Peter Noone covered this six months prior to the release of the Hunky Dory
album. Bowie played the piano on the former Herman's Hermits vocalist's version, which peaked at #12 in the UK. When Noone's recording with producer Mickie Most couldn't match the feel of Bowie's demo, they asked Bowie to show them how it's done.
In a Songfacts interview
, Noone said: "We tried to record it from the demo which was just David on the piano, but the piano player just couldn't get it. We had Herbie Flowers, the world's greatest bass player, and the best people in the studio, the best drummer and everything, but nobody could play the part that David Bowie played because David played it in F sharp. He could only play on black keys. And for normal piano players, that's unusual and difficult. We wanted to record the song in F and nobody could do it.
Mickie said, 'Let's get Bowie over here.'
David comes in. Bowie says, 'I can't play it all the way trough. I get tired. I'm not a real piano player.'
So Mickie says, 'Let's record one section and then we'll cut the tape and repeat it three times.'
David says, 'That sounds like a good idea.'
So he plays it perfectly once, everybody loves it, it's a great version, then we repeat it. It was one of the first bits-and-pieces type of recordings. David played it great once and we worked around that. We just put the vocals on it and Mickie put some violins on it that night - I don't know why, we didn't need them. But he said, 'I put some violins on it, if you don't like it we'll get rid of it.' But of course they never got rid of anything if they spent money on it."
"He could only play the song in F#, which became the new key, Noone recalled to Mojo
magazine in 2011. "Suddenly with him playing the piano the song came alive. We cut it sort of half-live, I kept the original scratch vocal and they just doubled the high notes. It was mixed in 30 minutes."
It was Bowie, said Noone, who suggested he change the line "the earth is a bitch" to "the earth is a beast" to ensure the single didn't miss out on radio airplay.