A far cry from the British Invasion rock of his previous non-album singles, the record presents an eclectic mix of British music hall, Anthony Newley-style pop, Radio Drama, pop-culture satire, children's music, and neo-Edwardian kitsch. It and its associated singles attracted little media attention and were commercial failures, eventually prompting Deram to drop Bowie, who wouldn't release another album for over two years and subsequently never performed any songs from his debut in concert.note However, the album and other Bowie recordings for Deram saw many rereleases and repackagings in the years following his Breakthrough Hit album, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.
Today, the album is generally seen as nothing more than an oddity in Bowie's repertoire. While most agree that it features lyrical themes that Bowie would explore further in his later work, including gender non-conformity, apocalypse, the Messianic Archetype, and the treatment of youth and elders as if they were separate races, musically it's thought of as too kitschy to hold up against his later output; the album does have its fair share of fans, but they tend to be in a minority. Bowie himself would quietly come to disown the album, generally treating it as nothing more than a blip on his personal radar and scantly acknowledging it in the decades after its release. The only song that seemed to stick with Bowie past his distaste of the record is "Silly Boy Blue", attempting to re-record it in 2000-2001 for the ultimately unreleased album Toynote and later granting permission to include it on the 2014 retrospective compilation Nothing Has Changed. In both cases, it was the only representation Bowie's 1967 debut album received.
David Bowie was supported by two singles: "Rubber Band" and "Love You till Tuesday", the latter of which later became the namesake for a promotional film Bowie made to court a new record label after Deram dropped him. This film would wind up catching the attention of Philips Records and their subsidiary Mercury, which would lead to the creation of Bowie's next two albums.
- "Uncle Arthur" (2:07)
- "Sell Me a Coat" (2:58)
- "Rubber Band" (2:17)
- "Love You till Tuesday" (3:09)
- "There Is a Happy Land" (3:11)
- "We Are Hungry Men" (2:59)
- "When I Live My Dream" (3:22)
- "Little Bombardier" (3:23)
- "Silly Boy Blue" (4:36)
- "Come and Buy My Toys" (2:07)
- "Join the Gang" (2:17)
- "She's Got Medals" (2:23)
- "Maid of Bond Street" (1:43)
- "Please Mr. Gravedigger" (2:35)
Bonus Tracks (2010 deluxe edition):note
- "The London Boys" (B-side of "Rubber Band" single) (3:19)
- "The Laughing Gnome" (Single A-side) (2:56)
- "The Gospel According to Tony Day" (Single B-side) (2:46)
- "Did You Ever Have a Dream" (B-side of "Love You till Tuesday" single) (2:06)
- "Let Me Sleep Beside You" (3:24)
- "Karma Man" (3:03)
- "London Bye TaTa" (2:36)
- "In the Heat of the Morning" (2:44)
- "When I'm Five" (3:05)
- "Ching-a-Ling" (2:48)
Come and Buy My Tropes:
- A Cappella: Bowie sings "Please Mr. Gravedigger," the album closer, with only thunder, rain, shovelling and other sound effects for accompaniment.
- Astral Projection: "Did You Ever Have a Dream" is a tongue-in-cheek song about the wonders of astral travel while asleep.
- The Casanova: The narrator of "Love You till Tuesday," as the title makes clear. The spoken-word Punchline: "Well, I might be able to stretch it till Wednesday."
- Corpsing: Bowie breaks up near the end of "The Laughing Gnome".
- Crapsack World: In "We Are Hungry Men," massive overpopulation leads to widespread starvation, fascism and cannibalism.
- Hurricane of Puns: "The Laughing Gnome" is full of puns on the word "gnome.""Didn't they teach you to get your hair cut at school? You look like a rolling gnome."
"Nah, not at the London School of Eco-gnome-ics."
- Kent Brockman News: "We Are Hungry Men" opens with a news anchor reporting the latest population statistics of major cities worldwide, becoming increasingly histrionic and exclaiming "My God!" as it becomes clear there's a global overpopulation crisis.
