The Real Reason David Bowie Hated His Debut Album
via David Bowie / Youtube
In the midst of the 1960s, rock music underwent rapid advancements. With influential bands like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones pushing the boundaries of rock and roll, numerous emerging acts emerged, each with their unique approach.
From the gritty blues of The Yardbirds to the experimental art rock of The Velvet Underground, the genre was evolving. Although David Bowie seems like a perfect fit in this diverse landscape, his initial venture into rock music was far from the iconic Ziggy Stardust era.
Bowie’s Debut Album
David Bowie’s first album was created during the era when The Beatles released Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Initially known for his acoustic guitar skills, Bowie’s debut album carries a slightly outdated sound compared to his later works.
Reflecting the vibrant rock music of that time, the initial introduction to Bowie’s iconic alter ego, ‘The Starman,’ often incorporates elements of vaudeville music. The songs like “Rubber Band” and “Love You Till Tuesday” rely on extravagant arrangements to captivate the listeners.
Disowned, Yet Foreshadowing
Despite receiving positive reviews from music publications at the time, Bowie quickly disowned the album when reviewing his past works. When reflecting on his early career, Bowie expressed a lack of affection for this particular period, stating in an interview with Q Magazine:
“No, I haven’t much to say about that in its favour. Lyrically, I guess, it was striving to be something, the short storyteller. Musically it’s quite bizarre. I don’t know where I was at. It seemed to have its roots all over the place, in rock, vaudeville, and music hall, and I don’t know what. I didn’t know if I was Max Miller or Elvis Presley.”
Although there are several puzzling instances throughout the album, Bowie offers a preview of the peculiarities that would occur in the future. In the closing song, “Please Mr. Gravedigger,” the unsettling audio production creates an ominous atmosphere, suggesting the unconventional genre explorations he would delve into as his career progressed.
The Ever-Changing Music Persona
As Bowie developed as a songwriter, he discovered the ideal platform to express his musical identity in the form of “Space Oddity,” which eventually became one of his initial notable successes.
While he initially maintained a folksy element in his music during the early stages, he gradually progressed towards a grander vision, ultimately culminating in the creation of Ziggy Stardust. This extravagant concept album revolved around a rock and roll extraterrestrial being who descended to Earth with the mission to rescue humanity.
Bowie himself acknowledged that his diverse influences became overwhelming for one singular persona. He constantly transformed himself with each new album, adopting different identities such as ‘The Thin White Duke’ while embracing krautrock, creating the American counterpart to Ziggy on ‘Aladdin Sane,’ and evolving into a popular figure in the 1980s with albums like Let’s Dance, where he became a pin-up star.
The Timeless Appeal of His Debut Album
Despite David Bowie’s dismissal of the album, it remains a solid collection of songs that align with the narrative approach commonly found in English rock during that era, much like Ray Davies. Even in retrospect, Bowie began to recognize the peculiarities that made his debut album unique.
He recounted to Uncut, saying:
“It was make-your-mind-up time… I felt: well, I don’t wanna be like this. I wanna keep my options open; there’s lots of things I like. So it was: ‘How can I do this so I can try everything? How can I be really greedy?'”