Written by: David Bowie
Recorded: 12 November 1971
Producers: Ken Scott, David Bowie
Released: 16 June 1972
The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars
Welcome To The Blackout (Live London ’78)
Mick Ronson: electric guitar
Trevor Bolder: bass guitar
Woody Woodmansey: drums
‘Soul Love’, the second song on David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust album, explored themes of love, loss, and religion.
As with ‘Five Years’, it begins with a distinctive drum beat from Mick ‘Woody’ Woodmansey.
The concept of these alien songs was important, so when I picked a drum beat I didn’t want it to be too unfamiliar; I wanted it to have a futuristic edge without being gimmicky. I tried to find that in all the tracks. I knew how John Bonham or Deep Purple’s Ian Paice would do it, but that wasn’t the point. As I’ve said, I followed the maxim that less was more, and avoided making everything too busy.
Spider from Mars: My Life with Bowie
The song introduces a note of optimism, in contrast with the dystopian nightmare of ‘Five Years’. Indeed, its characters can be seen as using love, in various ways, to cope with the impending apocalypse.
‘Soul Love’ is a cinematic sweep, beginning with a grieving mother kneeling before the grave of her son, before the picture cuts to the new love of a boy and a girl, exploring novel experiences and words.
Yet the core of ‘Soul Love’ is the love between man and God. The third verse is one of Bowie’s most nakedly religious, a forerunner of the likes of ‘Word On A Wing’ and ‘Modern Love’. “How my God on high is all love,” he sings, “though reaching up my loneliness evolves by the blindness that surrounds Him.” Heady stuff from an aspirational teen idol.
Religion also casts its shadow over the bridge to the chorus, with Bowie singing “Love is careless in its choosing/Sweeping over cross and baby.” In Bowie’s world, love is indiscriminate and merciless, descending on “those defenceless/Idiot love will spark the fusion.”
Never have been in love, to speak of. I was in love once, maybe, and it was an awful experience. It rotted me, drained me, and it was a disease. Hateful thing, it was. Being in love is something that breeds brute anger and jealousy, everything but love, it seems. It’s a like Christianity – or any religion, for that matter.
Playboy, September 1976
In the studio
‘Soul Love’ was recorded in a single take at London’s Trident Studios on Friday 12 November 1971.
It was a particularly productive day for Bowie and the Spiders, who also cut ‘Moonage Daydream’, ‘Lady Stardust’, and a re-recording of ‘The Supermen’ during the session.
Not really much to say about this as there is very little unusual about any of the recording.
Five Years (1969-1973) book
‘Soul Love’ was played at a small number of US dates in 1973, during the Ziggy Stardust Tour.
It was played regularly during the Isolar II tour in 1978, as heard on the live albums Stage and Welcome To The Blackout (Live London ’78).
Then the bombshells followed – ‘Soul Love’! ‘Star’! David dancing, bouncing, kicking – this is not Bowie posing, it’s David having a ball.
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The Stage recording was released as a single in Japan in September 1978, with ‘Blackout’ on the b-side. The single failed to chart.
‘Soul Love’ was also performed during the first two concerts of the Serious Moonlight Tour, in Brussels on 18 and 19 May 1983.