In the studio

Mott The Hoople recorded ‘All The Young Dudes’ in Studio 2 at London’s Olympic Studios on 14 May 1972.

David Bowie produced the recording, played rhythm guitar, and sang backing vocals.

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.
Ian Hunter
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’.
David Bowie
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.
Ken Scott
Abbey Road To Ziggy Stardust

The BBC were not the only people unhappy with the line. Wendy Kirby reportedly told Bowie: “You could at least have made it Harrods!”

Bowie also produced an album, also called All The Young Dudes, which included a Mick Ronson strings and brass arrangement for the song ‘Sea Diver’.

Everything got finished real quick because Bowie had to go somewhere. We were halfway where we were going and halfway where we’d been but we knew the standard now. We weren’t sure about how the Dudes album sounded. He took some of the power away.
Ian Hunter
Mojo, May 2009

Bowie’s recording

The first North American leg of David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust Tour ended in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, on 2 December 1972.

Before David Bowie and the Spiders returned to the UK for Christmas shows at London’s Rainbow Theatre, however, they recorded material for a new album in New York between 4 and 11 December.

The main focus of the sessions was ‘Drive-In Saturday’, which was recorded on 9 and 10 December 1972 at RCA Studios on 155 East 24th Street, New York City.

As the tour had been extended we were a little behind on recording so Ken Scott flew over to join us in RCA Studios to get some tracks in the can. We recorded ‘Drive-In Saturday’, which Bowie had written somewhere mid-tour and had already performed acoustically at one of our concerts. It’s one of my favourite Bowie songs from this period. It tells of a time in the future where people have lost the art of making love and have to resort to reading books and watching films to remind them.
Woody Woodmansey
Spider From Mars: My Life With Bowie

In addition to ‘Drive-In Saturday’, the band also recorded an early version of ‘Aladdin Sane’, plus versions of ‘The Prettiest Star’ and ‘All The Young Dudes’.

Curiously, Bowie’s version was in the key of C major, a full semitone below Mott The Hoople’s original. In all subsequent live performances Bowie sang it in D major.

It is, however, unlikely that the recording was slowed down at the mixing stage; using speed adjustment to raise the key to D makes the musicians sound unrealistically hurried.

He was a unique musician. He was an extremely strong melody writer. He would also use odd changes of time signature. Like the three beats that run up to the chorus of ‘All The Young Dudes’ – that’s so him. I think it all came from his broad musical education. He wasn’t just a rock ‘n’ roller. He loved Little Richard but he also loved Gerry Mulligan. He had a way of balancing something old and something new. But his something new was always great. And lyrically he’s just one of the great rock poets.
Tony Visconti
Mojo, March 2016