The mixing

An audio mix was completed in 1973 by Scott and engineer Mike Moran. Plans were made for a double album to be released in February 1974 with the provisional title Bowie-ing Out. Album covers were designed and proofed before Bowie lost interest in the project. The live album idea was shelved, and Bowie moved on to record Pin Ups.

Towards the end of 1981, Bowie enlisted long-term collaborator Tony Visconti to remix the album at the Hit Factory studio. Some of the vocals were re-recorded by the pair, a practice not uncommon with live albums, and an organ part was added to ‘My Death’.

We replaced vocals because they weren’t sung very well, Ronson and Bolder were often off mic. The live recording was exceptionally bad too. The mixing was more of a salvage job than an artistic endeavor. David and I re-sang the backing vocals at Hit Factory studios, just before we mixed a song. We’d listen carefully to the vocals in question and then decide to re-sing them. Some actually were left intact or blended in, they were never entirely replaced, just embellished.

It’s pretty difficult to tamper with a bootleg unless the bootlegger had access to the multi-track tapes and forced David to re-sing that note – which is highly unlikely. The doctoring was done by us. David didn’t like the note and replaced it. In all fairness, very little tampering was ever done on all the live Bowie albums. He’s a superb singer and always surrounded himself with great musicians.

Bowie and Visconti also produced an overdub session in December 1981, in which Jeff Beck re-recorded his guitar parts, although these and the original performances remain unreleased.

We could view the film and play to the film – it was a nice set-up. It was CTS Studios, I think, in north London, and they could lock up film and tape. Jeff played his solo and it sounded great… He was really, really happy with it. We all went home, I went back to bed, and the next day David phoned me and he said Beck still didn’t want to be in the film!
Tony Visconti
The Complete David Bowie, Nicholas Pegg

The release

Ziggy Stardust: The Motion Picture was first released on 24 October 1983 as a double album, with the running order amended slightly to fit on vinyl discs. There was also a cassette version, and a US promo on clear vinyl, limited to 1,000 copies.

In the UK it reached number 17 on the albums chart, charting on 30 October. It fared less well in the US, peaking at number 89.

Bowie’s cover version of the Velvet Underground’s ‘White Light/White Heat’ was released as a single in November 1983.

The album was first released on compact disc in August 1992, as part of the Rykodisc/EMI series of reissues.

In 2002 Visconti created a new stereo mix, which came out in April 2003 under the title Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars: The Motion Picture Soundtrack. This 30th anniversary edition was widely – though not universally – considered to be an improvement on the original versions.

By the time the film, titled Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, was mixed for the first time ten years later in 1983, David was back working with Tony Visconti again. It was remixed again by Visconti and Rich Tozzoli for the 30th Anniversary DVD edition in 2003. To be quite honest, I’m not a fan of either mix.
Ken Scott
Abbey Road To Ziggy Stardust

Visconti’s 2003 version restored the spoken introductions to the first and second halves, between-song speeches, the unedited 14-minute version of ‘The Width Of A Circle’, and ‘Changes’ in the correct place in the show. It was released to coincide with a new 5.1 surround sound edition of the concert film.

Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars: The Motion Picture Soundtrack was available as double-CD and double-vinyl sets, and included an essay by DA Pennebaker, a replica concert ticket, and a poster.

The album, without the bonus ephemera, was included in the 2015 box set Five Years (1969-1973), released on CD, vinyl and as a digital download.