Jun 102024
David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust

In late 1973, David Bowie released his last album with his backing band, The Spiders from Mars, the all-covers Pin-Ups. Somewhat surprisingly, it contained two covers of songs by The Who, their second single “Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere” and their first single, “I Can’t Explain.”

This month will see the release of Rock ‘n’ Roll Star, a Ziggy Stardust-focused box set, which includes outtakes from the Ziggy sessions. One of these outtakes is an earlier version of Bowie’s “I Can’t Explain” cover featuring an earlier version of the Spiders from Mars, with Nick Woodmansey, the original drummer, instead of Aynsley Dunbar, who only took over for Pin-Ups.

Bowie’s original cover of “I Can’t Explain” is an extremely slow version of the song featuring saxophone fills from Bowie and another horn player, and ethereal backing vocals.

This earlier version is far closer to the original Who version. Bowie obviously sounds like Bowie not Roger Daltrey, but the backing vocals evoke the original’s. Trevor Bolder’s bass is mixed higher, but he and Mick Ronson’s rhythm parts really do seem to just try to sound louder. However, Mick Ronson’s solos are entirely different from Pete Townshend’s original. No saxophones to be heard.

The cover is an interesting insight into Bowie’s process. Clearly he loved the song but was unhappy with this original approach, or decided it didn’t fit the Ziggy Stardust concept. (There is one cover on that album.) By the time he re-recorded it two years later, he had found his original take on it but in this early version it’s still very clearly a song by The Who.

Check out this nugget:

Cover Me is now on Patreon! If you love cover songs, we hope you will consider supporting us there with a small monthly subscription. There are a bunch of exclusive perks only for patrons: playlists, newsletters, downloads, discussions, polls - hell, tell us what song you would like to hear covered and we will make it happen. Learn more at Patreon.

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>