Bombers from the expanded version of the magnificent “David Bowie in his prime” album Hunky Dory was a first for me. The first time I wasn’t listening to just the singles. I found this album at a second hand record store for pennies. It was an already ravaged vinyl copy that was crackling and hissing the moment the needle hit the groove. You know how that album starts already. Ch-ch-ch-Changes turning to face the strange. Oh! You Pretty Things driving all those Mamas and Pappa’s insane. Let me make it plain, this was one of the best fifty pence spends a child could make.
You’ve got songs about Bob Dylan, Andy Warhol, Quicksand and Life On Mars with it’s “Sailors Fighting In The Dancehalls” all one one crash course in pop art for a keen young student to soak up. Then towards the end of side two after you’ve lost the casuals things can get proper Kooks. before the full on freak out ending of The Bewlay Brothers in all it’s weirdness.
“All clear wail the sirens, sunshine on the wasteland, old man sitting in the white sand, think we’re in for a big surprise, right between the eyes”
When the CD revolution came along and albums started getting the remixed/expanded/remastered treatment Hunky Dory was a shoe in for me. In Earth years it was probably only two or three from that bargain basement purchase. But I knew there would be more riches to be had. The 1990 Expanded Edition on CD has never left my side. Bombers was replaced on the original playing order by a cover version. Fill Your Heart took it’s place. A divergent event creating another time line right there. Fill Your Heart was originally recorded by Tiny Tim. What the Dickens does that tell us?
“Seemed a good idea to drop a bomb on the wasteland here, only one man could be seen & he was old and so serene, Captain sat in his deck chair & the red light flashed beware, Pilot felt quite big-time as the bomb sailed through the air”
I found friends in college through a love of Bombers. I remember specifically bonding in a bar in the first weeks of the university of experience and quoting “Die said the General! Cobblers said the Man!” & a response from dear old Brendan of “A-Bombs, H-Bombs, even very small ones” setting a firm friendship in place. I moved in with a girlfriend because Hunky Dory was her favourite album (I mean, that wasn’t the sole reason but it was definitely a contributing factor).
We had a cat called Ziggy! He disappeared one night… Come to think of it so did she in a way.
“Well, they danced and sang when the bang went bang, when the lights popped out & the smoke began to clear it was positively queer”
Still when I think of DB and his varied and fascinating output Bombers is one of the first songs I reach for. It’s catchy, clever, funny, very British in its vernacular and it’s really saying something.
“When the smoke had blown away there was nothing left to view except a man dear Lord who looked like you, floating high up in the sky”