The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars album coverWritten by: Ron Davies
Recorded: 9 July 1971
Producers: Ken Scott, David Bowie

Released: 16 June 1972

Available on:

The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars
Bowie At The Beeb

Personnel

David Bowie: vocals, 12-string acoustic guitar
Mick Ronson: electric guitar
Trevor Bolder: bass guitar
Rick Wakeman: harpsichord
Woody Woodmansey: drums
Dana Gillespie: vocals

‘It Ain’t Easy’ was recorded during the sessions for David Bowie’s fourth album Hunky Dory, but was released on the follow-up Ziggy Stardust.

A track recorded for Hunky Dory but not used. Rick Wakeman is on harpsichord.
Ken Scott, May 2015
Five Years (1969-1973) book

Composed by American songwriter Ron Davies, ‘It Ain’t Easy’ appeared on his 1970 album Silent Song Across The Land. It was covered by Three Dog Night in 1970, and in 1971 by Long John Baldry, as the title tracks of their respective third and fifth albums.

‘It Ain’t Easy’ was written by this guy Ron Davies, who wasn’t terribly well known. It was very unlike David to do a cover version of anything. It was just another session at Trident – I did a lot of session singing in those days. David was very professional – you’ve got to know what you’re going to do, and David always did.
Dana Gillespie
David Bowie: Ultimate Record Collection (Uncut)

David Bowie recorded a number of unused and incomplete songs for The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars, including ‘Amsterdam’, ‘Round And Round’, ‘It’s Gonna Rain Again’, ‘Shadow Man’, ‘Velvet Goldmine’, and ‘Sweet Head’. ‘Amsterdam’ was originally slated to be the closing track on side one of the album, before the decision was made to replace it with ‘It Ain’t Easy’.

The whole idea about the concept album thing… there are some songs that fit together on a certain story. But I dispute the idea that it’s a concept album, because why would you have ‘It Ain’t Easy’, which was recorded for Hunky Dory?
Ken Scott
David Bowie: Ultimate Record Collection (Uncut)

The reasons for including ‘It Ain’t Easy’ on the album remain unclear, since there were unused songs which better fitted Bowie’s 1972 glam persona. Furthermore, he never performed the song live, outside of a solitary BBC recording.

In the studio

‘It Ain’t Easy’ was recorded at London’s Trident Studios on 9 July 1971, during the Hunky Dory sessions.

‘It Ain’t Easy’ was hard to play because there’s a bass drum and the jangling guitars, but no hi-hat to help me keep time. Getting that to feel good and be on time was tricky.
Woody Woodmansey
Spider from Mars: My Life with Bowie

It was one of the songs included on BOWPROMO, the collection of recordings by Bowie and Dana Gillespie which manager Tony Defries used to drum up interest from record labels. Defries privately pressed 500 copies of the album in August 1971.

BBC recording

On 3 June 1971, Bowie recorded an edition of In Concert for BBC Radio. The show, presented by John Peel, was first broadcast on 20 June.

Bowie was accompanied by the Spiders From Mars, plus addition rhythm guitarist Mark Carr-Pritchard, and three vocalists: George Underwood, Dana Gillespie, and Geoff MacCormack.

They performed ten songs: ‘Queen Bitch’, ‘Bombers’, ‘The Supermen’, ‘Looking For A Friend’, ‘Almost Grown’, ‘Oh! You Pretty Things’, ‘Kooks’, ‘Song For Bob Dylan’, ‘Andy Warhol’, and ‘It Ain’t Easy’.

The session was unusual in that Bowie shared lead vocals with the other singers. MacCormack sang ‘Almost Grown’, Underwood sang ‘Song For Bob Dylan’, and Gillespie sang ‘Andy Warhol’.

For ‘It Ain’t Easy’, however, Bowie, MacCormack and Underwood all took it in turns to sing lead on a verse, with Gillespie’s backing vocals in the choruses. The recording can be heard on Bowie At The Beeb.

I was around at a lot of the sessions David was doing, hence me singing background vocals on ‘It Ain’t Easy’. And he made quite sure I was on that John Peel session – I sang on ‘Andy Warhol’ as well as ‘It Ain’t Easy’.
Dana Gillespie
David Bowie: A Life, Dylan Jones
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Next song: ‘Lady Stardust’