An Occasional Dream’, and ‘Letter To Hermione’.

Bowie scattered notes played on a kalimba thumb piano – a westernised version of the African mbira – across the recording of ‘Janine’.

Jaunty, cheeky, as in ‘Like a Polish wanderer I travel onwards to your land’. Tim Renwick is on lead guitar, Terry Cox on drums, David on 12-string and kalimba and I played bass.
Tony Visconti, May 2015
Five Years (1969-1973) book

BBC recordings

Bowie recorded ‘Janine’ on two occasions for BBC radio. The first was on 20 October 1969 for the Dave Lee Travis Show on Radio 1, although it was not broadcast when the show aired six days later.

It was, however, included on Bowie At The Beeb in September 2000, in 2009 on the Special Edition of the David Bowie album, and on the 2019 box set Conversation Piece. The recording had Bowie on vocals and 12-string guitar, Mick Wayne and Tim Renwick on guitars, John Lodge playing bass, and John Cambridge on drums.

The second BBC recording was for The Sunday Show, presented by John Peel. It was recorded at the BBC Paris Studio in London on 5 February 1970 and broadcast three days later.

This version had Bowie on vocals and guitar, Mick Ronson on guitar (his first live outing with Bowie), Tony Visconti on bass, and John Cambridge playing drums. It remains officially unreleased.

The release

‘Janine’ was released on 14 November 1969 on the David Bowie album, his second self-titled long player.

In November 1969 the song was announced in the NME as the follow-up to the ‘Space Oddity’ single, but the plans came to nothing.

‘Janine’ was the b-side of a proposed US single of ‘All The Madmen’ in December 1970. Although the single was pressed, it was withdrawn from circulation and is now a collector’s item.

The 2019 box set Conversation Piece contains an early studio mix, 2009 remaster, 2019 mix, mono version, the first Radio One recording, and the Mercury demo recorded with John ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson.