Live versions

For the majority of his live versions of ‘I’m Waiting For The Man’, David Bowie changed the chords in the verses from E/A♭/A/F# to E/G/A/B, and on the 1976 Isolar Tour played E/G/A/C.

Lou Reed made a guest appearance at Bowie’s show at London’s Royal Festival Hall on 8 July 1972, shortly before work began on Reed’s Transformer. They duetted on three Velvet Underground songs: ‘White Light/White Heat’, ‘I’m Waiting For The Man’, and ‘Sweet Jane’. For this appearance, Bowie and the band swapped back to the song’s original E/A♭/A/F# chords.

I thought Lou was cool. He definitely rose to the occasion and had been out and bought a black velvet suit decorated with diamond patterns of diamanté, like a glam Mexican. Towards the end of the seventy-minute set Bowie introduced Lou and we played ‘I’m Waiting For The Man’, ‘Sweet Jane’ and ‘White Light/White Heat’. The two of them singing those songs together was amazing and, needless to say, it went down a storm.
Woody Woodmansey
Spider from Mars: My Life with Bowie

Bowie played ‘I’m Waiting For The Man’ frequently during the long-running Ziggy Stardust Tour. A version from 20 October 1972 can be heard on Live Santa Monica ’72.

Another recording, from the Isolar Tour on 23 March 1976, is available on Live Nassau Coliseum ’76.

Bowie also performed the song during the Sound + Vision Tour, and one time by Tin Machine on 21 December 1991 at the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver, Canada.

On 9 January 1997, Bowie’s 50th birthday concert took place at New York’s Madison Square Garden, with a number of guest performers. Lou Reed joined Bowie to perform versions of ‘Queen Bitch’, ‘I’m Waiting For The Man’, ‘Dirty Blvd’, and ‘White Light/White Heat’.

BBC recordings

David Bowie recorded ‘I’m Waiting For The Man’ on four occasions for BBC radio.

The first was for The Sunday Show, recorded at the BBC Paris Studio in London on 5 February 1970, and broadcast three days later.

Accompanied by Mick Ronson on guitar, Tony Visconti on bass, and John Cambridge on drums, Bowie recorded a total of 15 songs: ‘Amsterdam’, ‘God Knows I’m Good’, ‘Buzz The Fuzz’, ‘Karma Man’, ‘London Bye Ta-Ta’, ‘An Occasional Dream’, ‘The Width Of A Circle’, ‘Janine’, ‘Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud’, ‘Unwashed And Somewhat Slightly Dazed’, ‘Fill Your Heart’, ‘I’m Waiting For The Man’, ‘The Prettiest Star’, ‘Cygnet Committee’, and ‘Memory Of A Free Festival’.

Unfortunately, this first version ‘I’m Waiting For The Man’ was not broadcast, and remains unreleased. It is now believed to be lost.

The second BBC recording was made on 25 March 1970 at the Playhouse Theatre, London, and broadcast on 6 April, with the same musicians as before.

This time they played just four songs: ‘I’m Waiting For The Man’, ‘The Width Of A Circle’, ‘Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud’, and ‘The Supermen’. The entire session was released on the 2021 album The Width Of A Circle.

The final two recordings both featured the Spiders From Mars. On 11 January 1972 Bowie recorded an edition of Sounds Of The 70s at London’s Kensington House. The show was presented by John Peel, and broadcast on 28 January.

They recorded four songs: ‘Ziggy Stardust’, ‘Queen Bitch’, ‘I’m Waiting For The Man’, and ‘Lady Stardust’.

The final BBC recording was made on 18 January 1972, and broadcast on 7 February. It was for an edition of Sounds Of The 70s presented by Bob Harris.

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

‘I’m Waiting For The Man’ was the only one of the five not to be broadcast. All of the 18 January recordings were released, however, on Bowie At The Beeb on 26 September 2000.

On 11 January we unveiled Ziggy on a pre-recorded session for BBC Radio’s Sounds Of The Seventies with John Peel. It wasn’t broadcast until 28 January, though. We went back on 18 January to record another session for the same programme, this time with Bob Harris, to be aired on 7 February. Both were recorded at the BBC Maida Vale studios. The set list was ‘Hang On To Yourself’, ‘Ziggy Stardust’ ‘Queen Bitch’ and ‘I’m Waiting For The Man’, for both shows. On the Bob Harris show we did ‘Five Years’ as an extra number. This was just the four of us with Nicky Graham on piano.
Woody Woodmansey
Spider From Mars: My Life With Bowie