The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website

Baker's Dozen

Jamming Good: Spiders Drummer Woody Woodmansey's Favourite Bowie Moments
Valerie Siebert , February 22nd, 2017 09:50

During the earthly sojourn of Ziggy Stardust, Woody Woodmansey laid down the rhythm for David Bowie's mercurial backing band The Spiders From Mars. Here he talks Valerie Siebert through his 13 favourite Bowie tracks, sharing personal memories of how they were made along the way.

Between his evolving personas, image overhauls and looming presence over so much music that followed him, David Bowie has always been the sort of rock star that even the term 'icon' couldn't adequately describe.

Which is why it may be shocking to hear that musicians helping him record what would become some of the most well-regarded records of the 1970s thought that the former David Jones could be less than exacting about his vision.

East Riding of Yorkshire native Woody 'Mick' Woodmansey was the Starman's sticks man for several of the crucial early years and albums of Bowie's career – from The Man Who Sold The World in 1970 to 1973's Aladdin Sane – but he, like the rest of Ziggy's Spiders From Mars, was much more than a simple backing man.

In his recent autobiography, Spider From Mars: My Life With David Bowie, Woody paints a picture of an artist who was anything but a control freak – a man who trusted the musicians around him to turn a loose idea plucked out on a piano or a 12-string acoustic into a rip-roaring rock & roll classic. In fact, Woody claims that there was only one instance – Panic in Detroit – that Bowie ever gave him a specific drumbeat to play. Every other time, it was up to him to set up the beat.

'He would play the song to you once or twice and then we would get in the studio with the rest of the Spiders. We would do maybe two recordings of the song then go up to the sound room and have a listen,' he remembers.' We would be thinking: 'Oh I could do this and this differently, this a bit tighter, maybe add something here,' but then David would just say: 'That's the one, that's what I want' right off the bat. We would all be thinking: 'He's an idiot!''

While Bowie's death last year seemed untimely, he had in fact outlived all of his Spiders bandmates save Woodmansey. Here, he takes us through the tracks he counts among his proudest moments working alongside David, Mick Ronson et al. – as well as a few tunes that, for him, proved the enduring genius of Bowie years after they parted ways.

Hull City Of Culture 2017 celebrates the legacy of the Spiders From Mars this March. For more information please visit the website, and click the photo of Woody below to begin reading his 13 Bowie selections