David Bowie The Prettiest Star (1970)

David Bowie The Prettiest Star (1970)

“The Prettiest Star” was released as a single in March 1970.

In January 1970, Bowie re-recorded an old Deram track, “London Bye Ta Ta”, intended as a follow-up single to “Space Oddity”. However, the same sessions spawned a new composition named “The Prettiest Star”, which Bowie had written for Angela Barnett, reputedly playing it down the telephone as part of his proposal to her. It’s in Greek “hassapiko” dance style, as a tribute to Angie’s Cypriot ethnic origin. He also chose it as his next single, to the displeasure of manager Kenneth Pitt, who favoured “London Bye Ta Ta”.

The track featured Marc Bolan on guitar, with whom Bowie would spend the next few years as a rival for the crown of the king of glam rock. Producer Tony Visconti, who brought the two aspiring pop stars together in the studio, recalled that the session went well until the end when Bolan’s wife June remarked to Bowie, “Marc is too good for you, to be playing on this record!”

Despite receiving good notices, the single reportedly sold fewer than 800 copies, a major disappointment on the back of the success of “Space Oddity”. A more glam-influenced version, recorded in New York in December 1972, was included on the album Aladdin Sane, with Mick Ronson recreating Bolan’s original guitar part almost note-for-note.

Track listing
“The Prettiest Star” (David Bowie) – 3:09
“Conversation Piece” (Bowie) – 3:05

Production credits
Tony Visconti

Musicians (1970 original single version):
David Bowie – lead vocals, acoustic guitar
Marc Bolan – electric guitar on “The Prettiest Star”
Tony Visconti – bass guitar, string arrangement
John Cambridge – drums
Derek Austin – Hammond Organ
Tim Renwick, John ‘Honk’ Lodge and John Cambridge were all from the band Junior’s Eyes, who briefly served as Bowie’s backing band for live appearances and on an October 1969 BBC Radio session.

Musicians (1973 Aladdin Sane version):
David Bowie – lead vocals, acoustic guitar
Warren Peace – backing vocals, handclaps
Mick Ronson – electric guitar, backing vocals
Trevor Bolder – bass guitar
David Sanborn – tenor saxophone
Mike Garson – piano
Woody Woodmansey – drums

Other releases
The Aladdin Sane version was released as the B-side of the US single “Time” in April 1973.

The Aladdin Sane version also appeared on the Japanese compilation The Best of David Bowie in 1974.

The single version from 1970 was included, in its original mono format, in the Sound + Vision box set, in 1989, and on Re:Call 1, part of the Five Years (1969–1973) compilation, in 2015.

The single version was also included on the career-spanning Marc Bolan box set 20th Century Superstar.

On The Best of David Bowie 1969/1974 in 1997, the 1970 recording was issued for the first time in stereo, described on the sleeve as “Bolan Stereo Mix”; the same version later appeared on The Platinum Collection (2006).

The song appeared on the musical soundtrack of the film Kinky Boots.

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