with her almost one hundred years of life (1893-1993), contributed immensely to the creative industries, acting in the silent films, working on stage, directing and writing for American cinema. Lillian Gish’s career commenced in 1912 with a short silent film, and she worked tirelessly up until 1987. Many of the prevailing and fundamental film performing techniques are attributed to Lillian Gish, and she is considered a pioneer of screen acting by numerous historians.
Louise Brooks, a minor flapper in Hollywood during the late 20s, quit Paramount in rage and sailed for Europe, where she replaced an infuriated Marlene Dietrich in Pabst´sPandora´s Box (1929). The temperamental but goodhearted actress became the muse of G.W. Pabst and together they filmed yet another grim masterpiece: Diary of a lost girl, also in 1929, from which this picture was taken. Inspite of her brief and bright european career, talkies were taking over and silents were overlooked. Louise Brooks soon fell into oblivion, only to be resurrected decades later by the first film historians and by her own writing talents. She penned fabulous articles about Hollywood´s greatest luminaries, about which Lilian Gish said: “Who was this girl? I have never seen her, I have never seen any of her movies. How could she know all this?”
The Huffington Post story about a “lost” Bowie demo has caught fire on the Internet, and people keeping sending me the link and asking me about it. This is the last time I’m writing about it.
in short. Yes, it’s possible Bowie did cut some demos with the person interviewed, Ronald de Strulle. But the “demo” offered is obviously not Bowie singing. Part of the problem is that the demo is being mislabeled—in the HP article, de Strulle says it’s his song that Bowie’s just playing drums on. Yet it’s being talked up as “Bowie’s lost demo”
So is it an actual 1971 recording of a mediocre song in which Bowie’s clubbing away on the drum kit? it’s conceivable. but why has this never surfaced before? De Strulle wrote the song and owns the recording: why did he never do anything with it over the past 45 years?
The accompanying article has a host of wrong details, including:
“In the fall of 1970, a young musician from London arrived in Los Angeles
to work on demo tapes for what he and his manager hoped would be a
recording contract with a major label. It was David Bowie’s first trip
to the United States.”
Bowie first came to the US in late January 1971, as per all biographies, as well as evidenced by recordings of him doing radio interviews on the East Coast during his trip. He arrived in Washington DC, then went to New York, then Chicago & Detroit. LA was the last stop on the trip.
Bowie already had a recording contract with a major label. He was signed to Philips/Mercury. The reason he was on the trip in the first place was to promote his Mercury LP, the Man Who Sold the World, which was released in November 1970 in the US (it wouldn’t come out until spring 1971 in the UK).
Roxbury Road Studios in the Hollywood Hills, de Strulle and his partners
Tom Ayers and Aynsley Dunbar were in contact with an executive at
United Artists who asked if they could host “a new talent from across
the pond who was beginning to make a big stir.” Impressed by the
quality of recordings produced at RR Studios, United Artists promised
Bowie’s manager that his client would have privacy, first class
treatment, and 24/7 access to the studio.”
Tom Ayres (note correct spelling) was a producer and A&R guy at RCA Records. Aynsley Dunbar was a session drummer and worked with Zappa (that part of article is true). There’s no record of them co-owning a studio together, esp with the mysterious “de Strulle.”
What did exist was a home studio in Ayres’ Hollywood mansion, where artists like Gene Vincent and, yes, Bowie could record demos.
(Also, why would United Artists fund a luxurious trip for an artist signed to another label and have him work at the home studio of a producer at another rival label?)
Designed by silent screen star Lilian Gish in the 1920s, 8233 Roxbury
Road in West Hollywood resembled a Moorish castle, an architectural
style that was popular at the time… the studio in a converted garage offered artists
what de Strulle describes as “a fantasia-like haven for recording
artists, musicians, and producers” who could jam and record at any hour
of the day or night while retaining control of their intellectual
Here’s the tell. Let’s quote from Kevin Cann’s Any Day Now, shall we.
“In LA Bowie stays with the well-connected RCA staff producer Tom Ayres. Ayres’ house in 8233 Roxbury Road, off West Sunset, was once owned by Dorothy and Lillian Gish and has recording facilities” and the late Ayres is quoted as saying “at my house he worked with a tape-op called Ronnie”
In the fall of 1970, while Bowie’s manager was talking deals with
Capitol and Atlantic Records, the young musician was busy recording and
polishing tracks for a demo that would lead to his first U.S. album, Hunky Dory.
Bowie’s manager Tony Defries was angling for a new record deal, yes, but he was doing that mainly in 1971, when the Philips contract was expiring (it was a 2-LP contract). Hunky Dory obviously wasn’t Bowie’s first U.S. album since he was in the U.S. to promote an album. Even the 1967 Deram LP had been released in the US!!
During that first all-night session, Bowie had 5 demo songs which were
just about complete. “He was looking to create a couple of signature
styles to promote to the record companies,” says de Strulle. “David
brought ideas and lyrics and we cut some rough tracks.
So…were the songs “just about complete” or were they just “lyrics and “ideas”?
Of the three record companies that were wooing him, Bowie signed with
RCA Records because they agreed to give him full creative control. De
Strulle says, “He saw United Artists as a bunch of bullies. After a few
days of meeting with senior people, he confided in me that there was no
way he was gonna work with them.”
RCA didn’t give Bowie full creative control; they would put out compilations against his wishes, publicly groused about Low, and he was stuck on that label until the early 1980s; he unsuccessfully argued the 2-LP Stage should help reduce his album commitments to them. As far as I know, he did not meet with United Artists during his promo trip in Feb. 1971.
And so on. There’s the story about Bowie going to a biker bar “in drag” and De Strulle showing up at the Whisky a Go Go with his pet timberwolves. If you want to believe it, go ahead.
in summary: the demo might be some fragment from these demo sessions, but Bowie is not singing on it, he didn’t write it and, given the amount of outrageous bullshit in the accompanying interview, I seriously doubt that he’s playing on it.