David Bowie – Conversation Piece box set artworkWritten by: David Bowie
Recorded: 1969

Released: 15 November 2019

Available on:
Conversation Piece

Personnel

David Bowie: vocals, guitar

‘Jerusalem’ is a song written and recorded as a demo by David Bowie in 1969.

The song and Bowie’s delivery bear obvious debts to Bob Dylan’s acoustic songs from 1965. If Bowie was considering recording ‘Jerusalem’ for the Space Oddity album, it was likely passed over in favour of the similarly Dylanesque stream of consciousness songs ‘Cygnet Committee‘ and ‘Unwashed And Somewhat Slightly Dazed’.

Something is happening here but you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mr Jones?
‘Ballad Of A Thin Man’
Bob Dylan, 1965

Bowie’s performance, in a single take with no overdubs, was released in November 2019 in the Conversation Piece box set.

‘Jerusalem’ is also the title of a hymn by Sir Hubert Parry, with words by William Blake. Bowie sang a snippet from the hymn in the 1976 film The Man Who Fell To Earth.

Lyrics

While Kurt kicked on his moped, slings me his coloured draws
Painting hung behind me is presented to the whores
By a man who plays his sitar on a Monday afternoon
In the washroom while his typist collects percentages from the moon
It’s an ordinary diary extract, photo stacked from life
Of the murderous companion and his wife

And he’s a long way from Jerusalem by now
He’s a film scripted himself
His ma will tell you why
He blew his mind on Churchill
Just before the age of five
And the school looked so much better
While he gunned the fifth year, poof
He profiteered on the nearest mead
By selling most of himself

He won’t stand competition in any sight, shape, pride or form
But he lets you beside the coach tour round his nose
And you can stop off at Jerusalem for a blow

He could organise a food morsel in seven years from now
If you tell him it’s for the hard liquor of Mecca’s sacred cow
And he’ll probably unbutton what is left in half a fly
He’ll show you inside information plus the green upon his thigh
It’s the phone number of someone who said he’d be prepared to die
If the man would give him bubble gum and rice
And the waiter says, ‘The calvary is nice’

His life is celebration and his habits very rare
Both his eyes were made by Disney and the sex of his boardroom chair
Is determined by the comics that he read the night before
So be sure to take a candle and be prepared to lock the door
Although the sergeant’s on patrol outside his lavatory hall
His father says he’s likely to be fun, fun, fun, fun
They’ve installed electric tools in Jerusalem

So if you’ve got a dime to spare be bold and as gay as you can be
And race him to the poster stuck on Eden’s phallic tree
Where a face that you might know stares out across a bloody ground
And a caption reads: ‘A false beard and a raincoat have been found’

All the leaves will try to buy you and the fruit are awful stud
And he eats the apples with his cancerous teeth, yeah, yeah
At a quick glance you could take him for a thief
Do do do do do