In the studio

‘Ziggy Stardust’ was one of several songs registered with Chrysalis, Bowie’s then-publishing company, on 1 April 1971. The previous month he had recorded a demo of ‘Lady Stardust’, suggesting that the Ziggy concept was taking shape before even Hunky Dory had been recorded.

David Bowie recorded an acoustic demo of ‘Ziggy Stardust’ in February 1971, prior to the Hunky Dory sessions. Believed to have been recorded at Radio Luxembourg’s studios, it was included on the Rykodisc reissue of The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars in 1990, and on the 30th anniversary set in 2002.

The drum beat in ‘Ziggy Stardust’ is influenced by King Crimson, believe it or not. I love ‘21st Century Schizoid Man’ because of the way that Michael Giles starts and ends the rolls in unusual places. I thought the whole feel of this song would suit that approach.
Woody Woodmansey
Spider From Mars: My Life With Bowie

The album version was recorded on 11 November 1971, a remarkably productive day which also saw recordings of ‘Star’, ‘Hang On To Yourself’, ‘Looking For A Friend’, ‘Velvet Goldmine’, and ‘Sweet Head’.

To me this track shows off the importance of Ronno and his unique guitar sound. It’s his usual Les Paul through a Marshall amp, but his sound came from his pedal. He didn’t need a massive array like so many players today, just a Cry Baby wah-wah which he’d start with completely open and slowly push the pedal down until we obtained just the right sound and he wouldn’t touch it again until the next song or part.
Ken Scott, May 2015
Five Years (1969-1973) book

The release

David Bowie’s fifth album, The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars, was released on 16 June 1972.

Although often included in best-of compilations alongside ‘Suffragette City’, ‘Ziggy Stardust’ was not released as a single a-side until a live version was issued in America and France in 1994 to promote the Santa Monica ’72 release.

BBC sessions

David Bowie and the Spiders From Mars recorded ‘Ziggy Stardust’ three times for BBC Radio 1 sessions. The first was on 11 January 1972 for Sounds Of The 70s, presented by John Peel and broadcast on 28 January. The other songs in the session were ‘Queen Bitch’, ‘I’m Waiting For The Man’, and ‘Lady Stardust’.

The second session was recorded on 18 January 1972 and broadcast on 7 February. It was again for Sounds Of The 70s, although this time the presenter was Bob Harris. ‘Ziggy Stardust’ was the second song recorded, the others being ‘Hang On To Yourself’, ‘Queen Bitch’, ‘I’m Waiting For The Man’, and ‘Five Years’. All five tracks were included on the Bowie At The Beeb collection.

On 11 January we unveiled Ziggy on a pre-recorded session for BBC Radio’s Sounds Of The Seventies with John Peel. It wasn’t broadcast until 28 January, though. We went back on 18 January to record another session for the same programme, this time with Bob Harris, to be aired on 7 February. Both were recorded at the BBC Maida Vale studios. The set list was ‘Hang On To Yourself’, ‘Ziggy Stardust’ ‘Queen Bitch’ and ‘I’m Waiting For The Man’, for both shows. On the Bob Harris show we did ‘Five Years’ as an extra number. This was just the four of us with Nicky Graham on piano.
Woody Woodmansey
Spider From Mars: My Life With Bowie

The third session was for another edition of Sounds Of The 70s, again presented by John Peel. It was recorded on 16 May 1972 broadcast seven days later. The songs, all of which appeared on Bowie At The Beeb, were ‘White Light/White Heat’, ‘Moonage Daydream’, ‘Hang On To Yourself’, ‘Suffragette City’, and ‘Ziggy Stardust’.