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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.


'Life On Mars'
We all lived in a house together and I remember hearing David putting the finishing touches on that one in his bedroom. He wasn't a pianist, but he could change chords and have a rhythmic thing going. The lyrics on that one really got my attention, 'Mickey Mouse has grown up a cow' and all that. But it wasn't really until we got into the studio and got Rick Wakeman in on piano… I mean, David just told him to treat it as a piano piece, like a long solo all the way through. Rick's like a virtuoso so he just went to town on it! Then we had to pull something together to go with that. We had mapped it out a little bit because we already knew there would be a string arrangement that Mick had done on it, so I went through the string arrangement and knew what I could and couldn't do. I knew the ballpark. It still needed to be a solid beat, but kind of a futuristic-meets-classic rock thing because of the strings being so overpowering and Rick's playing was more classical than rock. I think the lyrics were very John Lennon-inspired – 'I am the egg man' sort of thing. There was a concept behind the song, but it wasn't that obvious. It was like painting a picture. He did actually give us a brief description, that it was about a girl who was dissatisfied with life and was always dreaming of another place that's better, but didn't know where it was or how to get there – maybe Mars… maybe Mars is the place? We did it three times in the studio and, when you are recording, you finish and you all stay silent as possible, you don't even sneeze because it will cause problems with the mixing later, but on that third time, the phone rang. We didn't even know there was a phone in the studio! It was one that was used by session musicians to ring out on, but it had never rang before. It rang all over the end of the song. It was a really pleasurable experience listening to it after it had been mixed for the first time. I think this might be my all-time favorite of Bowie's tunes.