At Wessex Auction Rooms (17% buyer’s premium) on January 15 two vinyl rarities came to light, underlining the demand for previously unheard material.
Estimated at £6000-8000 in the Vinyl Records & Music Memorabilia sale in Chippenham, Wiltshire, a two-sided acetate featured a previously unknown and unheard recording from Bowie on Side A called Run Piper Run. Side B was a demo of Lay Your Head Upon My Shoulder by Ace Kefford (co-founder of The Move). It made £10,000.
Sold for a top-estimate £5000 was a singlesided acetate demo for the Bowie song Silver Tree Top School For Boys (misspelled Boy not Boys on label). This song has often been regarded and referred to as ‘the great lost Bowie song of the 60s’, said the auction house.
They had been consigned by a private seller – a family member who was involved with one of the studios many years ago – and were bought by UK buyers via phone bids.
These results followed an even higher-selling Bowie vinyl highlight offered last year by Wessex: a 1966 demo recording on an acetate disc, catalogued as ‘unreleased and never before heard’. That disc, from the Orbit Music publishing library, was given an estimate of £3000-5000 on July 24 but went for £15,000 to a UK-based phone bidder.
The demo, I Do Believe I Love You, was discovered by a London-based seller who had bought around 250,000 records from EMI’s back catalogue.
Vinyl obsessives seek out these rarities having already secured more accessible material. Martin Hughes, Wessex director and vinyl specialist, explains the phenomenon. “An acetate is like a pre-demo. It is just a record label and managers getting different artists to try different songs. This is what these Bowie songs are.
“The only people who have heard it in full are myself, my business partner, and the person selling it and anyone they played it to – then the person who bought it. But the buyer won’t own the publishing rights to it so they can’t release it. All you are buying is the bragging rights to have a Bowie track that no one has heard before. That is an amazing thing, really cool.”
Such acetates can be hard to date as many just feature a song title, so being able to link the date to a singer at a time when they were known to have been at a particular studio is crucial. All these Bowie songs come from the 1966-67 period, just before Bowie’s self-titled debut album was released on June 1, 1967.
Another renowned vinyl rarity was sold for a record price by Wessex in November 2019: the unreleased Sex Pistols single God Save The Queen (1977), one of the most sought-after records available.
It realised a mid-estimate £13,000 at Wessex, going to an internet bidder in Luxembourg.