The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars album coverWritten by: David Bowie
Recorded: 11 November 1971
Producers: Ken Scott, David Bowie

Released: 11 June 1990

Available on:
The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars (30th anniversary edition)

Personnel

David Bowie: vocals, 12-string guitar
Mick Ronson: guitar
Trevor Bolder: bass guitar
Woody Woodmansey: drums

‘Sweet Head’ was recorded during David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust sessions in 1971, but remained unreleased until 1990.

Unlike other Ziggy Stardust outtakes such as ‘Round And Round’, ‘Amsterdam’, ‘Velvet Goldmine’, and ‘Holy Holy’, ‘Sweet Head’ was never seriously in the running for inclusion on the album.

Indeed, it was barely known about until Rykodisc released it on their Ziggy reissue in 1990. According to label boss Jeff Rougvie, Bowie initially blocked its inclusion, “and then two months later he changed his mind and said we could put it out.”

The reason for its initial unreleased status is likely to have been the lyrical content, with references to oral sex, violence, “spics and blacks”, “faggy parks”, and lines such as “I’m your rubber peacock angelic whore”. Although Bowie was adept at inserting sex and drug references into his songs by 1971, there was evidently only so far he could go.

It was about oral sex, and it was one I don’t think RCA particularly wanted.
David Bowie
Musician magazine, June 1990

In the studio

‘Sweet Head’ was recorded on Thursday 11 November 1971, on the day that David Bowie and the Spiders From Mars also recorded ‘Star’, ‘Hang On To Yourself’, ‘Ziggy Stardust’, ‘Looking For A Friend’, and ‘Velvet Goldmine’.

This was the third Ziggy Stardust session. The first two, on 8 and 10 November, were scrapped after Bowie was unhappy with the results.

The release

Take four of ‘Sweet Head’ was first released on 11 June 1990, as a bonus track on the Rykodisc/EMI reissue of The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars.

It was subsequently included on the 30th anniversary edition of the album in 2002, which included a few seconds of studio chatter ahead of the song.

Also in 2002 it was used in the Brad Silberling film Moonlight Mile, and released on the corresponding soundtrack album.

In June 2012 a 40th Anniversary Edition of Ziggy Stardust was released by EMI/Virgin. It was released on CD, vinyl, and a DVD which contained the remastered version, along with stereo and 5.1 remixes made in 2003 by Ken Scott. These also included Scott’s remixes of ‘Moonage Daydream’ (instrumental), ‘The Supermen’, ‘Velvet Goldmine’, and ‘Sweet Head’.

Lyrics

I tried to break away from you
From the spics and blacks and the gum you chew
Where the posters are torn by the muggin’ gangs
By the faggy parks and the burnt out vans
I’ve got ninety-nine years of laying in the dark and I’m far too young to lie
I’ve got ninety-nine ways to play my guitar it’s going to pay me before I die

So bob your sweet head
Brother Ziggy going to play
I’m just about the best you can hear
Gonna rock it in your head
Shazam and kapow!
With my guitar and me soprano
We can give you sweet head

I’m tough as glass and clean as night
Well if looks can love we can love all right
I’m your rubber peacock angelic whore
I’m a wrought iron face upon the wall
I had ninety-nine tales of murder come life and I’m running away from it all
I got a bedroom, every mirror in town they’re going to claim me if I fall

So bob your sweet head
Brother Ziggy going to play
I’m just about the best you can hear
Gonna rock it in your head
Shazam and kapow!
With my guitar and me soprano
We can give you sweet head

Sweet head
Give you sweet head

While you’re down there

See my eyes of blocked emotion
See my tremble, see my fall
Traumatics thick and fast, your faith in me can last
Besides I’m known to lay you, one and all

Look south the way your mother dwells
If she knew what’s going down, she’d give you hell
I’m the kind of man she warned me of
Till there was rock, you only had God

You and I have a mutual vow
We both like young, and we both like loud
I got pretty shoes, and I’m kid and proud
I’m street side out with my ear to the crowd

So bob your sweet head
Brother Ziggy going to play
I’m just about the best you can hear
Gonna rock it in your head
Shazam and kapow!
With my guitar and me soprano
We can give you sweet head

Move along, sir!