leejohnson's current selection is:
Black Country Rock
by David Bowie


Mick 'Woody' Woodmansey, drummer extraordinaire and 'Spiders from Mars' co-founder, has a bit to say in the following 2013 New Musical Express interview which lightly charts the route from David Bowie's early pop albums through to his greatest triumph, "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars", via today's track from an LP earlier than that, "The Man who Sold the World". He also recounts how close we were to not having a 'Spiders from Mars' at all, or at least in the form we know now:


Bowie's first three albums - 1967's "David Bowie", 1969's "Space Oddity" and 1970's "The Man who Sold the World" - tanked, even though they were all brilliant, and he was gearing up to write "Hunky Dory". But he didn't have a band. Drummer Woody [Woodmansey] and guitarist [Mick] Ronson had played on "The Man who Sold the World", but it hadn't gone well.

"The last track we recorded was 'Black Country Rock'," says Woody. "And we hated how Bowie sang it like Marc Bolan, so Mick and I didn't want to perform it 'live'. We had a gig at Leeds University, and Mick and I went up in a taxi while Bowie drove his car. We got to a crossroads with Leeds one way and Hull the other. I said, 'Do you fancy going home?' and Mick said, 'Yeah.' So we left, and he [Bowie] did it acoustically. We went back to Hull and started a band called 'Ronno'. A while later we got a call from Bowie saying, 'I've got new management, I've been writing and you're the only guys who get where I’m at.'"

So Woody and Ronson hopped in a car to London, with 'Ronno' bandmate Trevor Bolder in tow. Bowie wanted Woody and Ronson to play with him on John Peel's [BBC] Radio 1 "In Concert" show on June 3rd 1971. When they arrived, Bowie's bassist Herbie Flowers couldn't do it, so Bolder stepped in.

"I had to learn 12 songs on Sunday afternoon," he [Bolder] says. "And then on Monday we did it, which was quite nerve-wracking." The nascent band stepped up to the mark though, and indeed, Bowie dug the trio's vibes so much he kept them all to record "Hunky Dory" at Trident Studios in Soho, central London, which they recorded with in-house producer Ken Scott, a man with 'The Beatles' on his CV. The sessions were quick, but Bowie decided not to tour the album because he had ideas for the next one.

"'Hunky Dory'," says Woody, "wasn't about playing 'live'." It was about Bowie making the transition "from folk to rock'n'roll, saying, 'I'll show you I can write. I can do piano, I can do guitar, I can do rock, I can do whatever.' It was a songwriting album." Plus, as Bolder puts it: "He'd had four flops already, so it was a kind of now-or-never situation." The difference between "Hunky Dory" and "...Ziggy...", said Bowie to Ken Scott, was that it was gonna be "more rock'n'roll". He left it at that.


In the UK, the album "The Man who Sold the World" charted highest at No. 24 on September 22nd 1973 - a full two months after Bowie had "killed off" his Yang, 'Ziggy Stardust'. The best it could do in the USA was No. 108 in the Billboard 200 Albums chart for January 6th 1973.

Today's track was a minor B-side twice - on the flip of the dud UK single "Holy Holy" in 1971, and backing up the Portuguese release of the single "Life on Mars?" in 1973.
1971 - Mercury Records - United Kingdom - From the album "The Man who Sold the World" - released earlier in the US, in November 1970. Subsequent re-releases came out on the 'RCA Victor' label.
Posted: 1st November 2018
Born in 1954, leaving education by 1972, 'glam' was my thing, "Ziggy" Bowie my hero. I was even the only guy in my town with the haircut (though not the carrot red colouring!). Therefore every seventh selection is a Bowie track.
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