Spiders From Mars’ drummer reveals how David Bowie’s ‘Life On Mars’ ‘changed everything’

Woody Woodmansey recalls the first time he heard the classic Bowie song

Spiders From Mars’ drummer Woody Woodmansey has revealed that hearing ‘Life On Mars’ was the moment that changed everything for David Bowie and the group – but he was worried it might not have been a hit.

Mick ‘Woody’ Woodmansey played with Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars from 1970-1973. On 3 November, he releases his new memoir about the period, Spiders From Mars: My Life With David Bowie.

When asked what was the moment he first realised the true talent of Bowie and that the band would be a runaway success, the drummer told NME: “I think it’s probably, potentially and scary at the same time, was ‘Life On Mars’. We’d heard him plinking and plonking on the piano in his bedroom, and he wasn’t a pianist by any means, it was like a busker’s version of ‘Life On Mars’, but I could hear the lyrics and it sounded interesting.”


“Then when we got in the studio and we got Rick Wakeman on piano, and David just said to him, ‘Just treat it as a piano piece’, which he did and we stood there with our mouths open, going ‘Holy shit, that’s turned it into a different piece altogether’.”


He continued: “Then we did a raw version of it, then Ken Scott mixed it and called the four of us in and said, ‘come listen’, and it was like ‘fucking hell, is that us?’ It had just gone to another level of quality that we didn’t really know we’d done, and that one was like this was terrific, it was something special”.

“But at the same time it was a bit scary because there was nothing around like that. There was nobody anywhere near with that kind of direction or style or anything. So we thought ‘maybe this is too far, maybe this is a musicians’ thing, that we like it but nobody else will’.”

Woodmansey added: “It was the first time we realised what his calibre of writing could go to, but at the same time it was scary because people could just go ‘what a load of shit’. Always possible.”

Meanwhile, Woodmansey also told NME about the first time he heard ‘Life On Mars’ – and how it ‘changed everything’.


This month has also seen David Bowie’s favourite vinyl records revealed – featuring the likes of The Velvet Underground, Syd Barratt, Little Richard, Steve Reich and many more.

READ MORE: David Bowie’s 40 Greatest Songs – As Decided By NME And Friends

Bowie passed away in January at the age of 69.

A new ‘best of’ compilation ‘Bowie Legacy’ is set for release on November 11. It has been reported that David Bowie planned “a long list of musical releases” before he died, with the upcoming release of the ‘Lazarus’ musical soundtrack to feature his final ever recordings and unheard songs.


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