Bowie wrote this on a train during his 1972 US tour. It was influenced by the barren landscape between Seattle and Phoenix, Arizona. Bowie first performed this just hours after it was composed, in Phoenix at Celebrity Theatre, on November 4, 1972.
“After hearing a promotional EP with “It Ain’t Easy” and needing a place to take a date, I picked up tickets that night. There were only approximately 200 people there, mostly drag queens and my date and I. So few, they didn’t rotate the stage (being a theatre in the round). They just asked everyone to move to one side…. Anyway, Bowie DID play “Drive In Saturday” that night, he said, for the the first time. As I was not familiar with any of the songs, and as he asked the audience to “turn off your tape recorders”, I made a mental note. Later, after finally hearing the bootleg of Santa Monica 72, I realised that Drive In Saturday was played [at the Celebrity Theatre] instead of “My Death””