Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Letter To Hermione

A long, long time ago, I can still remember... how I was trying to force an obnoxious amount of David Bowie onto a friend who at the time, listened to Fred Astaire exclusively. "Moonage Daydream" or "Cheek To Cheek?" It was no easy task. I was a bit shocked when she offered "Letter To Hermione" as the one song she liked by David Bowie. "What the hell is that," I cried, "I just spent the last 96 hours listening to Ziggy Stardust and you're playing 'Stump The Band' with me? Who is this Hermione you speak of, and why the hell is THAT the song you know?" My odious persona had to start somewhere, right?

30 years later, "Letter To Hermione" still moves me and still strikes me as one of Bowie's hidden masterpieces. The always reliable Wikipedia says this:

"Letter to Hermione" is a song written by David Bowie in 1969 for the album Space Oddity. This ballad is a love letter to Hermione Farthingale, who Bowie met through Lindsay Kemp while mime dancing. She became Bowie's girlfriend and they lived together for a short while in London in 1968. In early 1969 she dumped Bowie for Stephen Reinhardt, an American musician and dancer she met on the film "Song of Norway."

Wikipedia also says "Letter To Hermione" is not only Ricky Gervais' favorite Bowie song, but his favorite song period. (I love Wikipedia)

When I had my cute little retail outlet from hell, I would always bust a vein when some customer would browse for an hour, buy nothing, then offer the parting comment,"There's nothing new that's good." That may have been true...occasionally. But I would argue then, as I argue now,"If you've never heard it before, it's NEW to YOU." This left the purchasing possibilities endless. Anyway, that was my feeling in 1979 when I discovered the "Space Oddity" album. 10 years after its release, and I still only knew the title track. Discovering "Letter To Hermione," not to mention "Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud," "Unwashed & Somewhat Slightly Dazed" and the rest of Bowie's fantastic debut, was exhilarating. I played the record so little back then, it still sounds fresh, even now.

I give you 2 versions, Bowie's original and a recent cover by the wonderful Irish singer-songwriter, Duke Special, with Matt Hales of Aqualung. And while you're waiting for the UNZIP, you can listen above while staring at a notepad.



steve simels said...


I'm sorry. Like the vast majority of Bowie's stuff, this one falls in the category of "Lord knows I've tried."

Hey, as my old man used to say -- life is like tuna fish, you either like it or you don't.

Sal Nunziato said...

Mr. Steve,
I am always intrigued by your disgust with Bowie. It's mostly because whenever I see your Bowie dissing on the fabulous, I always ask, "So Steve, just what is this Bowie hard-on all about?" And you never seem to tell me. I wouldn't press, except he is my third favorite artist of all time. What is it? Take your time.

Allegra said...

Sigh, Sal, when will you add Fred Astaire to your vast musical repertoire? - there is no Moonage Daydream. And it can't have been 30 years ago since I'm only 35. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. I'm off to watch Top Hat. (But Letter to Hermione is still really good).

Anonymous said...

Hey Sal , what are your other 2 favorites ?

Sal Nunziato said...


My other two favorites?

Anonymous said...

Sorry Sal meant to post it on the XTC post.

Sal Nunziato said...

Well, ANON, if you're asking my other 2 fave Kinks songs, I would have to go with "Waterloo Sunset," and "Oklahoma USA."