In the studio

The first North American leg of the 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, they recorded new material in New York between 4 and 11 December.

‘Drive-In Saturday’ 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 ‘The Prettiest Star’, and ‘All The Young Dudes’. The recording of ‘Drive-In Saturday’ was completed at a later date at Trident Studios in London.

Most of the recording of this was done at RCA, just a little at Trident. This was a difficult song to mix. Several tracks had multiple things recorded on them which always complicates matters and there are lots of little elements, all needing their own space.
Ken Scott, May 2015
Five Years (1969-1973) book

The release

‘Drive-In Saturday’ was issued as a single on 6 April 1973, two weeks before the release of Aladdin Sane.

The b-side of the single was ‘Round And Round’, a cover version of Chuck Berry’s ‘Around And Around’ recorded during the sessions for The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars.

According to NME journalist Charles Shaar Murray, the Rolling Stones’ ‘Let’s Spend The Night Together’ had originally been intended for the b-side, before the decision was made to include it on Aladdin Sane.

Three months ago, I sat on the floor in the mixing room at Trident Studios in the company of David Bowie, Mick Ronson, Ken Scott and sundry others and heard the bulk of this album hot off the tapes. Since then I’ve carried the memory of it around with me, waiting to hear it again and see how accurately I’d remembered it…

The album’s changed slightly since I first heard the tapes in that the recut ‘John, I’m Only Dancing’ has been replaced by ‘Let’s Spend The Night Together’, originally intended as the B side of ‘Drive-In Saturday’, and a then incomplete track called ‘Zion’ has been replaced by ‘Lady Grinning Soul’. After some more concentrated listening, some different things might emerge, and in that event I’ll take some space later to discuss them.

Charles Shaar Murray
New Musical Express, 14 April 1973

The single peaked at number three in the UK charts, a major hit for Bowie and only bettered by its predecessor, ‘The Jean Genie’, which rose to number two.

In Germany the single was edited to remove nearly a minute. This shorter version was included on Re:Call 1 in the 2015 box set Five Years (1969-1973).

‘Drive-In Saturday’ was the b-side of the Spanish version of the 1973 single ‘Life On Mars?’.