John, I'm Only Dancing

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"John, I’m Only Dancing"
Single by David Bowie
B-side "Hang on to Yourself"
Released 1 September 1972
Format 7" single
Recorded Olympic Studios, London
26 June 1972 (original single version); Trident Studios, London, 20 January 1973 ("sax version")
Genre Glam rock, art rock, pop rock
Length 2:43
Label RCA Records
2263
Writer(s) David Bowie
Producer(s) David Bowie, Ken Scott
David Bowie singles chronology
"Starman"
(1972)
"John, I’m Only Dancing"
(1972)
"The Jean Genie"
(1972)

"John, I’m Only Dancing" is a single by David Bowie, released in two versions, bearing the same catalogue number, in September 1972 and April 1973.

Recording and release[edit]

The song was widely believed to be concerned with a gay relationship, the narrator informing his boyfriend not to worry about the girl he's with because he's "only dancing" with her.[1][2] Bowie had been 'out' as bisexual since an interview with Melody Maker in January 1972, and the subject matter did not affect the single's radio airplay in the UK, where it became his first back-to-back hit, following "Starman" earlier in the year. However, the original video directed by Mick Rock, featuring androgynous dancers from Lindsay Kemp's mime troupe, was banned by Top of the Pops.[1]

The single was not released in America, being judged too risqué by RCA[2][3] and did not officially appear stateside until it was finally issued on the compilation Changesonebowie in 1976. While the hook ("John, I'm only dancing / She turns me on / But I'm only dancing") has long been considered a gay tease, author Nicholas Pegg asserts that the song's narrator "could just as easily be a straight man reassuring the girl's lover".[3] Alternatively, it has been suggested that Bowie wrote the song in response to a derogatory comment made by John Lennon about Bowie's cross-dressing.[4]

Musically in a light R&B style, the track was recorded on 26 June 1972,[5] released as a single, and then re-recorded on 20 January 1973[6] during the Aladdin Sane sessions, in a slightly different arrangement featuring Ken Fordham on saxophone. Often called the "sax version", the second recording was issued as a single in April 1973 with exactly the same catalogue number as the first release, causing difficulties for collectors.[3] Generally held to be superior to the original cut,[2][7] the sax reworking also appeared on early pressings of Changesonebowie before it was replaced with the original single version.

In 1974, a completely reworked funk-influenced version was recorded as "John, I’m Only Dancing (Again)"; this song is described in detail below.

Track listing[edit]

  1. "John, I’m Only Dancing" (Bowie) – 2:43
  2. "Hang on to Yourself" (Bowie) – 2:38

Production credits[edit]

Live versions[edit]

  • A previously unreleased live version from Boston Music Hall, recorded on 1 October 1972, was released in 1989 on the original Sound and Vision box set, but was not included in subsequent versions of this compilation. The same track, however, was issued on the bonus disc of the Aladdin Sane - 30th Anniversary Edition in 2003.
  • A live version recorded at Santa Monica Civic Auditorium on 20 October 1972 has been released on Santa Monica '72 and Live Santa Monica '72.
  • A recording from the 1974 tour was released on the semi-legal A Portrait in Flesh.

Other releases[edit]

  • The Portugal release of the single "Starman" from September 1972 had "John, I'm Only Dancing" as the B-side.
  • In November 1972 it was released as the B-side of the single "The Jean Genie" in Japan.
  • It appeared on yet another B-side in June 1973, this time the "Cracked Actor" single in Eastern Europe.
  • A previously-unreleased mix of the 1972 version of the song was released as a bonus track on the Rykodisc CD release of Ziggy Stardust in 1990.
  • The "sax version" was released on the bonus disc of the 30th Anniversary Edition of Aladdin Sane in 2003.
  • It was released as a picture disc in the RCA Life Time picture disc set.
  • It has appeared on the following compilations:

Cover versions[edit]

  • Ask the Dust - BowieMania: Mania, une collection obsessionelle de Beatrice Ardisson (2007)
  • The Brides - .2 Contamination: A Tribute to David Bowie (2006)
  • The Chameleons - Strange Times (1986)
  • The Deltas - Psycho Killers (various artists) (1998)
  • The Glam Rock Allstars - Glamtastic 70s Megamix
  • The Hormones - Only Bowie (1995)
  • Mime - Loving The Alien: Athens Georgia Salutes David Bowie
  • The Polecats - Polecats Are Go! and single release; it also appeared on David Bowie Songbook and on Starman: Rare and Exclusive Versions of 18 Classic David Bowie Songs, CD premium from the March 2003 issue of Uncut magazine.
  • Vivian Girls - We Were So Turned On: A Tribute to David Bowie (2010)

