Next up in the A-Z is this live Bowie cover version, originally one of the B-sides on the "All You Need Is Me" single and also included on the Swords compilation.
What do we think?
the number of the BowieThis one came in at 242 in our Moz/Smiths-poll a couple of years ago, with an average score of 6,66.
Maybe it's b/c this was the one I knew first... but this is my go to version (horrible video quality I know). Love when he sings: "You don't really like this song, do you?"
Excuse the long block of text.
As I'm currently working through this book, here's the Drive In Saturday section from
The Complete David Bowie (Expanded And Updated Sixth Edition) by Nicholas Pegg.
It provides a bit of background regarding the song.
The hyphen in the title seems to come and go depending on which site/book you are looking at.
"DRIVE IN SATURDAY
• Album: Aladdin • A-Side: 4/73  • Bonus: Aladdin (2003) • Live: Storytellers • Live Video: Best Of Bowie, Storytellers
Not only is it arguably the finest track on Aladdin Sane, ‘Drive In Saturday’ is also the great forgotten Bowie single. A huge hit during the final UK leg of the Ziggy Stardust tour, its relative obscurity since 1973 can only be attributed to the fact that it failed to appear on any greatest hits compilation until nearly twenty years later.
The 1950s records of Bowie’s childhood are heard nowhere stronger than on this album, and ‘Drive In Saturday’ fuses a nostalgic doo-wop style with The Spiders’ futuristic soundscape – here beefed up by zaps and gurgles of phased synthesizer – to convey an impression of fractured time in yet another portrait of post-holocaust humanity. The inspiration came during a long overnight train journey in November 1972: unable to sleep as the train sped through the barren landscape somewhere between Seattle and Phoenix, Bowie later explained that he saw “the moon shining on seventeen or eighteen enormous silver domes. I couldn’t find out from anyone what they were. But they gave me a vision of America, Britain, and China after a nuclear catastrophe. The radiation has affected people’s minds and reproductive organs, and they don’t have a sex life. The only way they can learn to make love again is by watching films of how it used to be done.” The result would become one of Bowie’s most haunting lyrics: “Perhaps the strange ones in the dome can lend us a book, we can read up alone / And try to get it on like once before / When people stared in Jagger’s eyes and scored, like the video films we saw...”
As well as name-checking Jagger – a ubiquitous figure on Aladdin Sane – the song tips its hat to Marc Bolan (“try to get it on”) and even drops in a mention of swinging London’s original supermodel Twiggy. In her autobiography Twiggy recalls hearing ‘Drive In Saturday’ on the radio for the first time: “When the chorus came around, there it was again, Twig the Wonder Kid, and I thought, blimey. I remember being absolutely bowled over and of course I rushed out and bought it.” The song also contains a passing mention of “the Astronette”, a name Bowie had originally given to Lindsay Kemp’s dancers during his Rainbow Theatre shows in August 1972, and would later ascribe to the group fronted by his girlfriend Ava Cherry.
A fan who attended the Phoenix gig on 4 November 1972 has insisted that ‘Drive In Saturday’ was performed there, although official Bowie lore has it that the song received its stage premiere in Dania, Florida on 17 November. On that night (one of the few 1972 US gigs to be bootlegged), David told the audience that “this takes place probably in the year 2033,” before performing the number alone on acoustic guitar to thunderous applause. A similar acoustic version recorded a few days later, in Cleveland on 25 November, was included on the 2003 reissue of Aladdin Sane.
‘Drive In Saturday’ was immediately offered to Mott the Hoople (also touring the States in November 1972) as a possible follow-up to ‘All The Young Dudes’; they turned it down in favour of ‘Honaloochie Boogie’, which they would successfully take to number 12. “I never understood that because I always thought that would’ve been a great single for them, perfect,” David said in 1998. “I do know that Ian [Hunter] hates owing anything to anyone and he found the idea of singing another David Bowie song exasperating.” This account doesn’t entirely square with the recollection of Mott’s drummer Dale Griffin: “[Bowie] said that ‘Drive In Saturday’ would be our next single but then he changed his mind. But it was great that we now had to come up with something from within the group.” In any case ‘Drive In Saturday’ was promptly repossessed by Bowie, who took it into the studio on his return to Britain and previewed it on LWT’s Russell Harty Plus Pop on 17 January 1973, as the Aladdin Sane sessions neared completion. Transmitted on 20 January, this performance was later included on the Best Of Bowie DVD. An instrumental backing track, allegedly from the Trident sessions, has appeared on bootlegs, but its authenticity is dubious. In most territories the single was identical to the full-length album cut, but in Germany an otherwise unavailable 3’59” edit was issued instead.
‘Drive In Saturday’ appeared in the sountrack of 2007’s Ian Curtis biopic Control, and in the same year Britain’s then Secretary of State for Health, Alan Johnson, picked it as one of his Desert Island Discs on BBC Radio 4. The song is also a favourite of Bowie’s old friend Morrissey, who has performed it on several tours and released a live recording on a vinyl edition of his 2008 single ‘All You Need Is Me’. Def Leppard recorded a studio version for their 2006 covers album Yeah!. ‘Drive In Saturday’ made the occasional reappearance in David’s own repertoire during the 1973 Ziggy tour, while on the initial leg of the Diamond Dogs show it was performed in stripped-down acoustic form, with Bowie on guitar and David Sanborn on saxophone. Dropped from the set after a month or so, it remained in obscurity until 1999, when Bowie resurrected it for the ‘hours...’ promotional tour, including fine versions in his VH1 Storytellers set and the 25 October BBC session – a welcome return for one of Bowie’s most underrated classics."
Thanks, this is interesting.
I'd still love to know who or what "Sylvian" refers to. I've read different explanations, some say it's a nod to Sylvain Sylvain, some say it's the Sylvian fissure in the human brain... Guess we'll never know.
The version of Drive-In Saturday on VH1 Storytellers includes a nice anecdote about Mott the Hoople rejecting the song.
From Louder Sound (and probably most plausible):
"The band caught a train to Seattle and then Phoenix. During that journey, Bowie wrote Drive-In Saturday, a futuristic post-apocalyptic sci-fi twist on American 50s rock’n’roll that namechecks Carl Jung, NY Doll Sylvain Sylvain (Bowie misspelled his name and used it as a brand name for a pre-Viagra pick-me-up: ‘He’s crashing out with Sylvian/The Bureau Supply for ageing men’), the model Twiggy (‘Twig the Wonder Kid’), Mick Jagger and was remarkably prescient in predicting a time when video pornography would be mainstream."
And this type of thing just doesn't happen these days
"He and Angie went to the Mercer Arts Center to see the New York Dolls – or the Dolls Of NY as they currently called themselves – in the midst of a 17-week residency in the venue’s Oscar Wilde Room. According to Dolls guitarist Sylvain Sylvain, the Bowies enjoyed a five-day orgy at the Plaza Hotel with Billy ‘Doll’ Murcia and 21-year-old Marilyn Monroe lookalike Cyrinda Foxe. The foursome were at it hammer and tongs while room service champagne bottles and cocaine phials littered the floor. “David Bowie was now infatuated with Cyrinda and Angie had a new lover – Billy Doll!” said Sylvain."