As It Happens

Bandmate finds recording of 16-year-old David Bowie in breadbasket

David Hadfield was a drummer in David Bowie's first band. The demo tape, which he found in a breadbasket, is of a 16-year-old David Bowie trying his hand as a vocalist.

The tape is of Bowie singing I Never Dreamed with The Konrads

British pop star David Jones before he changed his name to Bowie. The first recording of the star, when he was just 16, was recently found by an old bandmate. (Express/Getty Images)

The first recording of David Bowie will be sold at auction in September, after a bandmate found the 55-year-old demo in a breadbasket. 

Back then, a 16-year-old Bowie — then known as David Jones — was part of a group called The Konrads. The recording is of him singing I Never Dreamed. It was part of a demo made in the hopes of landing an audition with the record company Decca.

He was an aspiring saxophonist at the time, before becoming one of the most famous voices of the 20th century.

Bowie died of cancer in January 2016. 

David Hadfield, who is selling the recording that is expected to fetch more than $17,000, was both the drummer and manager of the The Konrads. Here's part of his conversation with As It Happens guest host Laura Lynch:

How did it end up in the breadbasket of all places?

You know you put things in boxes quite normally, which I did, but the breadbasket was empty so it got encumbered into becoming a tape store.

How would you describe the music?  

For 1963, extremely poppy.

It was that sort of era where boy meets girl, girl goes away, boy is unhappy. You know, it's those sort of songs.

David Bowie was just 16 years old and you knew him as David Jones then.

That's right and he was the saxophone player, not a vocalist. At the time he didn't have any aspirations to be the vocalist.

Somebody from London spotted us and said "Oh. We'd like to give you an audition at Decca record, but we need a demo of some songs if you've written anything that we can present to Decca before they take you in the studio and have a listen." 

David Bowie can be seen with his saxophone in pictures that were uncovered by David Hadfield in an old breadbasket. (Submitted by Omega Auctions)

What do you remember about the David Jones of 16 years of age?

His personality was, you know, quite individual. He was always extremely careful of how he looked and what he wanted to dress in.

In fact, he was a bit of a nuisance sometimes because ... in those days we all wore the same thing like the Beatles did. He kept sort of trying to get us to wear other types of clothes.  

He had a lot to do with his hair in those days I always remember. It was combed in a very special way and it had to be absolutely immaculately in place.

How did you end up meeting David Jones?

I went into the local music shop, near Bromley South Station, and put an advert in there. A bit cheeky actually: "Ex Cliff Richard drummer looking for band to join." 

It did the trick.

You made the demo recording, and what came of it when you sent it in?

Well, we gave it to this agent and he got us an audition with Decca and we then repeated it with our lead singer but they weren't impressed at all.

That prompted David into thinking about going solo and trying to develop his career.

Bowie performs at the Panathinaikos stadium in Athens in 1996. (Reuters)

You split up, and as you said, David Bowie went on to his own individual career and stardom. Did you keep in touch with him over the years?

Not greatly, it's always difficult in the music business because you're traveling around and doing gigs. I did bump into him once or twice, but I can't actually say we were bosom buddies or anything.  

He was a bit jealous at some point, apparently, because we were doing quite well particularly when we became the opening band on the Rolling Stones tour in 1965. I was told he was quite jealous of that.

A promotional sketch done by the Konrads, David Bowie's first band. (Submitted by Omega Auctions)

I'm sure he didn't stay jealous for too long. The tape is now up for auction. Where would you like to see it end up?

I'd like to see it appear on an anthology.

If they're going to do something, to do the history of all his work, you really need to have this track on there as the first one.

Written by Sarah Jackson. Interview produced by Ashley Mak. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.

  • Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly labelled a 1996 Reuters photograph of David Bowie performing in Athens as a 1973 Getty photograph of Bowie performing in London. 


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