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The Early Beginnings

David Bowie (1971)


"The idea of a larger-than-life style rock figure struck me around the end of 1970.  At that moment in time, rock seemed to have wandered into some kind of denim hell...all was rather dull attitudinising with none of the burning ideals of the Sixties."

"I think we kind of wanted to go somewhere else. And some of us...probably read too much George Steiner and kind of got the idea that we were entering to this kind of post-culture age and that we'd better do something postmodernist - quickly, before somebody else did."

February 1971


The long-haired David Bowie tours the US to promote his third album - THE MAN WHO SOLD THE WORLD (1970) - but is officially forbidden to perform due to work permit problems.

In Chicago, Bowie is given a single by Mercury artist "The Legendary Stardust Cowboy".

In San Jose, California he hears the name Iggy Pop for the first time and meets him in September.

While in Los Angeles, Bowie stays at the luxury Hollywood home of RCA executive and producer Tom Ayres (occasionally utilising the recording equipment there) and records a demo of 'Moonage Daydream'. 

Ayres and DJ Rodney Bingenheimer watch Bowie scribbling song lyrics to a song called "Hang Onto Yourself" on Holiday Inn stationery. Bowie explains that he is writing about an imaginary character called "Ziggy Stardust" and that while he wasn't going to be a real rock star he was going to play him.  At this stage Bowie had already written "Ziggy Stardust" as well as "Moonage Daydream" and "Hang Onto Yourself".  Ayres records a jam session demo of Bowie singing "Hang Onto Yourself" with his rock hero Gene Vincent - which may or may not have Vincent on it: Listen here

For his Ziggy character, Bowie would later adopt Vincent's "one leg out behind" stage pose..which Vincent had used due to a leg brace (from a car accident) on his 60s UK tour.

Interview with 94WY Radio Philadelphia



April 1971

Bowie asks guitarist Mick Ronson to return to Beckenham to help work on his new album HUNKY DORY (1971) and to bring a bass player. Ronson, employed at the time as a council gardener in Hull, and playing with his band The Rats, returns with The Rats drummer Mick (Woody) Woodmansey and bass player Rick Kemp. Kemp practices with Bowie, Ronson and Woodmansey for a week but is later replaced by another bass player from The Rats called Trevor Bolder.

Ronson, Woodmansey and Bolder will eventually form The Spiders From Mars. All live with Bowie and Angie at their Haddon Hall flat, camping on the upper gallery balcony at one stage during renovations.

The recording for HUNKY DORY (1971) is completed in April but its release is held up until December while a new contract is drawn up with RCA.



May 1971

Bowie begins work on songs for the new Ziggy Stardust project. He forms a group called Arnold Corns fronted by friend Freddi Burretti which trials some of the Ziggy Stardust songs and releases early versions of "Moonage Daydream" and "Hang Onto Yourself." Bowie and Burretti appear in a sex educational magazine called Curious which features a brief interview with Burretti (aka Rudi Valentino):

"Bowie says that Rudi is the leader of the whole gay scene, but Rudi himself is a little more modest - "I really want to be a big name and make it in Amercia - he says, "I have a single out written by David called "Moonage Daydream" and thats only the beginning.  An album "Looking for Rudi" will be out very soon." - Curious

David Bowie & Freddi Burretti on the cover of Curious

At this stage Ronson, Bolder and Woodmansey call themselves Ronno and while still working with Bowie as his backing band, are considering an independent career (which never eventuates).

May 7th 1971

'Moonage Daydream'/'Hang On To Yourself' single released by Arnold Corns.



June 1971

June 5th 1971

BBC 1's The Sunday Show recording session: "Moonage Daydream" is announced by John Peel as the first single by Arnold Corns.  This show, which is broadcast on the 20th June, is the first public debut of The Spiders From Mars although they are not known by this name yet.



July 1971

July 9th 1971

Bowie records his cover version of Ron Davies’ ‘It Ain’t Easy’ at Trident Studio. The track is initially included on a GEM (management) promotional LP pressing featuring one side of tracks by Bowie, the other by Dana Gillespie. This pressing helps to secure David’s contract with RCA. David’s side becomes the backbone for Hunky Dory, although his recording of ‘It Ain’t Easy’ would have to wait until Ziggy Stardust before it is issued.



August 1971

August 1st 1971

Bowie signs a contract with GEM, the music production company co-owned by his manager Tony DeFries and music lawyer Lawrence Myers.

