Live performances

David Bowie is said to have first performed a solo acoustic version of ‘Drive-In Saturday’ in Phoenix on 4 November 1972, his first show since writing the song. However, the earliest known recording is from Pirate’s World near Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on 17 November, in which Bowie introduced it as “a song from the year 2033”.

Another live solo acoustic recording, from 25 November at the Public Auditorium in Cleveland, Ohio, was included on the bonus disc of the 30th anniversary reissue of Aladdin Sane.

Bowie’s shows in Phoenix, Arizona on 4 and 5 November 1972 were poorly attended. The band performed in the round, with many empty seats.

There were hardly any people there. It was desperate. But that was the only show where I can remember the support working with us.
Trevor Bolder, 1995
Any Day Now, Kevin Cann

Bowie’s manager Tony Defries had failed to secure any bookings in the next week, so he and the Spiders From Mars were forced to stay in Phoenix for six days before the tour resumed on 11 November in Dallas. Due to the intense heat, they spent much of the time inside chalets at their hotel. Bowie blocked out all sunlight in an effort to retain his snow-white tan.

One day he was visited by Defries and George Underwood, a friend since Bowie’s school days.

He suddenly appeared from the bedroom, waiting for a reaction from us. It took me a few seconds to work out his eyebrows had gone. It was very striking.
George Underwood, 2001
Any Day Now, Kevin Cann

Bowie gave conflicting accounts as to why he shaved off his eyebrows. In 1997 he claimed he had got “roaring drunk” one night and woke up with just one eyebrow, so completed the image by shaving off the other – an image which he retained until 1974.

However, in 1999 he claimed it was done in anger that Mott the Hoople had turned down a chance to record the newly-written ‘Drive-In Saturday’.

‘Drive-In Saturday’ was actually written as a follow-up single for Mott the Hoople, who’d had some considerable success with another song that I’d written for them called ‘All The Young Dudes’.

Well they, in their wisdom, decided the time had come for them to write their own singles so it was given back to me!

I was so annoyed that one night in Florida I shaved my eyebrows off. You think I’m joking. I actually am not joking! I got very drunk and shaved my eyebrows off, I was so annoyed that they didn’t do this song. It really taught them a lesson…

David Bowie, 23 August 1999
VH1 Storytellers

Mott The Hoople singer Ian Hunter later denied turning down the song.

David Bowie is fond of saying he offered it to us and we turned it down. To my recollection, that wasn’t the case at all. We never turned it down. We had this arrangement of that song which was completely different and we wanted to do it. The only thing I can think of is that Tony Defries told David one story and us another.
Ian Hunter, Mott the Hoople
Any Day Now, Kevin Cann

The band’s drummer Dale Griffin later said that Bowie rescinded his offer, forcing Mott to write their own hit song. This they did with ‘Honaloochie Boogie’, which peaked at number 12 on the UK charts in July 1973.

He said that ‘Drive-In Saturday’ would be our next single but then he changed his mind. But it was great that we now had to come up with something from within the group.
Dale Griffin
The Complete David Bowie, Nicholas Pegg

Whatever the truth of the matter, Mott’s failure to record ‘Drive-In Saturday’ remained a source of bemusement for Bowie.

There’s something else which has always shocked me and you should really ask Ian this question: why didn’t they want to record ‘Drive-In Saturday’ which I wrote for them afterwards? I never understood that because I always thought that it would’ve been a great single for them, perfect. I do know that Ian hates owing anything to anyone and he found the idea of singing another David Bowie song exasperating. He’s very proud and wouldn’t want to give anyone the impression that he was depending on me. It’s just a supposition but I never really understood why they refused that opportunity.
David Bowie
Rock & Folk Magazine, December 1998