David Bowie is an undoubted chameleon of culture, changing his colours and costume to match the mood of the room or nation. Throughout his career was been able to turn music into fashion capable of being pulled on and off at a moment’s notice. This makes him the perfect artist to take on your song.
There’s no better showing of the singer’s ability to take one’s song and make it his own, than on his live 1973 cover of The Rolling Stones’ ‘Let’s Spend The Night Together’.
The track, originally written by Keith Richards and Mick Jagger, AKA The Glimmer Twins, was released in 1967 as a double-A side with ‘Ruby Tuesday’. It performed moderately well on the charts but was always held back by the song’s sexual nature and was subsequently heavily censored. Enter David Bowie.
By 1973, Bowie’s incarnation as the flame-haired rock and roller from outer space, Ziggy Stardust, was well established. In fact, Ziggy had pretty much invented glam rock all on his own, with a few notable helping hands along the way. Ziggy (and Bowie) was the artist on everybody’s lips. While others may have taken this ego-stroking as a permission slip to pursue only your own projects, Bowie was intent on reigniting the past with a view.
As well as being inspired by artists from the swinging sixties, Bowie had found some grace in helping out rockers like Lou Reed and Iggy Pop and he was keen to share the music he thought had passed the nation by too easily. He would regularly perform tracks from these bands even up until his death in 2016. In 1972 he turned his attention to The Rolling Stones.
A lover of the band, Bowie quickly adopted one of their songs ‘Let’s Spend The Night Together’ as his own and first performed it in 1972 at his now-iconic return to the Rainbow Theatre. It would go on to be featured on his album Aladdin Sane and we’re all the happier for it.
On this 1973 video from Ziggy’s performance at the Hammersmith Odeon, he takes the song up, removes some of the more bluesy elements and adds a sexed-up shade of glitter to the proceedings.
Bowie’s vocal is confident and assured, buoyed by the exuberance of the seventies, somehow the track seemed to fit more with Bowie than the Stones. It could perhaps be the reason Richards and Jagger avoided playing the track until the late seventies. When it did return to their setlist it appeared as though Jagger had adopted Bowie’s tone and added the same sexed-up swagger Ziggy brought to everything he did.
Bowie is undoubtedly one of the best ‘coverers’ of songs ever. Not only does he pay tribute to the original but he makes it his own, its the perfect balance. Sometimes he performs it so well that they change the original.
Listen below to David Bowie’s cover of ‘Let’s Spend The Night Together’ and watch his 1973 live cover of the song.