August 9th 1971 (or September?)

David Bowie & Mick Ronson at the RCA contract signing

Bowie's new manager Tony DeFries establishes a recording contract in New York with RCA on the strength of the six-song demo tape Bowie had made for HUNKY DORY (1971). RCA would pay $37,500 for the next three Bowie LPs.  In New York Bowie was introduced to Lou Reed, met Iggy Pop and Andy Warhol.  He also toured Radio City Music Hall in Rockefeller Center and stated "I'm gonna play here someday" which indeed he would do with the Spiders in 1973.  

Bowie turns his attention to recording the Ziggy Stardust project:

"I don't think you are going to like this next album....Well its very different to anything I've done before. Its going to be much, much heavier, and much stranger. Its called THE RISE AND FALL OF ZIGGY STARDUST AND THE SPIDERS FROM MARS" - Bowie to co-producer Ken Scott after completion of HUNKY DORY (1971)

In this month Bowie tells the press about the "Ziggy Stardust stage show".  This is a planned musical which never eventuates. At this stage Bowie sees Ziggy Stardust as a vehicle for a West-End type show with the album to be his rock opera and score for a stage production.

"I'm going to play a character called Ziggy Stardust. We're going to do it as a stage show. We may even do it in the West End. When I'm tired of playing Ziggy I can step out and someone else can take over for me." - Bowie (August 1971)



September 1971

Sep-14th 1971

Trident Studios, London: The songs "Shadowman" (also titled "The Man") and "Something Happens" are recorded at Trident Studios - possibly for inclusion on THE RISE AND FALL OF ZIGGY STARDUST AND THE SPIDERS FROM MARS (1972). Other songs started but not finished at the Trident Studios are "Its Gonna Rain Again", "Only One Paper Left" and "Looking for a Friend."

See Album Out-takes for discussion of songs that didn't make the Ziggy Stardust album.

Sep-25th 1971

Friars Club, Aylesbury: Bowie performs with Mick Ronson, Mick Woodmansey, Trevor Bolder and Tom Parker (ex The Animals) on piano.  Of interest in this set are performances of "Round and Round" and "Port of Amsterdam" each of which were provisionally intended for the Ziggy Stardust album.

SET LIST: 01. Fill Your Heart (2:36) 02. Buzz The Fuzz (3:01) 03. Space Oddity (4:18) 04. Amsterdam (3:08) 05. The Supermen (2:44) 06. Oh! You Pretty Things (3:12) 07. Eight Line Poem (2:47) 08. Changes (3:43) 09. Song For Bob Dylan (3:53) 10. Andy Warhol (2:47) 11. Queen Bitch (3:01) 12. Looking For A Friend (3:15) 13. Round And Round (3:23) 14. Waiting For The Man (3:53)


Announcer: "Just a little bit, get closer, alright ok. Now let's have a very warm Friars Aylesbury reception for a very rare appearance of David Bowie."

David Bowie: "Thank you Peter, good evening, hello, this is Michael Ronson, he's a guitarist who works with me a lot, get yourselves sat down. (tunes guitar).

"We'll have a band on a bit later for this, but we'll do some solo things first if we can slowly... Anybody who has seen me before knows that I don't do many gigs and this is one of the few exceptions. So we're gonna start slowly till we get the hang of it again coz we're not used to it. The first song is called FILL YOUR HEART and is by an American gentleman called Biff Rose. Can I have something to drink. Thank you ok. Are you gonna get a bit nearer (talking to Ronson laughing). To the mike (sarcastically)."

Mick Ronson: "Hello."

David Bowie: "Yeah, that's it. As you all know it's a long way down, anyway I'm back again."


David Bowie: "Thanks very much. We didn't know what kind of songs to do tonight, so we just decided to endeavour to sing the kind of songs that we'll hope you'll enjoy. It's what we call entertainment, we want to entertain you. Entertain you it's an old word, we want to make you happy coz we want to be happy doing them. The next one to follow that is also another Biff Rose number. I'm a bit keen on his songs I think they are very good, very funny. He's a very overrated (laughs) underrated songwriter, sorry Biff, and he's been working in America for about 5 years and nobody over here is buying his records and not many people in America seem to either and the album this comes from is called THE THORN IN MRS ROSES SIDE and it's a good album to buy it's called BUZZ THE FUZZ and it's a Los Angeles song."


David Bowie: "Ta (intro to SPACE ODDITY) This is one of my own that we get over with as soon as possible."


David Bowie: "Thank you. That's very good of you, thank you. This is a... a... I want to go to another um, number by another songwriter yet again. It's by a French composer called Jacques Brel, who was writing a long time ago and he wrote this song about 15 years ago and it was called PORT OF AMSTERDAM, it was true then, it's not untrue now, meaning insufficient. If we're I haven't been up very long, you see I'm very bad at getting up, always been bad at getting up haven't you? Terrible. When I was at school my mother could only get me up. She found out the trick of getting me up, she would put on a black dress and sit on the bed and cry. I'd be up like a shot. Enough of this frivolity. This is the Jacques Brel number anyway called PORT OF AMSTERDAM."


David Bowie: "Thank you very much indeed. We thought it'd be nice to bring the boys on to do this gig with us before we go off to America in a few months. We're going to America, the land of subways. The subways are rather like the Underground, you still get lots of people who wait for hours for the train, they all have that thing of going to the edge of the platform and looking down into a tunnel. I don't know what they expect to come out? Do they expect something other than a train to come out of it? You have to be a sadist or a masochist to take the subway in America, coz if you go on in a crowd within 5 or 10 minutes somebody's got a good grip on you (in an American accent) 'Stay on 3 more stops and I'll give you 50 cents', it's really quite grim and they've got a Miss Subway contest, see, and I think you only condition for entry is you have to look as though you've been hit by one from some of the entries we saw when we was out there. Anyway that's where we're going America. Land of the living, land of the dead. - Land of the dead, they've got lots murders, killings as you've probably read about in the papers. That crime wave and it's kind of inbred in them to murder and kill and kike a family man will get into a car and drive at 90, bumper to bumper on long stretches of motorway, they come up with original ways of killing people, you read reports of old man battered to death weapon believed to have been Durex filled with ball bearings. That's not the only problem you see coz you've got the apartments problem as well, because you just can't get an apartment. I stayed in quite a nice one whilst I was there, all couples no women and I wouldn't say ?????? island. I don't know if any of you know America at all, not exactly quite, but I took 13 showers for excitement. One evening somebody comes and says I'm really sorry I'm afraid I have some very bad news for you, your grandmother has died. Oh that's awful, has her apartment gone yet, did she die with central heating, really terrible. Anyway we're going there later. They should be on now, are you on, this is SUPERMEN. This is one from an album that we did last year, which sold like hot cakes in Beckenham and no where else. It's called THE MAN WHO SOLD THE WORLD that's the name of the album and this is one of the numbers off it called SUPERMEN."


David Bowie: "Thank you. That is Woody Woodmansey, that is Trevor Bolder, they play with me. We're gonna have a pianist on in a few moments. I'll just get this up coz I don't need it down again, hang on. This is a number I wrote for myself and for the album and somebody else did it, I won't say anymore, we'll do it anyway."


David Bowie: "Thank you. This is where we get Tom Parker on stage, ex Animal. Tom will take over piano and play it properly for the rest of the evening. The first thing we're gonna do with Tom is one in which I don't know the guitar chords so I'll stand here like a twit, like used to singing like one. ??? called CHANGES a new one from the album."


David Bowie: "Presumptuousness of the songwriter is that he feels he can pick on anybody, I'm no exception, but this is not a picking song it's just about somebody, it's called SONG FOR BOB DYLAN."


David Bowie: "Thank you, thanks very much. That was written during a spate of people songs. I got hung up on writing about people, these kind of well known figures and what they stood for. I believe very much in the media of the streets, street messages and one of the leaders in that field is a man called Andy Warhol and this is, this is about him it's called ANDY WARHOL."


David Bowie: "This is one with the band again. It's the third in a series of people songs I did. This one is about a friend of mine in America called Lou Reed, who's the singer with a band out there called Velvet Underground who aren't that well known (audience cheer) yes they are sorry, sorry very well known band over here called Velvet Underground, they don't know about them in Beckenham I tell ya. Anyway Lou is very funny, outrageously funny and this is a song for Lou and it's called QUEEN BITCH."


David Bowie: "Thank you, this is our last number. Thank you very much."


David Bowie: "Thank you very much, thank you."

(Audience cheer for encore)

Announcer: "David Bowie, come on let's ?????"

David Bowie: "This is one thank God you'll probably appreciate not being in Beckenham, are you ready Mick? It's a Velvet Underground number, it's called WAITING FOR THE MAN."




November 1971

Nov 8-15th 1971

Trident Studios, London: THE RISE AND FALL OF ZIGGY STARDUST AND THE SPIDERS FROM MARS (1972) tracks "Star" (originally titled "Rock n Roll Star"), "Hang Onto Yourself", "Moonage Daydream", "Five Years", "Soul Love" and "Lady Stardust" (orginally titled "He Was Alright - The Band Was Altogether") are recorded in this period. The song "Sweet Head" (rediscovered and released as a bonus track on the Rykodisc 1990 CD re-issue) is also recorded at these sessions.

November 8th 1971

Tracks recorded include ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Star’ (later re-titled ‘Star’) and ‘Hang On To Yourself’.

November 11th 1971

More new tracks recorded include final takes of ‘Ziggy Stardust’, ‘Star’, ‘Velvet Goldmine’ and ‘Sweet Head’.

November 12th 1971

"Moonage Daydream’, ‘Soul Love’, ‘The Supermen’ and ‘Lady Stardust’ recorded.

November 15th 1971

‘Five Years’ recorded.



December 1971

Dec-15th 1971

The Ziggy Stardust album at this stage is provisionally titled ROUND & ROUND after the Chuck Berry song "Around and Around" which Bowie & The Spiders jammed at the Trident recording sessions and which was also listed as a potential track for the album.  A master tape from this date has THE RISE AND FALL OF ZIGGY STARDUST AND THE SPIDERS FROM MARS (1972) album in the following format:

Side One: Five Years / Soul Love / Moonage Daydream / Round and Round / Port of Amsterdam
Side Two: Hang Onto Yourself / Ziggy Stardust / Velvet Goldmine / Holy Holy / Star / Lady Stardust

However, the tracks in red: "Round and Round", "Port of Amsterdam", "Holy Holy" and "Velvet Goldmine" (Orginally titled "He's A Goldmine") will not make the final Ziggy Stardust album.

Other tracks that will make the album - but not recorded yet - are "Starman", "Suffragette City" and "Rock n Roll Suicide." Also missing from this album line-up, and already recorded is "It Ain't Easy."

Dec-17th 1971

HUNKY DORY (1971) cover

HUNKY DORY (1971) (RCA SF 8244 UK) is released and eventually reaches #3 in the UK charts (Total weeks=122) and #93 in the US charts. Bowie appears on the colourised cover looking to many like either Lauren Bacall, Garbo or Katherine Hepburn.  The single "Changes" is chosen as Tony Blackburn's Record of The Week. When asked by reporters about his next tour, Bowie simply replied "Like nothing ever seen before."

1971 Promotional flyer

"Subdued and acoustic, HUNKY DORY was the calm before the storm for David Bowie, who would explode a year later with ZIGGY STARDUST. This was Bowie in transition - hinting at his love for the theatric ("Life On Mars?"), and showing off his ability to suss out a generation's evolving self-obsession ("Changes"). HUNKY DORY was also a tour of the posters framed on young Bowie's impressionable walls. His obvious romance with pre-punk New York City is evident in "Andy Warhol," and his fascination with the public-private schism shows up in "Song For Bob Dylan." In hindsight, "Dylan" seems an introduction to Bowie's idea that a rock performer needs an alter-ego. He was preparing for his transformation into Ziggy Stardust." CDNOW

Side One: Changes / Oh, You Pretty Things / Eight Line Poem / Life On Mars? / Kooks / Quicksand
Side Two: Fill Your Heart / Andy Warhol / Song for Bob Dylan / Queen Bitch / The Bewlay Brothers

1990 Re-issue bonus tracks: Bombers / The Supermen (alternate version) / Quicksand (demo) / The Bewlay Brothers (alternate mix)

Producer: Ken Scott (assisted by The Actor)

David Bowie: vocals, guitar, piano, alto and tenor sax
Mick Ronson: guitar (Arranger of tracks 1, 4 -7)
Trevor Bolder: bass and trumpet
Mick Woodmansey: drums
Rick Wakeman: piano
Studio: Trident, London


Ziggy takes shape: 1st UK Tour
January 1972 - September 1972

---This page last modified: 16 Jan 2019---

Ziggy Stardust Scarf (1973)