Fame (David Bowie song)

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Single by David Bowie
from the album Young Americans
B-side "Right"
Released 25 July 1975 (1975-07-25)
Format 7"
Recorded Electric Lady Studios, New York City January 1975
Genre Funk[1]
  • 3:30 (single edit)
  • 4:12 (album version)
Label RCA
David Bowie singles chronology
"Young Americans"
"Golden Years"

"Never Let Me Down"

"Fame '90"

"Real Cool World"
Tin Machine chronology
"Prisoner of Love"
"Fame '90"
"You Belong in Rock n' Roll"
Music video
"Fame '90" on YouTube

"Fame" is a song recorded by David Bowie, initially released in 1975. Written by Bowie, Carlos Alomar and John Lennon, it was a hit in North America, becoming Bowie's first number 1 single in the Billboard Hot 100 and one of the most successful singles of the year, ranking at number 7 on the Billboard Year-End Hot 100. The single was less successful in Europe, reaching number 17 in the UK Singles Chart.

The song is included in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.[2]

Song development[edit]

With the Young Americans sessions mostly concluded by late 1974, the material was delayed while Bowie extricated himself from his contract with manager Tony Defries. During this time, he was staying in New York City, where he met John Lennon. The pair jammed together, leading to a one-day session at Electric Lady Studios in January 1975. There, Carlos Alomar had developed a guitar riff for Bowie's cover of "Footstompin'" by the Flairs, which Bowie thought was "a waste" to give to a cover. Lennon, who was in the studio with them, sang "aim" over the riff, which Bowie turned into "Fame" and he thereafter wrote the rest of the lyrics to the song.[3]

Lennon's voice is heard interjecting the falsetto "Fame" throughout the song.

Bowie would later describe the song as "nasty, angry", and fully admitted that it was written "with a degree of malice" aimed at the Mainman management group with whom he had been working at the time. In 1990, Bowie reflected: "I'd had very upsetting management problems and a lot of that was built into the song. I've left all that behind me, now... I think fame itself is not a rewarding thing. The most you can say is that it gets you a seat in restaurants."[4]

Chart performance[edit]

"Fame" became Bowie's biggest hit to that point in the U.S. It was his first number one hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, as well as his first to break the top 10, but would only reach number 17 in the UK Singles Chart.

Bowie would later claim that he had "absolutely no idea" that the song would do so well as a single, saying "I wouldn't know how to pick a single if it hit me in the face."[5]

1975 track listing[edit]

  1. "Fame" (Bowie, Alomar, Lennon) – 3:30
  2. "Right" (Bowie) – 4:13

Charts and certifications[edit]


Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Canada (Music Canada)[13] Gold 50,000^
United States (RIAA)[14] Platinum 0^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone


1975 musicians[edit]



Live versions[edit]

  • A live version recorded at the Nassau Coliseum stop on the 1976 Station to Station tour was released on Live Nassau Coliseum '76, part of the 2010 Station to Station reissues.
  • A spring 1978 performance from the "Heroes" tour can be heard on Stage.
  • A live performance filmed on 12 September 1983 is included in the concert DVD Serious Moonlight.
  • Live versions recorded during Bowie's 1987 Glass Spider Tour (in Sydney, Australia and Montreal, Canada) were released as part of the Glass Spider concert DVD/CD package.
  • An updated version recorded live by Bowie on 27 June 2000 was released on BBC Radio Theatre, London, June 27, 2000, a bonus disc accompanying the first release of Bowie at the Beeb in 2000.
  • A November 2003 live performance from the A Reality Tour is featured on the A Reality Tour DVD, released in 2004, as well as the A Reality Tour album, released in 2010.

Other releases[edit]

In pop culture[edit]

Cover versions[edit]

Preceded by
"Rhinestone Cowboy" by Glen Campbell
"I'm Sorry" / "Calypso" by John Denver
Billboard Hot 100 number-one single
20 September 1975 (one week)
4 October 1975 (one week)
Succeeded by
"I'm Sorry" / "Calypso" by John Denver
"Bad Blood" by Neil Sedaka
"Fame '90"
The single cover shows David Bowie standing in front of a Ziggy-era poster and the words "Fame 90 David Bowie"
Single by David Bowie
from the album Changesbowie
A-side "Fame '90"
Released 26 March 1990 (1990-03-26)
Format Single
Length 3:36 (Gass Mix)
  • EMI
  • Rykodisc
David Bowie singles chronology
"Never Let Me Down"
"Fame '90"
"Real Cool World"

"Fame '90"[edit]

A remixed version of "Fame" was released by EMI in 1990 to coincide with the Sound+Vision Tour, the release of the Changesbowie compilation, and the Pretty Woman soundtrack. Bowie wanted to remix a successful American single for the tour and album release; of the two options ("Let's Dance" and "Fame"), "Let's Dance" was simply too recent. Bowie liked the choice: "It covers a lot of ground, Fame; it stands up really well in time. It still sounds potent. It's quite a nasty, angry little song. I quite like that."[4] The "Gass Mix" was subsequently included on the Pretty Woman soundtrack.

Track listing[edit]

Song written by David Bowie, Carlos Alomar, and John Lennon.

