Given its first official release in September 1975, this 1971 track was, according to many contemporaneous and more recent sources, released and remixed, without DB's permission/approval.
If the track as released in 1975, and reissued several times subsequently, was a remixed version then, unless it was never mixed to "approval" at the time, there must be a mix in existence that is the original 1971 approved mix. The only
other alternative option is that the mix released in 1975 was indeed the 1971 approved mix.
What follows is a theory based on available information about the missing mix.
When The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars was first assembled (mixed and mastered) in 1971 it contained four tracks that were replaced prior to release in 1972: Round and Round, (Port of) Amsterdam, Velvet Goldmine and Holy Holy.
Reported in Mike Evans site 5years.com the tracklisting, as of December 15, 1971 was:
Round and Round
Port of Amsterdam
Hang Onto Yourself
(Kevin Cann's book Any Day Now (p 231) and the liner notes for the 30th Anniversary Ziggy Stardust CD both mention the 15th November as the day a "running order"was prepared, though do not provide the running order.)
The images contained in the 30th anniversary CD edition of the UK Trident tape boxes for the final album (with It Ain't Easy, Suffragette City, Rock 'n' Roll Suicide and Starman all included) have RCA matrix numbers assigned to each track, with the 1971 recordings being as follows, which suggest it wasn't just a "running order", the album was mastered ready for production:
Matrix numbers were assigned for each side, and the songs, in sequential order as they would appear on the album as planned, in standard RCA practice. The first letter of the matrix number indicates the year - an "A" indicates 1971, a "B" would indicate 1972 and a "C" 1973. (See Keith Flynn's website: http://www.keithflynn.com/recording-sessions/matrix-numbers/matrixnumbersexplained.html
for a detailed explanation.)
Side 1: APRS 6814
Side 2: APRS 6815
Five Years APC6 - 6816
Soul Love APC6 - 6817
Moonage Daydream APC6 - 6818
Round 'n' Round APC6 - 6819 (transcription error on box)
Hang on To Yourself APC6 - 6821
Ziggy Stardust APC6 - 6822
Star APC6 - 6825
Lady Stardust APC6 - 6826
The removed three tracks not mentioned on the box ( Round and Round being written on the February 9 dated box and crossed off) fit into the matrix sequence with the the following matrix numbers:
(Port of) Amsterdam 6820
Velvet Goldmine 6823
Holy Holy 6824
The February 9 1972 dated box ( which is reported elsewhere as being February 2) is proof that each of the four tracks removed from the 1971 running order were mixed and mastered for release. Over the next two and half years three of the tracks were released as B-sides - Round and Round, Amsterdam and Holy Holy, leaving just Velvet Goldmine unreleased.
Shortcut to 1975, and DB, in America, creating a wholesome "Young American" image (think Cher show, think "earth bound" attire) whilst much of his listening public, especially in the British Isles, were still living the Rise and Rise of Ziggy Stardust, taking a while to adjust to this new image.
In September RCA England re-releases Space Oddity to enormous success, partly because it's such a great song and recording, and possibly partly because of the previously unreleased track "Velvet Goldmine" being included on the Maximillion 3 track single.
According to reports DB is not happy this track has been released and remixed without his permission - and understandably so - each artist surely wants to determine their own releases (at least in their own lifetime), despite, at the same time, a long standing desire by the public and historians to examine the offcuts, the outtakes, the sketches, all for the purpose of gaining a greater understanding and insight of the artist.
If DB did not give permission to release the track, how did that happen - surely RCA wouldn't release something it wasn't legally allowed to do so.
A clue to what possibly happened is revealed in the action taken by Capitol in 2011 (United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, filing/ case number 11 CV 6808 and received September 29, 2011) against Tony de Fries.Item 30.
For example, pursuant to an agreement date March 1, 1975 between David Bowie and MainMan-affiliated entities (the "March 1975 Agreement"), certain pre-March 1975 master recordings ("Old Masters") and compositions ("Old Compositions") became jointly owned and controlled by Bowie and MainMan.
It is almost certain that the 1971 mastered recording of Velvet Goldmine was considered one of the "Old Masters", and depending on the legal interpretation of "jointly owned and controlled" (is only one party needed to approve a release, or does it take both?) that either RCA sought only MainMan's approval knowingly of the March 1 agreement, or unknowingly, not realising or being fully aware of the change between DB and MainMan. The other part of this equation is how complicit was Tony de Fries, if at all. If RCA approached MainMan, as is most likely, as it would have been what they were used to for four years, was Tony de Fries obligated to get DB's OK as well.
And the remixing?
Consider this - if RCA had access to a fully mastered track, which they surely did, why would they remix it?
They probably wouldn't - they would have released the track as mixed for the 1971 mastered LP, as they had done with the other three tracks (Round and Round, Amsterdam and Holy Holy)
Which leaves the final question - why would DB say it was remixed, if it wasn't?
It is my contention that due to the content of the song, and the conflict between the content of the song and the quite different and wholesome image that a young 28 year old DB was projecting in 1975, he wished, on some level, to deflect attention away from the song content to people empathising with him about the wrongs of releasing material without his permission.
Substitute the original title "He's a Goldmine" into the lyrics and it becomes a far less ambiguous and potentially more controversial song than "John, I'm only Dancing" ever was.
Should we be harsh on DB's deflection - of course not. I can only imagine how difficult it is to share oneself in song, only to for it to be thrown back at you at some later date for all the wrong reasons and then to be pigeonholed because of some song or quote from an earlier time and coming from a different headspace.