The beauty of a demo is that they can creep out from the shadows of your favourite artist’s back catalogues as a brand-new song, just like a birthday gift that got lost in the post. What’s more, when you open the package, it reveals something new, offering just a little more illumination of what the artist was working on at the time, and how it came together.
You barely imagine a song as seamlessly beautiful as ‘Perfect Day’ even actually being written let alone being worked on. It’s like a hymn or ‘Happy Birthday’, it’s just there, coaxed from the ether to keep things flowing on the right path. Such is the perfection of the tune; you imagine it came out as a whole all arithmetically in order in brimming with confidence.
However, the beauty of this first acoustic demo of the masterpiece is that its soul is about the only thing that is fully formed. Everything else is scattered and elements like the rhythm and meta of the verses only meekly make themselves known.
Whether it still sounds like a spiritual opus only because we know the end result or the beauty was inherent is one thing that even a Theologian wouldn’t hazard a guess on. But I’ll be damned if there isn’t something hauntingly beautiful about it—even if it is devoid of utterly astounding middle eight (the sort of middle eight that makes you realise why they are employed anyway).
He might have been known for his obfuscated wordplay that paired the visceral edge of rock with beat literature, but ‘Perfect Day’ is as unassuming as a children’s fable. As he simply put it himself: “That’s a lovely song. A description of a very straightforward affair.” As the demo makes clear, the backbone of the melody is just as simple.
This demo was then whisked into the studio where David Bowie provided some truly terrific production and the eternally underrated Mick Ronson popped up with one of the most beautiful arrangements ever written. And it was all held up by the humblest murmur of a soul-drenched guitar strum.
Now, it is a transcendent mainstay in culture. It’s the sort of melody you know even if you think The Velvet Underground is a subterranean strip club. Once more, it’s hard to know whether you can imagine that being the case with this ancient artefact of a demo or it was always fated to rise up to rattle rafters.