David Bowie by Andy Warhol, September 1971
David Bowie by Andy Warhol, September 1971
David Bowie, 1971, by Brian Ward
“MAGNIFICENT OUTRAGE” That’s what they’re saying about David Bowie. Ad for his 1971 album, Hunky Dory.
David Bowie’s handwritten notes on this Brian Ward photo used for the back cover of 1971’s Hunky Dory.
David Bowie’s adorable stubble and turtleneck porn, 1971
David Bowie, “Kooks”, solo acoustic, from Bowie at the Beeb, recorded June 3, 1971, broadcast June 21.
Duncan Zowie Haywood Jones (b. May 30. 1971) was by no means the first rock kid, but he was perhaps the first whose dad wrote a song to him and put it on an album, 1971′s Hunky Dory.
That version of “Kooks”, recorded in July, was quite elaborate, featuring the band soon to be known as The Spiders from Mars, with Trevor Bolder adding trumpet to his unusually busy bass, Mick Ronson’s string arrangements, and guest Rick Wakeman’s dance hall piano (who also played on “Changes”, “Life on Mars?”, and “Oh! You Pretty Things”). I think it’s perfect, one of the highlights of the album, and of David’s discography.
This is the first recording, though, recorded live by the BBC, with just David and a guitar, only 4 days after Duncan was born. This one is perfect in its own way, too, and quite a revelation. Before he starts the song, David notes that he’d been at home listening to Neil Young when he got the news of Duncan’s birth (Angela’s labor went on for 30 hours, so David left?), and this version of “Kooks” really does sound like it could have come straight off of After The Gold Rush.
That may seem an odd point of origin, especially given how very, very English “Kooks” sounds in its released version, but don’t forget that David started 1971 with his first trip to the US, traveling cross-country (from Washington DC to Los Angeles) by bus on a three-week press tour. As he said in 1999, “The whole Hunky Dory album reflected my newfound enthusiasm for this new continent that had been opened up to me. That was the first time a real outside situation affected me so 100 percent that it changed my way of writing and the way I look at things.”
It was reflected in songs inspired by Bob Dylan, Andy Warhol (both of those by name, of course), and Lou Reed, among many others, including yes, Neil Young. After the Gold Rush spent that entire year on the Billboard charts, and landed as the 20th-best selling album of 1971. It would have been inescapable for David (as indeed it was for all of us!).
In fact, David’s next recording of “Kooks”, the first official demo, was even more Neil Young-inspired, verging on the downright derivative – slower, sleepier, folkier, and honestly, a little spooky. Neil would’ve been all over this, I think. You can hear that version over @bowiesongs, Chris O’Leary’s companion tumblr to his WordPress blog Pushing Ahead of The Dame (named for the great line from Hunky Dory’s Velvet Underground tribute, “Queen Bitch”), one of the best fan-based resources for any artist on the web, and the best textual resource on Bowie, period, as well as the first volume of the book(s) coming out of it, Rebel Rebel: All the Songs of David Bowie From ‘64 to ’76 (needless to say, highly recommended).
There was another version of “Kooks” that aired on the BBC on September 21, 1971, “Bob Harris’ Sounds Of The Seventies”, which had been recorded for what turned out to be an extremely rare (500 copies) Hunky Dory promo called BOWPROMO1, featuring 7 songs from David on side 1 and 5 from Dana Gillespie on side 2. (The Bowie tracks were officially released on Record Store 2017.)
It’s quite charming, too – starting to sound considerably more British with Trevor Bolder on bass (but no brass), and Mick Ronson on acoustic guitar and vocals (but no strings) – but to me it falls short of both the polished gem of the Hunky Dory version, and the intimacy of the first BBC version. Still, you can hear David’s laughter as the song begins, and the smile of his that you hear throughout will wind up on your own face too.
(Young Duncan sucking Dad’s finger, June 29, 1971, by Ron Burton.)
My favorite versions of “Kooks” are definitely the ones from Hunky Dory and the June 1971 BBC version that I brought you at the top of this post, but all four are completely unique, and very much worth hearing. You’ll come away with an even clearer picture of how much craft David put into every aspect of his presentations, as well as a razor-sharp view of how much of it was all the way there from the very first moment.
And yeah, a reminder of how closely connected David remained to Duncan through the rest of his life. Theirs is my favorite parent-child relationship in the rock pantheon, and you can hear the beginning of it right here, days after they met for the very first time.
Space Oddity on the Ivor Novello Awards (1970)
David Bowie, 1971, in front of a billboard advertisement for Peter Noone’s cover of “Oh! You Pretty Things,” on which David also played piano. It was released well before Bowie’s own version on Hunky Dory, and reached #12 on the UK singles chart.
David Bowie and Marlene Dietrich.
Inspiration for Hunky Dory poses.
1971 portraits by Brian Ward