There were minor lyrical changes as the song developed. Bowie’s original lyrics put “long blond hair” instead of black, “songs of rebels, kings and queens”, and the chorus line “For he was ‘So Right’.”
The demo had another minor difference, with Bowie singing “Oh, how I lied, when they asked if I knew his name” – a clear allusion to St Peter’s thrice denial of Jesus in the Gospels.
An edited mono version of the demo recording was released on the 1990 and 2002 reissues of Ziggy Stardust, and as a picture disc sold in 2017 at the Japanese version of the David Bowie Is exhibition.
In the studio
‘Lady Stardust’ was recorded in just two takes on 12 November 1971, at London’s Trident Studios.
Mick Ronson did not play guitar on the song, but instead played the studio’s 1898 Bechstein grand piano, which Mike Garson would use the following year on Aladdin Sane.
Bass, drums, acoustic guitar, the Trident piano and the vocal talents of David Bowie. It doesn’t get much simpler.
Five Years (1969-1973) book
David Bowie recorded ‘Lady Stardust’ on three occasions for BBC radio.
The first was for an edition of Sounds Of The 70s presented by John Peel. It was recorded on 11 January 1972, and first broadcast on 28 January.
The second BBC recording was for the same show with the same line-up, but presented by Bob Harris. The session took place on 23 May 1972 and was broadcast on 19 June.
Once again four songs were recorded: ‘Andy Warhol’, ‘Lady Stardust’, ‘White Light/White Heat’, and ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Suicide’. All but ‘White Light/White Heat’ were included on the Bowie At The Beeb collection.
The final recording was more than two decades later. In November 1996 Bowie entered SIR Studios at 520 West 25th Street, New York City, to record a number of songs for a 50th birthday special.
The programme was titled ChangesNowBowie, and was broadcast on 8 January 1997. Bowie was accompanied by his live band: Reeves Gabrels (guitar), Mike Garson (piano), Gail Ann Dorsey (bass guitar, vocals), and Zachary Alford (drums).
The complete session was released on vinyl and compact disc on 29 August 2020 for Record Store Day as ChangesNowBowie.