Among other things, David Bowie’s a champion recycler. Not only will he resurrect songs from his past to play live, years after he’s last played them, he will reshape discarded musical material into new songs, sometimes years after the original material originated. (Ever noticed the way the octave-doubled piano lick in “Aladdin Sane” is rather similar to the closing piano bit in “Sweet Thing”? The two songs – or at least, parts of them – originated in the same track, a seven-minute piece known as “A Lad in Vain” which I’m not posting because it’s less an instrumental than an unfinished song.) Here are three examples.
“The Ching-A-Ling Song” has, like many of Bowie’s early recordings, a curious history, with several different versions circulating. The one that’s on the CD version of The Deram Collection is shorter than this one, for example. This version was originally billed as being by “Feathers,” a short-lived trio consisting of Bowie, Hermione Farthingale (yes, the “Hermione” addressed in “Letter to Hermione”), and John “Hutch” Hutchinson. The chords of that instrumental break sound a bit familiar, don’t they? Next time it comes around, the vocal melody gives it away: this is the first appearance of a melody Bowie would use a year or two later in “Saviour Machine.”
“Lover to the Dawn” is a rough draft of “Cygnet Committee,” recorded in 1968 or 1969. Its source is, apparently, an acetate disc – so it’s rather scratchy and muffled. The guitar lick, on acoustic 12-string, bears some resemblance to that of the Rolling Stones’ “Lady Jane” – something far less apparent in the song’s eventual evolution into “Cygnet Committee.” The lyrics are different, and there’s an entirely separate verse section.
Finally, “Tired of My Life” features a melody and chord sequence that were reworked, with relatively minimal changes, ten years later on as “It’s No Game.” The bridge (also salvaged as the bridge of “It’s No Game”) features some very unusual vocal harmonies… Some sources claim this is a version of the first song Bowie ever wrote; at any rate, it’s fascinating to learn how long in coming “It’s No Game” was.