Absolute Beginners (David Bowie song)

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This article is about the song by David Bowie. For the song by the Jam, see Absolute Beginners (The Jam song).
"Absolute Beginners"
Single by David Bowie
from the album Absolute Beginners: The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
B-side Absolute Beginners (Dub Mix)
Released March 1986
Format 7"/12" single, 3"/5" CD single, Digital download
  • Abbey Road Studios, London, June 1985[1]
  • Westside Studios, London, August 1985[2]
Length 8:03 (full-length album version)
5:36 (single version)
Label Virgin
Writer(s) David Bowie
David Bowie singles chronology
"Dancing in the Street"
"Absolute Beginners"
Music video
"Absolute Beginners" on YouTube

"Absolute Beginners" is a song written and recorded by David Bowie. It was the theme song to the 1986 film of the same name (itself an adaptation of the book Absolute Beginners).

Although the film was not a commercial success, the song became one of Bowie's most successful 1980s singles in the UK, reaching No. 2 on the UK Singles Chart. It was less successful in the US, peaking at No. 53 on the Billboard Hot 100. Bowie performed it live on his Glass Spider and 2000 tours. It was chosen by Jeremy Allen in The Guardian as one of Bowie's ten best songs.[3]

Background and recording[edit]

Bowie was good friends with the film's director, Julien Temple (who had worked with him in 1984 on the Jazzin' for Blue Jean short film), and landed both the supporting role of Vendice Partners, and the deal to record the theme tune.

The sessions at Abbey Road Studios, London, were set up in a novel way, with a group of session musicians all receiving a card to work at the studio with "Mr X", who turned out to be Bowie. The sessions were completed rapidly, but the song was delayed due to the problems with completing the film. Virgin wanted the release to tie in with the film's opening. The song featured Rick Wakeman on piano, who had previously performed on Bowie's "Space Oddity" single and Hunky Dory album. Shortly after the sessions wrapped, Mick Jagger flew in to record the charity cover of "Dancing in the Street" with Bowie, which used many of the same musicians. Bowie recorded the lead vocal at Westside Studios in August.[2]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks by David Bowie

3" CD: Virgin CDT 20 (UK)[edit]

  1. "Absolute Beginners" - 8:03
  2. "Absolute Beginners (Dub Mix)" - 5:40

CD: Virgin CDF 20 (UK)[edit]

  1. "Absolute Beginners" - 8:03
  2. "Absolute Beginners (Dub Mix)" - 5:40

7": Virgin VS 838 (UK)[edit]

  1. "Absolute Beginners" – 5:36
  2. "Absolute Beginners (Dub Mix)" – 5:42

12": Virgin VSG 838–12 (UK)[edit]

  1. "Absolute Beginners (Full Length Version)" – 8:00
  2. "Absolute Beginners (Dub Mix)" – 5:42
  • issued in a gatefold sleeve

12": EMI America SPRO 9623 (US)[edit]

  1. "Absolute Beginners (Edited Version)" – 4:46
  2. "Absolute Beginners (Full Length Version)" – 8:00
  • includes exclusive "edited version"

Download: EMI iVS 838 (UK)[edit]

  1. "Absolute Beginners" – 5:36
  2. "Absolute Beginners (Full Length Version)" – 8:00
  3. "Absolute Beginners (Dub Mix)" – 5:42

Download: Amazon.com (US)[edit]

  1. "Absolute Beginners" – 5:37
  2. "Absolute Beginners (Full Length Version)" – 8:03
  3. "Absolute Beginners (Dub Mix)" – 5:39
  4. "That's Motivation" - 4:14
  5. "Volare (Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu)" - 3:13
  • Original release date (of E.P. download with added tracks 4 and 5): 28 May 2007

Music video[edit]

Julien Temple shot the music video, which echoed the 1950s style of the movie. The video was a homage to an old British advert for Strand cigarettes. The ill-fated advertising tagline "You're never alone with a Strand" is quoted by Partners in the film. The video also uses footage from the film.

In 2016, Entertainment Weekly chose it as one of Bowie's 20 best music videos. They stated the video "does a far better job of expressing the noirish romanticism" of MacInnes' novel than the film did and also praised the "great dance-fighting scene at the end".[4]

Production credits[edit]

Gil Evans sings the refrain of the song in the film.

Live versions[edit]

  • The song was performed live during David Bowie's 1987 Glass Spider Tour.
  • A live version recorded at BBC Radio Theatre, London, on 27 June 2000 was released on the bonus disc accompanying the first release of Bowie at the Beeb in 2000.
  • It was performed live on several occasions on the 2002 Heathen Tour as a duet with bassist Gail Ann Dorsey (Mark Plati would play bass while she sang); usually the song would end with Bowie and Dorsey dancing.

Other releases[edit]

Cover versions[edit]


Chart Position
UK Singles Chart 2
Canada Singles Chart 45[5]
Norway Singles Chart 4
US Mainstream Rock Tracks 9
US Billboard Hot 100 53


  1. ^ Thompson, Dave (2006). Hallo Spaceboy: The Rebirth of David Bowie. ECW Press. p. 321. ISBN 978-1550227338. 
  2. ^ a b Shepherd, Jack (21 January 2016). "David Bowie impersonates Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Iggy Pop and Lou Reed in newly unearthed recording". The Independent. Retrieved 8 June 2016. 
  3. ^ Allen, Jeremy (3 December 2014). "David Bowie: 10 of the best". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 4 June 2016. 
  4. ^ Anderson, Kyle (11 January 2016). "David Bowie's 20 best music videos". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 8 June 2016. 
  5. ^ Library and Archives Canada: Top Singles – Volume 44, No. 7, May 10, 1986, 10 May 1987, retrieved 11 July 2014 

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

External links[edit]