- Leave No Witnesses: After admitting to murdering a child in "Please Mr. Gravedigger", the singer then makes clear he's about to murder the gravedigger as well, "just to make sure that you keep it to yourself".
- Love Hurts
- The narrator of "Sell Me a Coat" complains of feeling cold with the coming of winter, but it's a metaphor for his broken heart after his "summer girl" leaves him.
- The protagonist of "Rubber Band" pines after his love, who left him for the conductor of a brass band.
- Messianic Archetype: The narrator in the verses of "We Are Hungry Men" attempts to curb global overpopulation with promises of free contraception, legalized abortion and even "turn[ing] a blind eye to infanticide." He even refers to himself as "your messiah." However, the people in the choruses reject and ultimately eat him.
- Miniscule Rocking: "Maid of Bond Street" is well under two minutes.
- Mistaken for Pedophile: A possible interpretation of "Little Bombardier." The lonely, unemployable veteran Frankie Mear finds new purpose in life when he befriends young children and buys them candy and gifts. However, the police pay him a visit, demand to know if his little friends are "just a game" to him, and warn him to "[l]eave them alone or we'll get sore." Broken-hearted, he leaves town forever. Critic Chris OLeary notes, however, that the song is vague as to whether Frankie is in fact innocent of pedophilia.
- Momma's Boy: The thirty-something protagonist of "Uncle Arthur" works in the family shop, lives with his mother and "still reads comics." When Arthur falls in love with Sally and brings her home, his mother begs him to stay, but he gets married and moves out. Before long, however, he leaves Sally when it turns out she can't cook, and moves back in with mommy.
- Mundane Utility: "Did You Ever Have a Dream" treats astral travel not as a tool for spiritual growth (as various spiritual movements claim), but as a cool way to travel around the world, instantly speak foreign languages, and date people anywhere from the convenience of your own bed.
- Musical Gag: The pop-cultural satire "Join the Gang" features an atypically fast-tempo sitar bit in the first verse ("Johnny plays the sitar / He's an existentialist"). This is abruptly replaced with a honky-tonk piano line at odds with the psychedelic "scene" being described. As the lyric mentions this month's hot club, the organ riff from the Spencer Davis Group's "Gimme Some Lovin'" plays. Eventually the song dissolves in a cacophony of bizarre sound effects.
- Perfect Health: Averted in "Please Mr. Gravedigger." Bowie sounds congested throughout the song, which is set in a graveyard during a rainstorm. He even sneezes twice, punctuating the first one with "Excuse me."
- Self-Titled Album: The first of two, although the second (1969) album would subsequently receive the new titles Space Oddity in the UK and Man of Words, Man of Music in the US.
- Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll: "Join the Gang" is a harsh satire of "Swinging London"/psychedelic musicians and models, portraying them as pathetic posers strung out on booze and acid.
- The Slacker: The protagonist of "Silly Boy Blue" is a Tibetan monk who fails to achieve enlightenment because he won't put in the effort.
- Stalker with a Crush: The narrator of "Love You till Tuesday" stations himself outside a woman's window "through the night" and later hides in an apple tree, waiting for her. Played with in that he announces up front his affection for her will be short-lived.
- Sweet Polly Oliver: Mary, the protagonist of "She's Got Medals," dresses as a man, changes her name to Tommy, and enlists in the army, somehow managing ("Don't ask me how it's done") to pass her physical undetected. Eventually the tedium of life on the front, and the apparent necessity of "picking up girls" on leave in order to pass as male, gets to her, and she deserts. Conveniently assumed dead in a bombing later that day, "Tommy" presents once more as a woman, now calling herself Eileen, and settles down in London.
- Wham Line: The ending of "We Are Hungry Men": "We're here to eat you."
- Would Hurt a Child: The narrator of "Please Mr. Gravedigger" watches the title character dig ten-year-old Mary's grave and swipe her golden locket. However, the narrator doesn't judge him because he himself was the one who killed her. He does, however, announce at song's end that he's digging a grave for the gravedigger "just to make sure that you keep it to yourself."