My Top 1000 Songs #381: Hang On To Yourself

[I've been writing up my Top 1000 songs on a daily basis--you can see them all in descending order by hitting the All My Favorite Songs tag.]

Like a lot of kids in the 70s, I was first turned on to David Bowie by that amazing ChangesOneBowie compilation, one of history's finest greatest hits collections. From there I worked my way through his back catalog. The first stop, of course, was 1972's Rise & Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars.

Being a pre-teen with little disposable cash, I checked out the cassette from the local public library. And of course, I fell in love with the record. But the audio was a little hinky. Side one of the cassette sounded awfully quiet. And then after the tape flip, partway through the second song ("Star"), the volume exploded, and remained loud and clear through the duration of the record. "Hang On To Yourself" was the first complete song at full volume, which seemed perfectly suited to its crisp, rousing hook, a thrilling yet concise pop-glam-rock ditty with a crunchy groove seemingly designed for an adolescent on a new musical adventure.

I kind of admired Bowie's befuddling artistic choice... keep the volume a little low, the sound a bit murky as the album's narrative builds up steam, and then blast off with the frenetically-paced "Hang," while carrying on at that level through the holy closing triumvirate of "Ziggy Stardust," "Suffragette City," and "Rock & Roll Suicide." It felt right, keeping the audience at an arms length until the blazing climax of the somewhat vague yet still thrilling rock opera.

Of course, when I eventually bought the album, I realized that the library's copy was defective, and the album was properly recorded at one volume level. Still, for the 45+ years since first hearing it, I've always felt compelled to spin up the volume knob for "Hang On To Yourself." It just sounds wrong without that massive boost for the final third of the record.

Live 1973:
Live 1978:
Live 2004: