During a break in the Ziggy Stardust Tour, on 14 May 1972 David Bowie and Mick Ronson co-produced ‘All The Young Dudes’ by Mott The Hoople.
Bowie had recently learnt that the band intended to split up, and enticed them to stay together by donating the song. He also performed with them in Guildford on 9 April.
The recording session took place in Studio 2 at Olympic Sound Studios in Barnes, London.
‘All The Young Dudes’ was the quintessence of Bowie’s glam rock era. Not only did it namecheck his chart rivals T.Rex, it also took in cross-dressing (“Now Jimmy looking sweet, though he dresses like a queen”) and implied homosexuality (“It’s a real mean team/We can love/Oh we can love”).
Bowie also namechecked Freddie Burretti and Wendy Kirby, friends from the gay nightclub Yours Or Mine underneath the El Sombrero restaurant in Kensington. Burretti was Bowie’s clothes designer, playing a key role in shaping the Ziggy Stardust look.
We were the ‘young dudes’ who shaved off our eyebrows just for camp, because you could paint them on higher up – that gave us a strange unearthly look which David adopted. He was always open to suggestions and went through our wardrobes like a magpie!
Shapers of the 80s
Bowie played rhythm guitar and sang backing vocals on the recording.
We’d always got a murky, dirty sound without much clarity. We didn’t know how to do it properly. We had wanted to be a classy band. When David took over the sound got clear. We learned a lot of things about arranging and production; it was a technical change.
The Lowell Sun, 2 January 1974
It was also Bowie’s idea to cram the band members into the studio toilet, where the handclaps during the chorus were recorded.
It’s good working with them because in the studio they’ve got a feel for what’s right. I was pleased with their version of my song, ‘All The Young Dudes’.
Mirabelle, September 1972
The line “Wendy’s stealing clothes from Marks & Sparks” was changed after falling foul of the BBC’s broadcasting restrictions surrounding advertising. The reference to “Marks & Sparks” – a colloquial term for British high street retailer Marks & Spencer – was changed to “unlocked cars”; Bowie retained this amended line for his studio version and subsequent live performances.
The line was produced by Ken Scott, who otherwise played no role in Mott The Hoople’s version.
One day Ian Hunter, the lead singer from Mott The Hoople, came in for a quick fix to the ‘All The Young Dudes’ hit single, written and produced by one David Jones (also known as David Bowie). It seems they were having a problem with some censorship issue at the BBC, but not for what you might think. David had a lyric about ‘Marks and Sparks,’ which is a nickname for the English department store Marks and Spencer. The BBC took that line as an advertisement so they refused to play the song as a result. We overdubbed two words from Ian, then I mixed only that section and edited it into a master specifically intended for the BBC. I had nothing to do with the recording other than that. I did, however, later record a much different version of the song with Bowie in New York during the making of Aladdin Sane. Good though it was, it didn’t make it on the original album but did eventually come out as an additional track during subsequent releases.
Abbey Road To Ziggy Stardust
Also on this day...
- 2004: Live: John Labatt Centre, London, Canada
- 1978: Live: Festhalle, Frankfurt
- 1976: Live: Rotterdam Ahoy, Rotterdam
- 1971: David Bowie leaves Mercury Records
- 1966: Live: David Bowie and the Buzz, Ingram Avenue, London
Want more? Visit the David Bowie history section.