US CD single (Rykodisc RCD5 1018)

  1. "Fame '90 (with Queen Latifah)" – 4:10
  2. "Fame '90 (House Mix)" – 5:58
  3. "Fame '90 (Gass Mix)" – 3:38
  4. "Fame '90 (Hip Hop Mix)" – 5:58
  5. "Fame '90 (Absolutely Nothing Premeditated/Epic Mix)" – 14:25

West Germany maxi CD single (EMI CDP 560-20-3805-2)

  1. "Fame '90 (House Mix)" – 5:58
  2. "Fame '90 (Hip Hop Mix)" – 5:58
  3. "Fame '90 (Gass Mix)" – 3:38
  4. "Fame '90 (Queen Latifah's Rap Version)" – 3:10

"Exclusive Changes pack" 7" vinyl single (FAMES 90)

  1. "Fame '90 (Gass Mix)" – 3:38
  2. "Fame '90 (Queen Latifah's Rap Version)" – 3:10

Limited edition 7" vinyl picture disc (FAME PD 90)

  1. "Fame '90 (Gass Mix)" – 3:38
  2. "Fame '90 (Bonus Beat Mix)" – 4:45
  • The single was released in a variety of formats: as a 7" single, a cassette single, a 12" single, CD singles and two limited edition releases: a picture disc (featuring the unique "Bonus Beat mix") and a 7" envelope pack that included 3 prints reflecting different phases in Bowie's career and a unique mix of Queen Latifah's mix[18]


Film director Gus Van Sant directed the promotional video for this version, which featured clips from many of Bowie’s previous videos.[18] In the music video, Bowie also performs a dance with Louise Lecavalier, one of the main dancers of the Québécois contemporary dance troupe La La La Human Steps (whom Bowie would collaborate with on the Sound + Vision tour).[19]

David Bowie's "Fame" was used as the soundtrack of an animated music video of the same title, directed by Richard Jefferies and Mark Kirkland while students at California Institute of the Arts. The film, released in 1975, went on to win the Student Academy Award for animation and aired on NBC's The Midnight Special.

Other releases[edit]

  • "Fame '90" also appeared on:
    • Changesbowie (1990)
    • Best of Bowie (2002) (Germany/Switzerland/Austria and Australia versions; Colombia/Ecuador/Peru/Venezuela contains both versions)

Chart positions[edit]

Chart Peak position
Belgium Singles Chart 22[20]
Holland Singles Chart 16[20]
New Zealand Singles Chart 32[20]
Switzerland Singles Chart 29[20]
UK Singles Chart 28[21]


  1. ^ Taylor, Steve (2006). The A to X of Alternative Music. Continuum. p. 45. ISBN 0826482171. Retrieved 31 July 2013. ...'Fame', a funk workout... 
  2. ^ [1][dead link]
  3. ^ Timothy White's Rock Stars: Hearing Pictures: David Bowie's Sound + Vision (radio interview). 20 May 1990. 
  4. ^ a b "David Bowie Interview". Q magazine: 60–70. April 1990{{inconsistent citations}} 
  5. ^ Isler, Scott (August 1987). "David Bowie Opens Up - A Little". Musician (106): 60–73{{inconsistent citations}} 
  6. ^ "Ultratop.be – David Bowie – Fame" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved 24 February 2013.
  7. ^ "Archívum – Slágerlisták – MAHASZ" (in Hungarian). Single (track) Top 40 lista. Magyar Hanglemezkiadók Szövetsége. Retrieved 23 January 2016.
  8. ^ "Dutchcharts.nl – David Bowie – Fame" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 24 February 2013.
  9. ^ "Norwegiancharts.com – David Bowie – Fame". VG-lista. Retrieved 24 February 2013.
  10. ^ "September 1975/ Archive Chart: 6 September 1975" UK Singles Chart. Retrieved 24 February 2013.
  11. ^ "David Bowie – Chart history" Billboard Hot 100 for David Bowie. Retrieved 24 February 2013.
  12. ^ "David Bowie – Chart history" Billboard Hot Rock Songs for David Bowie. Retrieved 31 January 2016.
  13. ^ "Canadian single certifications – David Bowie – Fame". Music Canada. Retrieved 24 February 2013. 
  14. ^ "American single certifications – David Bowie – Fame". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 24 February 2013.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH
  15. ^ Jagernauth, Kevin (28 August 2013). "Watch: New Clip From 'Rush' Plus Details On The Soundtrack Which Includes David Bowie, Thin Lizzy & Hans Zimmer". IndieWire. Retrieved 22 September 2013. 
  16. ^ Goss, William (2014-05-19). "Cannes Review: 'Foxcatcher' Wrestles With the Cost of All-American Ambition". Film School Rejects. 
  17. ^ Gordon, Jeremy (10 December 2014). "The Smashing Pumpkins and Die Antwoord's Ninja Cover David Bowie's "Fame"". Pitchfork. Retrieved 11 December 2014. 
  18. ^ a b "News," Melody Maker magazine, 24 March 1990, page 3
  19. ^ "Rolling Stone Summer Music Guide 1990", Rolling Stone: 3, 1990 
  20. ^ a b c d Australian-Charts.com David Bowie Fame 90 (Song), retrieved 11 November 2013 
  21. ^ Official Charts Company - Fame 90, retrieved 11 November 2013 


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

External links[edit]