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NPR Arts & Life

David Bowie's First Studio Recording Set To Be Auctioned Off

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Before "Ziggy Stardust," before "Major Tom," David Bowie was a 16-year-old known as David Jones. And he was a member of a band called the Konrads.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Now that was 55 years ago. A piece of that history will soon go up for auction. It's Bowie's first ever studio recording. The band's former drummer found it in his grandfather's garage loft. Here's auctioneer Paul Fairweather.

PAUL FAIRWEATHER: He was clearing his loft, and he found the tape recorder, along with very interesting items of memorabilia in a bread basket.

SHAPIRO: That's right - in a bread basket. Also along with that demo were some of Bowie's early letters, drawings and photos.

CORNISH: Fairweather says the recording is a great track. The auction house has only released 12 seconds of it. It's called "I Never Dreamed."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I NEVER DREAMED")

THE KONRADS: (Singing) I never dreamed that I'd fall in love with you.

SHAPIRO: Well, for a professional opinion we asked NPR Music editor Andrew Flanagan for his first reaction.

ANDREW FLANAGAN, BYLINE: It was profound disappointment (laughter).

CORNISH: By the way, then David Jones was actually a sax player with the Konrads. The band thought he'd sound better leading the vocals on "I Never Dreamed."

FLANAGAN: The song sounds so bad, first of all, because we only have 12 seconds of it, recorded to acetate, which hasn't held up very well for 55 years. So it's a very scratchy, not very high-fidelity recording. But the song itself is pretty boring kind of U.K. pop-rock of the time. It sounds like something you'd kind of hear in a commercial for Marmite.

SHAPIRO: Ouch. (Laughter) Well, as scratchy and boring as the demo may be, it is still expected to sell for at least $11,000. And auctioneer Paul Fairweather says it is historically significant for David Bowie's fans.

FAIRWEATHER: This was his first taste of going into a recording studio to record a track. And, you know, on the back of that, he became quite ambitious as to what he wanted to achieve in his life and was really the opening of the door to what things could be like.

(SOUNDBITE OF DAVID BOWIE SONG, "REBEL REBEL")

SHAPIRO: The demo recording will be up for auction in September.

(SOUNDBITE OF DAVID BOWIE SONG, "REBEL REBEL") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.