"Holy Holy" is one of Bowie's lesser-known songs even though it was released as a mainstream studio single. Its hazy status is largely due to its strange recording history. Bowie first recorded it in early November 1970, a few months after the release of The Man Who Sold The World
, yet he recorded it as a single to promote that album.The Man Who Sold The World
sold poorly at first. A year after its release, less than 1,400 copies had been purchased in the United States. Bowie and his label, Mercury, thought the album didn't have any songs that worked well on radio, so they decided to do a single-worthy song. "Holy Holy" was Bowie's attempt to fill that gap, but the song was an even bigger commercial flop.
So the song wasn't originally on The Man Who Sold The World
, yet was made for that album, and then it didn't sell nearly enough on its own to find a hook in history. Bowie did another version in 1971 for his next studio album, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
, but it wasn't deemed fitting to keep on there. That newer version was used in 1974 as the B-side for the "Diamond Dogs
" single. It's not a studio outtake or "rarity" in any usual sense, but the song's convoluted journey kept it under the radar.