John, I'm Only Dancing (Again)[edit]

"John, I'm Only Dancing (Again)"
Single by David Bowie
B-side John, I'm Only Dancing
Released December 1979
Format 7"/12" single
Recorded Sigma Sound Studios, Philadelphia; August & November 1974
Genre Soul, disco, rock
Length 3:26
Label RCA
BOW 4
Writer(s) David Bowie
Producer(s) David Bowie, Tony Visconti
David Bowie singles chronology
"Look Back in Anger"
(1979)
"John, I'm Only Dancing (Again)"
(1979)
"Alabama Song"
(1980)

"John, I’m Only Dancing (Again)" was a re-recording of "John, I’m Only Dancing", made in 1974 during the sessions for the album Young Americans.

Released in December 1979, the re-recording featured a much more funk-influenced take on the track, and has some similarities with the song "Stay" recorded for the Station to Station album in 1976. Originally running at 6:57, the track was cut for a 7" single release, but the full version was issued on 12" vinyl – the first Bowie single to have a regular 12" release in the UK. For the B-side, the original version of "John, I'm Only Dancing" was remixed. After the relative disappointment of the singles from Lodger on the charts, the single gave Bowie some greater degree of mainstream exposure during a period when his work was increasingly being perceived as esoteric and experimental. The long 12" version was included as a bonus track on the 1991 Rykodisk/EMI remaster CD of Young Americans, and as part of the 2007 collectors edition of the album. The 7" single version has yet to appear on any CD.

The reworking of "John, I'm Only Dancing" intentionally drops the original verses, only leaving the chorus' lyrics intact, perhaps given the supposed homosexual nature of the original piece. Rather, the new lyrics were simply an embrace of the dance floor and the spirit of disco. The chorus is delivered more slowly and unswung with dance beats instead of the rather retro blues beats of the original, giving time for Bowie to demonstrate vocal virtuosity. The changes were considered somewhat strange given the original's context, especially the transformation into the "overlong" dance track, given the 12" version's extended mix, in which half of the song is a repetitive riff consisting of the lyrics "dancing, dancing, dancing, woo woo woo-oo".

Track listing[edit]

  • All tracks by Bowie

7": RCA / BOW 4 (UK)[edit]

  1. "John, I'm Only Dancing (Again)" – 3:26
  2. "John, I'm Only Dancing (1972)" – 2:43

7": RCA / 11886 (US)[edit]

  1. "John, I'm Only Dancing (Again)" – 3:26
  2. "Golden Years" - 4:03

7": RCA / 11887 (US)[edit]

  1. "John, I'm Only Dancing (1972)" – 2:43
  2. "Joe The Lion"

12": RCA / BOW 12 4 (UK)[edit]

  1. "John, I'm Only Dancing (Again)" – 6:57
  2. "John, I'm Only Dancing (1972)" – 2:43

These two versions of the song were released on two separate singles in the US. One had "John, I'm Only Dancing (Again)" with "Golden Years" as the B-side, while the other version had the new remixed version with "Joe the Lion" as the B-side.

Production credits[edit]

Other releases[edit]

Cover versions[edit]

  • Creem - Ashes to Ashes: A Tribute to David Bowie (listed on the album as John, I'm Only Dancing)
  • Vivian Girls - We Were So Turned On: A Tribute to David Bowie

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b David Buckley (1999). Strange Fascination - David Bowie: The Definitive Story: pp.169-170
  2. ^ a b c d Roy Carr & Charles Shaar Murray (1981). Bowie: An Illustrated Record: pp.49-50
  3. ^ a b c Nicholas Pegg (2000). The Complete David Bowie: pp.112-113
  4. ^ Philip Glaviano (1983). Inside Bowie: p. 69
  5. ^ Kevin Cann (2010). Any Day Now - David Bowie: The London Years: 1947-1974: p.257
  6. ^ Kevin Cann (2010). Any Day Now - David Bowie: The London Years: 1947-1974: p.283
  7. ^ a b "John, I’m Only Dancing" at The Ziggy Stardust Companion

References[edit]

Pegg, Nicholas, The Complete David Bowie, Reynolds & Hearn Ltd, 2000, ISBN 1-903111-14-5