David Bowie’s Decca Records Audition Tape Found

A 16-year-old David Bowie never dreamed his demo would wind up as day old bread.

How did Decca Records survive in the music business? The label famously rejected the Beatles, saying the band had “no future in show business” because “guitar groups are on the way out.” They picked up the Rolling Stones, mainly because Beatlemaniacs the world over were pointing and laughing, but then they rejected The Konrads. The leader of that band, a 16-year-old David Jones, would later go on to head another group of musical moptops. No, not the Monkees, the sax-playing singer changed his name to David Bowie, who went on to revolutionize rock music. But the early evidence has just been pulled out of a bread basket, which is where the 1963 demo tape rejected by Decca was found, according to Variety.

“I Never Dreamed,” written by Bowie and the other members of The Konrads, was one of three tracks the band Bowie recorded at RG Jones, a small studio in Morden, south London. The session was the first time Bowie stepped up to the mic for vocals. He was the band’s saxophone player. Decca and Rolling Stones manager Eric Easton, both rejected the demo.

The tape was found by the band’s drummer and manager, David Hadfield, who found it in old bread basket it in a loft over his garage. Hadfield, who was slightly older than his bandmates, found the tape while he was getting ready to move. He also found booking forms, photographs, promotional sketches, letters and bills in the bread basket which belonged to his grandfather. Hadfield is putting the recording up for auction, where it is is expected to fetch at least $13,000.  Auctioneer Paul Fairweather described the tape as a “significant recording, completely unique,” according to the listing in Omega Auctions.

“Our agent, Eric Easton, who also managed The Rolling Stones, asked us to do a demo so he could try and get us an auction at Decca,” Hadfield said in a statement in the listing in Omega Auctions. “So in early 1963 I booked into R.G. Jones small studio in Morden. In preparation for the demo David and our guitarist Neville Wills wrote 2/3 songs. We had decided that we would do a couple of guitar instrumentals and one original song. I chose ‘I Never Dreamed’ as it was the strongest, the other two were a bit weak! I also decided that David was the best person to sing it and give the right interpretation. So this became the very first recording of David Jones (Bowie) singing 55 years ago! There is no other recording featuring David as lead in existence.”

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The demo did win the band a trial with Decca, but the label turned them down shortly before Bowie quit over artistic differences.

“Decca initially turned us down,” Hadfield said in a statement in the listing in Omega Auctions. “But when they eventually gave us an auction later that year, vocalist Roger Ferris was the lead voice and David sang backing harmonies.”

The demo is the only known recording of the session. You can hear a twelve second snippet of it here:

Culture Editor Tony Sokol cut his teeth on the wire services and also wrote and produced New York City’s Vampyr Theatre and the rock opera AssassiNation: We Killed JFK. Read more of his work here or find him on Twitter @tsokol.