Revisiting David Bowie’s Arnold Corns Pink Floyd inspired ‘Moonage Dream’
49 years ago today David Bowie released ‘Moonage Dream’ into the world in its first incarnation with his band Arnold Corns. Remarkably, upon its initial outing, the material was conceived a huge flop—at least by Bowie’s standards. However, he had a trick up his sleeve and would later re-invent the track and receive the plaudits it deserved.
The name for the Arnold Corns project took inspiration from the Pink Floyd track ‘Arnold Layne’ and, quite typically, saw Bowie wear his inspiration firmly on his sleeve. Unfortunately, the project was short-lived and isn’t remembered as the pinnacle of his Ziggy Stardust era but it still had its lustrous moments.
Bowie had written ‘Moonage Daydream’ after meeting designer Fred Burrett in The Sombrero gay bar in London after Angie Bowie went over to speak to Burrett due to being captivated his striking outfit. The Starman then hatched a plan to make Burrett his apprentice by forming the Arnold Corns with the designer being front and centre of the side-project—but things didn’t turn out as planned.
Burrett, who would go on to change his name to Freddie Burretti, is credited as a vocalist on the song but whatever contributions he might have recorded never actually made it onto the track. Instead, Bowie decided to take up the vocals on all of the releases by Arnold Corns but, even with Bowie on vocals, their releases were a commercial disaster.
The group’s second release, which featured the tracks ‘Looking for a Friend’ / ‘Man in the Middle’, didn’t include Bowie on vocals as planned but found itself being scrapped, however, in August 1972, B&C Records issued ‘Hang on to Yourself’ / ‘Man in the Middle’ as the second single.
Despite the band failing to succeed by Bowie standards, some good did come out of the project with both ‘Moonage Daydream’ and ‘Hang On To Yourself’ being too good to leave on the shelf. Bowie gave the tracks a slight rehash and updated the lyrics with both songs finding a place on Ziggy Stardust, finally receiving the love they deserved.
It would all turn out for the best for Buretti as well—albeit as London’s best up and coming designers rather than lead vocalist. He would go on to be credited by Bowie as “the ultimate co-shaper of the Ziggy look”. Burretti would then become a vital member of his entourage in the proceeding years who helped create the different Bowie styles that we all know and love. A number of the suits that Burretti would design alongside Bowie are now displayed at the Victoria and Albert Museum, cementing their place in the history of fashion.