The ZIGGY STARDUST Companion

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8 February 1972

"Five Years"
"Oh! You Pretty Things"
"Queen Bitch"

Radio/TV/Film/Video Index

Recorded & Broadcast: 8th February 1972
Musicians: David Bowie, Mick Ronson, Trevor Bolder & Mick "Woody" Woodmansey

The Old Grey Whistle Test series began in 1971 in a tiny presentation suite at the BBC and quickly became a UK institution - a more sensible, older brother to Top of the Pops.

"Before a new record is released, a rough mix is played to the grey haired doorman. If he can whistle the tune after hearing it once, it passes 'The Old Grey Whistle Test' and is released." - Richard Williams (original presenter) on the TV series unusual name.

Bowie and The Spiders From Mars performed three songs on The Old Grey Whistle Test in February 1972: "Oh! You Pretty Things" - Bowie (piano), "Queen Bitch" - Bowie (acoustic guitar) and "Five Years" - Bowie (acoustic guitar), all reportedly for a payment of 50 just two days before the start of the very first Ziggy Stardust UK tour on the 10th February 1972.

All performances were shot live in the studio.  Dressed in the very same jump-suit and red boots he wore on the Ziggy Stardust album cover, and with the Spiders in silver glitter suits, they performed a tight set for the TV cameras. Bowie and the band later watched the show at home in Beckenham.

However, "Oh You Pretty Things" was not to be broadcast in 1972.  Of the three songs, only "Five Years" and "Queen Bitch" were screened on 8th February 1972. Take 2 of "Oh You Pretty Things" was only broadcast for the very first time (on UK television) in 1982 - a full 10 years after recording.  In August 1999 the BBC as part of a David Bowie special also showed Take 1 where Bowie had changed the words on the third verse "The earth is a bitch" back to the second verse's "Written in pain".

The BBC Master tape for this show has a total running time of 20 minutes including lead-in times.

"Oh! You Pretty Things" was recorded first.  Two takes were recorded.

"Oh You Pretty Things" Take 1

"Oh You Pretty Things" Take 1

"Oh You Pretty Things" Take 1

"Oh You Pretty Things" Take 2

"Oh You Pretty Things" Take 2

"Queen Bitch" was recorded next.  Three takes of "Queen Bitch" were recorded due to mistakes on the first two takes.

Pre-take chatter

Studio: You ready for this?
Bowie: Yeah!
Bowie: Mick come closer with me on that microphone...
Ronson: Pardon?
Bowie: Don't sing as loud and come closer....
Ronson: Well I can't sing quiet...I will play it by ear
Studio: 30 seconds.....

"Queen Bitch" Take 1

"Queen Bitch" Take 1

Take 1 got no further than Bowie's acoustic guitar strumming and visually the camera just showed Bowie's boots. 

"Queen Bitch" Take 2

"Queen Bitch" Take 2

In Take 2 of "Queen Bitch" Bowie stopped singing soon after the first verse and waved to the control room that he was ending the take. In 1997 the BBC screened this for the first time.

Post-take chatter

Bowie: Sorry!
Studio: That's alright
Bowie: Didn't like it!
Studio: You having any problems in there David?
Bowie: No problems
Studio: Shall we do it again?
Bowie: Yeah!

"Queen Bitch" Take 3

Take 3 was successful and this was the performance broadcast in 1972.   Today it is considered to be the best vocal and visual performance of the three songs. 

"Five Years" was recorded last and in one take even though Bowie made a mistake with the lyrics.    

Pre-take sound

Mick Ronson plays a little piano ditty before the take begins

"Five Years" Take 1

"Five Years" Take 1

Post-take chatter

Bowie: That OK?

It certainly was Ok but sadly none of these excellent performances are yet commercially available.  Each however has been broadcast from time to time in various countries including the outtakes.

---This page last modified: 19 Jan 2007---

Ziggy Stardust Scarf (1973)