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Studio Engineer Pockets £8,750 For Evening's Work

Total Blam Blam's picture
on June 16, 2011

It's all I ever wanted...

That headline will make sense once you read the lot description that accompanied two pages of handwritten, in-progress Bowie lyrics for Sweet Thing/Candidate/Sweet Thing (Reprise).

The two fascinating documents fetched £8,750 GBP (Approx. $14,350 USD) at a Christie's Rock and Pop Memorabilia auction in London on Tuesday (June 14th). Here's that lot description...

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Lot Notes

The medley of 'Sweet Thing', 'Candidate' and 'Sweet Thing (reprise)' was the centrepiece of Bowie's 1974 album, Diamond Dogs, and it remains one of his most highly regarded recordings, by critics, fans and the singer himself. The two sheets of handwritten lyrics were used during the recording sessions for the medley at Olympic Studios in Barnes, South-West London during the early weeks of 1974.

On this album, Bowie was experimenting for the first time with the use of the 'cut-up' writing technique made famous by the American author William S. Burroughs, in which passages of prose or orthodox lyrics were literally cut up by the artist and then reassembled. Bowie created the lyrics of this medley using a mixture of 'cut-up' and phrases taken from the notebooks which he carried with him, containing lines or combinations of words that he was keen to use in his work. As these manuscript pages demonstrate, he would then piece together a set of lyrics from these various sources, before making amendments during the recording session.

One sheet (beginning "it's safe in the city") contains the lyrics - without the chorus - for both 'Sweet Thing' and 'Sweet Thing (reprise)', the latter being added in felt-tip pen at the bottom of the sheet. The other (beginning "It's a street") is a draft of 'Candidate', with some sections marked to be moved around, and others replaced. Most notably, the four first lines of this draft (two of which Bowie had already crossed through) were completely rewritten when he recorded the song.

These manuscripts provide a rare insight into Bowie's creative methods at a key moment in his career, when he had abandoned his Ziggy Stardust character and was about to move to America. In particular, it is fascinating to see that he appears to have added the most personal and revealing lines of the song, which formed the climax of the medley, as a spontaneous decision - in keeping with the almost intuitive way in which he created his material during this period.

The lyric pages were acquired by Producer Jon Astley, while he was working as a sound engineer at Olympic Studios in January 1974 on the sessions for Sweet Thing and Candidate. He asked Bowie if he could keep the discarded lyric sheets, which he agreed to in a trade for Astley ...to stay behind that evening to engineer Lulu singing The Man Who Sold The World, which he happily obliged to do.

Christie's are grateful to Peter Doggett for his assistance with this catalogue entry.

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I have to say, as good a wage as that is for an evening of engineering Lulu, I'm surprised the lot didn't go for even more. Particularly when one considers that a single sheet of handwritten lyrics for The Jean Genie fetched £9,375 GBP (Approx. $13,809 USD) just under a year ago at the same auction house.

The Jean Genie lyrics (above) weren't even a work-in-progress and there was just the one sheet. I personally find the Sweet Thing sheets far more desirable...though it's completely academic as I have the funds for neither!

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    16 June 2011
    Studio Engineer Pockets £8,750 For Evening's Work

    It's all I ever wanted...

    That headline will make sense once you read the lot description that accompanied two pages of handwritten, in-progress Bowie lyrics for Sweet Thing/Candidate/Sweet Thing (Reprise).

    The two fascinating documents fetched £8,750 GBP (Approx. $14,350 USD) at a Christie's Rock and Pop Memorabilia auction in London on Tuesday (June 14th). Here's that lot description...

    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Lot Notes

    The medley of 'Sweet Thing', 'Candidate' and 'Sweet Thing (reprise)' was the centrepiece of Bowie's 1974 album, Diamond Dogs, and it remains one of his most highly regarded recordings, by critics, fans and the singer himself. The two sheets of handwritten lyrics were used during the recording sessions for the medley at Olympic Studios in Barnes, South-West London during the early weeks of 1974.

    On this album, Bowie was experimenting for the first time with the use of the 'cut-up' writing technique made famous by the American author William S. Burroughs, in which passages of prose or orthodox lyrics were literally cut up by the artist and then reassembled. Bowie created the lyrics of this medley using a mixture of 'cut-up' and phrases taken from the notebooks which he carried with him, containing lines or combinations of words that he was keen to use in his work. As these manuscript pages demonstrate, he would then piece together a set of lyrics from these various sources, before making amendments during the recording session.

    One sheet (beginning "it's safe in the city") contains the lyrics - without the chorus - for both 'Sweet Thing' and 'Sweet Thing (reprise)', the latter being added in felt-tip pen at the bottom of the sheet. The other (beginning "It's a street") is a draft of 'Candidate', with some sections marked to be moved around, and others replaced. Most notably, the four first lines of this draft (two of which Bowie had already crossed through) were completely rewritten when he recorded the song.

    These manuscripts provide a rare insight into Bowie's creative methods at a key moment in his career, when he had abandoned his Ziggy Stardust character and was about to move to America. In particular, it is fascinating to see that he appears to have added the most personal and revealing lines of the song, which formed the climax of the medley, as a spontaneous decision - in keeping with the almost intuitive way in which he created his material during this period.

    The lyric pages were acquired by Producer Jon Astley, while he was working as a sound engineer at Olympic Studios in January 1974 on the sessions for Sweet Thing and Candidate. He asked Bowie if he could keep the discarded lyric sheets, which he agreed to in a trade for Astley ...to stay behind that evening to engineer Lulu singing The Man Who Sold The World, which he happily obliged to do.

    Christie's are grateful to Peter Doggett for his assistance with this catalogue entry.

    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    I have to say, as good a wage as that is for an evening of engineering Lulu, I'm surprised the lot didn't go for even more. Particularly when one considers that a single sheet of handwritten lyrics for The Jean Genie fetched £9,375 GBP (Approx. $13,809 USD) just under a year ago at the same auction house.

    The Jean Genie lyrics (above) weren't even a work-in-progress and there was just the one sheet. I personally find the Sweet Thing sheets far more desirable...though it's completely academic as I have the funds for neither!