David Bowie – Aylesbury Friars Club 1971 (Rattlesnake RS-193)


Aylesbury Friars Club 1971 (Rattlesnake RS-193)

Friars Club, Aylesbury, England – September 25, 1971

Intro., Fill Your Heart, Buzz The Fuzz, Space Oddity, Port Of Amsterdam, The Supermen, Oh!  You Pretty Things, Eight Line Poem, Changes, Song For Bob Dylan, Andy Warhol, Queen Bitch, Looking For A Friend, Around & Around, Waiting For The Man

1971 was a relatively quiet, yet very crucial year for David Bowie.  The early months were spent in America doing press and publicity but with no performing since he didn’t have his union card yet.  The summer months were spent writing and recording Hunky Dory with a well received appearance at the Glastonbury Fair on June 23rd.  After the new album was finished he went back to America for more publicity and upon his return to England played this show at the Friars Club in Aylesbury on September 25th.  Journalist Kris Needs writes that he “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, Lou and Warhol…the response to that gig was amazing.”  In Needs’ assessment, this is the show that convinced Bowie that he could attain popularity in his home country.  

This is a very good and clear audience recording that some speculate was recorded on semi-professional equipment.  For many years it was hoarded by high end collectors but finally surfaced in 2003.  Except for BBC sessions, this is the earliest recording of David Bowie in circulation.  Very quick it was pressed, appearing on Close To The Golden Dawn and later The Spiders From Aylesbury  (DBUK-7109) which also contains a 1971 interview from Los Angeles.  Aylesbury Friars Club 1971 is a bit more clear and has a longer introduction.

Bowie is joined on stage by Mick Ronson (guitar), Trevor Boulder (bass), Woody Woodmansey (drums), and ex-Animals Tom Parker on piano (Rick Wakeman had already joined Yes at this point and was recording Fragile at this time).  They worked with Bowie on the new album.  This is their first live date together and would later be The Spiders From Mars. The set list consists of several covers, his previous hit record “Space Oddity,” and six songs from the new album Hunky Dory.  The tape begins with the owner introducing Bowie, saying, “Lets have a warm Friars Club Aylesbury welcome for a very rare appearance of David Bowie.”  The first two songs are Bowie and Ronson playing two Biff Rose covers, “Fill Your Heart” and “Buzz The Fuzz,” which is called “a Los Angeles song.”

Bowie depreciates “Space Oddity” saying is “one of my own that we get over with as soon as possible.”  He makes the rocket sound effects himself during the course of the song (“let’s pretend it.”)  He continues with an emotional, faithful cover of the Jaques Brel tune “The Port Of Amsterdam.”  After the catharsis the rest of the band join Bowie and Ronson on stage.  He becomes extremely chatty speaking about his travels in America.  “We’re going to America, land of subways. Underground stations, the subways are rather like the Underground, y’know you still get lots of people who wait for hours for the train, they all have that thing of going to the edge of the platform and looking down into the tunnel. God… I don’t know what they expect to come out? Do they expect something other than a train to come out of it? All kinda leaning looking over, but you have to be a sadist or a masochist to take the subway in America, ’cause if you go on in a crowd within five or ten minutes somebody’s got a good grip on you and (in an American accent) ‘Stay on three more stops and I’ll give you fifty cents.'”

He rambles on more about murders before introducing “The Supermen” from The Man Who Sold The World.  The next six songs all come from the new album Hunky Dory.  He introduces the band and does some Monty Python imitations before “Oh!  You Pretty Things.”  Bowie sings and plays piano on this, and afterwards brings out Parker to play on “Changes.”  “I don’t know the guitar chords so I’ll stand here like a twit.”  The next three songs, “Song For Bob Dylan,” “Andy Warhol” and “Queen Bitch” are all songs “about people.”  The first two are obvious, but the third is for Lou Reed whom he met that year while in New York.  The Chuck Berry cover “Round & Round” is the final song of the set and, after being prodded by the mc Peter and the audience, Bowie comes out and plays the Velvet Underground cover “Waiting For The Man” as the encore.  Aylesbury Friars Club 1971 is packaged in a single jewel case with a thick insert with rare photos from the era.  With acceptable sound quality and being of historic significance, this is a great release worth having.     

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