Written by: David Bowie
Recorded: 3, 17 June; 11 November 1971
Producer: Jeff Griffin
Released: 26 September 2000
Bowie At The Beeb
David Bowie: vocals, guitar, keyboards
Mick Ronson: guitar, vocals
Mark Carr-Pritchard: guitar
Trevor Bolder: bass guitar
Mick Woodmansey: drums
‘Looking For A Friend’ was recorded by David Bowie during a 1971 BBC session, with his short-lived band Arnold Corns, and again during the Ziggy Stardust sessions.
An early demo was included on the 2022 box set Divine Symmetry.
The first studio recording was on 3 June 1971, for an edition of BBC Radio 1’s In Concert presented by John Peel. The session took place at the BBC Paris Studio in London, and was produced by the corporation’s Jeff Griffin.
The edition was broadcast on 20 June 1971, and also featured the songs ‘Queen Bitch’, ‘Bombers’, ‘The Supermen’, ‘Almost Grown’, ‘Oh! You Pretty Things’, ‘Kooks’, ‘Song For Bob Dylan’, ‘Andy Warhol’, and ‘It Ain’t Easy’.
‘Looking For A Friend’ was one of four songs from the session included on Bowie At The Beeb. The others were ‘Bombers’, ‘Kooks’, and ‘It Ain’t Easy’. All but ‘Oh! You Pretty Things’ were released on Divine Symmetry.
Bowie recorded another version at Trident Studios on 17 June 1971, with Arnold Corns. It was to have been the band’s second single, but remained unreleased until 1985 when three of the band’s recordings were released by the Krazy Kat label.
Bowie was working on a side project around the time we rejoined him, a band called Arnold Corns, whose name was inspired by Pink Floyd’s ‘Arnold Layne’. It was fronted by a clothes designer and gay friend of Bowie’s called Freddie Burretti. In hindsight, Freddie was supposed to be a sort of proto-Ziggy Stardust. The B&C label had released Arnold Corns’ awful single – versions of ‘Moonage Daydream’ and ‘Hang On To Yourself’ – in May 1971, and it disappeared without trace.
Spider From Mars: My Life With Bowie
The third version of ‘Looking For A Friend’ was taped on 11 November 1971 at an early stage of the Ziggy Stardust album. On the same day Bowie and the Spiders recorded ‘Star’, ‘Hang On To Yourself’, and versions of ‘Ziggy Stardust’, ‘Sweet Head’, and ‘Velvet Goldmine’.
‘Looking For A Friend’ was left unreleased, and Bowie stopped performing the song live by the end of the year.
A performance of the song from the Friars in Aylesbury on 25 September 1971 was released on 2022’s Divine Symmetry.
The Arnold Corns version of ‘Moonage Daydream’ is better than the version on ‘Ziggy Stardust’.
All of the anguish from the 1971 cut is lost on the bored arrangement in the latter version.