An early master tape was compiled on 15 December 1971, although the album was still missing the songs ‘Starman’, ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Suicide’, and ‘Suffragette City’.
At that stage the running order had ‘Five Years’, ‘Soul Love’, ‘Moonage Daydream’, ‘Round And Round’, and ‘Amsterdam’ on side one; and ‘Hang On To Yourself’, ‘Ziggy Stardust’, ‘Velvet Goldmine’, ‘Holy Holy’, ‘Star’, and ‘Lady Stardust’ on the second half. The album was to be titled Round And Round, and ‘It Ain’t Easy’ was not included.
Ken Scott was effusive in his praise for Bowie’s vocals, which were mostly laid down in just one attempt.
David is an amazing singer, and 95% of his vocals on Ziggy and every other album I recorded with him were done in a single take. There was completely calculated exception, however. In the first part of the song ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Suicide’, David sings very quietly, and so in order to optimise the sound quality, I had to crank the level of the mic preamp. He eventually becomes a powerhouse and his vocal range was quite different for the latter part of the song, so I had to readjust the levels to compensate for that, hence the vocal for that song was recorded in two parts. Each part was a first take, of course. I learned not to expect anything different.
Abbey Road To Ziggy Stardust
Rick Wakeman, whose piano work brought so much to the sound of Hunky Dory, had turned down an offer of joining the Spiders From Mars in order to join the band Yes. Instead, the piano parts on the Ziggy Stardust album were performed by Mick Ronson. Wakeman’s only contribution to the album was harpsichord on the older recording ‘It Ain’t Easy’, for which he was uncredited.
Mick Ronson also arranged the string parts, although the album’s upbeat rock sound gave him less scope for orchestration than on the expansive Hunky Dory.
The orchestra we used generally consisted of eight violins, four violas, and two cellos (or 8, 4, and 2 as we’d call it), with the violins divided into four first violins and four second violins. There were occasions Ronno would use a smaller string section but also times, as in ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Suicide’, when he’d add double basses. He actually went all out on that particular track and added a brass section comprising two trumpets, two trombones, two tenor saxes, and a baritone sax. This was one of the few times that the saxes were session players as opposed to David playing them himself.
Abbey Road To Ziggy Stardust
Following a break for Christmas, a handful of live shows and a BBC radio session, Bowie and the Spiders returned to Trident in January 1972 to complete the album. The final versions of ‘Starman’, ‘Suffragette City’ and ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Suicide’ were recorded on 4 February.
A new running order was compiled on 9 February, and saw ‘Round And Round’ finally replaced with ‘Starman’. With that song and ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Suicide’ in place, the album was complete, and Bowie was able to construct a narrative thread which turned the album from a collection of rock songs into a slice of conceptual storytelling.
In 1999 Bowie was preparing a reissue of the Ziggy Stardust album, which was eventually released on the 30th anniversary in 2002. In an early discussion about the project, he mentioned a little-known Ziggy-era song, thought to be titled ‘The Black Hole Kids’, which remains unreleased.
I’m going to include an old song called ‘Blackhole Kids’, which is fabulous. I have no idea why it wasn’t on the original album. Maybe I forgot.
The following year he suggested that the song was incomplete, but had been worked on again in the studio.
I’ve pulled out a good deal of scraps that were never used at the time. Some of them are only 30 seconds long, but I’m extending those. I thought, ‘OK, is this crap and is that the reason why it never appeared on the first one or is it OK and should I try and do things with it?’ So I’ve taken those six tracks and thrashed them out and made them into songs that will support the original. One’s called ‘The Black Hole Kids’ which is fascinating.
GQ, October 2000
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