November 23, 2013

David Bowie - Aylesbury Friars Club 1971 (2006)

David Bowie's September 25th, 1971 appearance at the Friars Club in Aylesbury, England was, for all intents and purposes, the first live appearance of the band that would soon come to be known as The Spiders from Mars (for this show, they were joined by ex-Animal Tom Parker on piano). Bowie had spent the previous summer months appearing at the Glastonbury Fair (in June), completing the recording sessions that would eventually yield Hunky Dory, and traveling to the U.S. to do a publicity tour (he couldn't perform due to not having a union card), during which, while in New York, he entered the orbit of Andy Warhol and Lou Reed. Journalist Chris Needs: "[Bowie] was still going around with his long hair and floppy hats, but he was still great to watch on stage. He had just got back from New York and was full of talk about the people he'd met there." At this point in time, Bowie was still in the process of building a fan base on both sides of the Atlantic despite his brush with success two years earlier with the "Space Oddity" single. However, it was no secret that he had nagging doubts about his ability to ever gain the kind of popularity he desired in the U.K. And legend has it that it was the 1971 Aylesbury gig that convinced him otherwise.

At the time of Bowie's performance, the Friars Aylesbury club had recently relocated to the Borough Assembly Hall after being kicked out of their previous venue eight months prior. The new location had twice the capacity and Bowie's appearance was highly anticipated for a number of reasons. As audience member Rick Pearce recalls, "Bowie arrived on stage to a collective "Oooh!" worthy of Frankie Howerd. I'm not sure what some people were expecting. Major Tom, or a drag act or something of both, but he certainly looked different. Wearing huge blue oxford bags, a white satin jacket and the red and black platforms seen on the reissue of the Space Oddity  album, he was light years away from your average beardy, shaggy, muso bloke." Drummer Woody Woodmansey has said that the band spent weeks rehearsing for the Aylesbury show, as it was their first as a group and something of a "coming out" party for Bowie. Interestingly, the show begins tentatively with Bowie and Mick Ronson doing an acoustic set, which includes a couple of Biff Rose covers, Jacques Brel's "Port of Amsterdam," and "Space Oddity," which Bowie self-deprecatingly prefaces by saying, "This is one of my own that we get over with as soon as possible."

Eventually the entire band joins Bowie and Ronson on stage for a 10-song set that includes great renditions of "The Supermen," "Oh! You Pretty Things" (which is preceded by some Monty Python imitations) and an early version of "Queen Bitch" with different lyrics. Aylesbury Friars Club 1971 offers a rare live glimpse of pre-Ziggy era Bowie, alternating between a modest hesitancy and an awareness that he is on the cusp of something great. While the audio source is certainly an audience recording, the sound is quite clear, if not slightly distant. Despite the sonic limitations, this show captures a key moment in Bowie's meteoric rise to fame in the early 1970s, and as such, it is nearly as essential as the more famous (and also amazing) Santa Monica Civic Auditorium show recorded the following year.

Aylesbury Friars Club 1971  (2006 ~ Bootleg)
 1. Introduction
 2. Fill Your Heart
 3. Buzz the Fuzz
 4. Space Oddity 
 5. Port of Amsterdam
 6. The Supermen
 7. Oh! You Pretty Things
 8. Eight Line Poem
 9. Changes
10. Song for Bob Dylan
11. Andy Warhol
12. Queen Bitch
13. Looking for a Friend
14. Around & Around 
15. Waiting for the Man

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  2. Amazing!! How come you've never told me about this before???

  3. a man has to keep a few secrets, otherwise he gets predictable ;)