In the studio

The Ziggy Stardust version of ‘Hang On To Yourself’ was first recorded on 8 November 1971 at London’s Trident Studios, along with an early version of ‘Star’.

Listening to this reminds how I really disliked cymbals during this period and would tend to use David’s acoustic guitar more than Woody’s hi-hat to push it along.
Ken Scott, May 2015
Five Years (1969-1973) book

Both songs were deemed substandard, and were re-recorded three days later on 11 November. ‘Hang On To Yourself’ was completed in eight takes.

The 11 November session also yielded recordings of ‘Ziggy Stardust’, and the unreleased ‘Looking For A Friend’, ‘Velvet Goldmine’, and ‘Sweet Head’.

‘Hang On To Yourself’ was partly ‘borrowed’ by the Sex Pistols. Glen Matlock came to a talk I gave and told me, ‘You know I ripped off the bass part, note for note, for ‘God Save the Queen’?’ That had never occurred to me before. We were full of youthful arrogance when we played this. We were saying, ‘Pin back your fucking ears and listen!’
Woody Woodmansey
Spider from Mars: My Life with Bowie

BBC recordings

David Bowie recorded ‘Hang On To Yourself’ on two occasions for BBC radio.

The first was for an edition of Sounds Of The 70s presented by Bob Harris. It was recorded at Maida Vale Studios on 18 January 1972 and first broadcast on 7 February.

Bowie and the Spiders From Mars recorded five songs: ‘Hang On To Yourself’, ‘Ziggy Stardust’, ‘Queen Bitch’, ‘I’m Waiting For The Man’, and ‘Five Years’.

The second BBC recording was again for Sounds Of The 70s, this time presented by John Peel. The session took place once again at Maida Vale, on 16 May 1972, and was broadcast on 23 May.

This time the band was joined by Nicky Graham on piano. They again performed five songs: ‘White Light/White Heat’, ‘Moonage Daydream’, ‘Hang On To Yourself’, ‘Suffragette City’, and ‘Ziggy Stardust’.

All ten recordings from these sessions were released in 2000 on Bowie At The Beeb.

Live performances

‘Hang On To Yourself’ was played throughout the Ziggy Stardust Tour in 1972-3, normally as the opening track. Recordings from the tour can be heard on Live Santa Monica ’72 and Ziggy Stardust: The Motion Picture.

It was revived in 1978 for the Isolar II Tour, with recordings available on Stage and Welcome To The Blackout (Live London ’78).

In ‘Hang On To Yourself’, everyone jamming madly on the last section, he pogos to the obvious feel of the number and gives a quick grin.
Sean Mayes, diary entry, 17 March 1978
Life on Tour with Bowie

‘Hang On To Yourself’ was performed during some early Serious Moonlight Tour dates, after which it was mothballed until A Reality Tour in 2003-4. It was performed regularly on Bowie’s final tour, and can be heard on the live album A Reality Tour.

The version from Live Santa Monica ’72 appeared on the 2008 compilation iSelect, which was originally given away with the 29 June edition of the Mail On Sunday. Bowie wrote notes on each of the tracks for the newspaper.

Ziggy and the Spiders had played around 50 UK shows total, and this Santa Monica performance, from October 20, 1972, would be our 12th in America.

Although of only bootleg quality and despite the drums and bass being casually miked, I hope you can feel our real thrill here of presenting the band to a radio audience for the first time. I necessarily took the most centre-stage position as easily as an old ham from Bromley Repertory would, though in reality I was deadly nervous.

This was our first live American radio broadcast, so it was a big deal. We fluffed a lot of stuff that night, but the enthusiasm and pride stand 10ft tall.

One astounding thing about Mainman, my management at the time, is that for the 18 months of the Spiders’ life-cycle (and after, actually) they never arranged for us to play anywhere in Europe where Ziggy was a proverbial monster. No tours, no shows, not even Paris.

I never understood that and was pretty miserable about it at the time, but now realise how naive and unprepared my management was for the serious job of actually managing.

David Bowie
Mail Online
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Next song: ‘Ziggy Stardust’