Early On (1964 - 1966)

David Bowie

Rhino Records, 1991


REVIEW BY: Roland Fratzl


Most people seem to think that David Robert Jones' (obscure alias: David Bowie) career began with the 1969 Space Oddity album, but that just ain't so, says Major Tom! Turns out that not only did he release a whole album before that, but he had also been churning out loads of singles even earlier than that, which brings us to this collection. As you can see, it wasn't released until 1991, and it's not a studio album by any means, but since it contains the first songs that Bowie ever released upon the unfortunate public, it makes perfect sense to review it first...dig?

The very first recordings here are from early 1964, just as the Beatles, Rolling Stones, and Kinks were achieving their big international breakthroughs, and a lot of the music here was obviously inspired by those bands. Bowie was still going by his real name (he would do so until about 1966, when The Monkees' Davy Jones became a star) and he's backed by a couple of guys calling themselves the King Bees on the first few tracks. These first few songs are r&b covers, which was the typical thing to do back then if you were an aspiring rock band. It's really not that bad at all. The guitars have a dirty twang to them, and the only 17 year old David Jones contributes sax blasts and shouts and yells in a way that he never quite did again after this. If you dig mid 60's, unproduced, sloppy mod rock, chances are you'll enjoy a lot of this material. It's certainly a fascinating historical document of one of the legends of rock history as you can trace his evolution right from the start as an underground act trying desperately to make the big time.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

In the two short years that this disc covers, a couple of interesting things become apparent. Even at this early stage of his career when nobody knew who the hell he was, Bowie was already trying to play in various different styles, a trait that he would be known for later on when he became a superstar. The haunting acoustic ballad demo of "That's Where My Heart Is" and the Beach Boys melodies of "I Want My Baby Back" clearly show this. Another thing is that he wrote most of these early songs himself and kept changing his backing band, which says volumes about his ambitions, if not necessarily of his talent. Too bad for him though that all of these singles went completely ignored by the public. Apparently Jimmy Page was a session man in one of these early line-ups, The Manish Boys.

While I wouldn't necessarily call any of the music here awesome, most of it is competent, enjoyable mod rock. It's certainly more fun to listen to than many of his later critically acclaimed albums, and on a whole, his songwriting here is superior to a lot of the shit he released in the 80's and 90's. Check out the heavy distortion and feedback on "You've Got A Habit Of Leaving", from as early as 1965!! Could Bowie have been the originator of metal??

The last four songs are all interesting Bowie originals from 1966 that show a rapid evolution in his songwriting style, with better developed melodies and more sophisticated arrangements, like the unexpected swing-jazz pop rock of "Good Morning Girl", which even features Mel Torme-type scatting by Bowie!!!

C'mon, I know you wanna experience some David Bowie SCAT!

Rating: B-

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© 2003 Roland Fratzl and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Rhino Records, and is used for informational purposes only.