Fashion (David Bowie song)

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Bowie Fashion.jpg
Single by David Bowie
from the album Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)
B-side"Scream Like a Baby"
Released20 October 1980[1]
RecordedFebruary 1980—April 1980
StudioPower Station, New York; Good Earth, London
Length3:23 (7" single edit)
4:46 (album version)
Songwriter(s)David Bowie
David Bowie singles chronology
"Ashes to Ashes"
"Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)"
Music video
"Fashion" on YouTube

"Fashion" is a song by the English singer-songwriter David Bowie, released on his 1980 album Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps). It was released as the second single from the album and was accompanied, like its predecessor "Ashes to Ashes", by a highly regarded music video.[4][5]

It was ranked as the 8th best single of 1980 by the NME magazine.[6]

Music and lyrics[edit]

According to co-producer Tony Visconti, "Fashion" was the last song completed in the Scary Monsters sessions, its bassline and some of the melody taking inspiration from Bowie's 1975 hit "Golden Years".[5] Guest guitarist Robert Fripp contributed a series of harsh, mechanical riffs to complement the band's funk/reggae arrangement.

The track was noted for its emotionally vacant choir effect, and the recurring onomatopoeia "beep beep" that Bowie had first used in an unreleased 1970 song called "Rupert the Riley".[7] Another phrase in the lyrics that Bowie borrowed from his past was "People from Bad Homes", the title track of a 1973 album he recorded with his protégés The Astronettes, which went unreleased until 1995.[8]

References to a "goon squad" coming to town provoked theories that the song actually concerns fascism ("the National Front invade the discos", inferred NME critics Roy Carr and Charles Shaar Murray).[4] However Bowie played down this interpretation in an interview shortly before the release of Scary Monsters, saying that what he was trying to do was "move on a little from that Ray Davies concept of fashion, to suggest more of a gritted teeth determination and an unsuredness about why one's doing it".[9] Biographer David Buckley believed the song "poked fun at the banality of the dance-floor and the style fascists" of the New Romantic movement.[7]

Music video[edit]

David Mallet shot a music video for the single "Fashion" in a famous nightclub owned by his friend Robert Boykin called Hurrah. The opening shot of the clip features David Bowie on the Hurrah stage which was draped in khaki canvas for this shoot. The faceted mirror walls surrounding the dance floor can be seen in the background of various shots, and all the band scenes are shot in this club setting. Other locations around Manhattan are intercut throughout the clip. Amid a series of facial contortions and other gestures, Bowie made use of a move he had employed in the "Ashes to Ashes" video: slowly crouching and bringing his arm down to the ground in a slow vertical arc. Record Mirror readers voted "Fashion" and "Ashes to Ashes" the best music videos of 1980.[5]

The video features Carlos Alomar, G.E. Smith (Hall & Oates), bassist John Kumnick, Khandi Alexander, Obba Babatundé, the guitarist Steve Love who plays drums in the video, John Kay, May Pang (later married to the song's producer Tony Visconti) and Alan Hunter, who became one of the first MTV VJs and also the first VJ to appear in a music video.

Release and aftermath[edit]

"Fashion" was the second single from Scary Monsters and the first issued after the album's September 1980 release. The edited 7" cut debuted in the UK charts at No. 20 and peaked at No. 5,[1] and by hitting No. 70 in America gave Bowie his first chart single there in almost four years. The UK sleeve design was adapted for the cover art on the 1980 compilation Best of Bowie.[4] It was featured in the movie Clueless. During the Closing Ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics, "Fashion" was used during a tribute to the British fashion industry in a parade that featured a number of top models from the UK.

Live performances[edit]

Bowie performed the song on most of his tours after 1980, including the Serious Moonlight Tour (1983), Glass Spider Tour (1987), Sound+Vision Tour (1990), Earthling Tour (1997), Heathen Tour (2002), and A Reality Tour (2003-2004). The song appears on two of his live concert videos: Serious Moonlight (1983) and Glass Spider (1988), and on the live album Look at the Moon! (Live Phoenix Festival 97) (2021).

Critical reception[edit]

The song was ranked among the top ten "Tracks of the Year" for 1980 by NME.[10]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written by David Bowie.[11]

  1. "Fashion" – 3:23
  2. "Scream Like a Baby" – 3:35




Other releases[edit]


Chart (1980–1981) Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report) 27
Irish Singles Chart[13] 11
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[14] 22
Norway (VG-lista)[15] 9
South African Chart[16] 8
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[17] 7
UK (Official Charts Company)[18] 5
U.S. Billboard Hot 100[19] 70
West Germany (Official German Charts)[20] 34

Cover versions[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Official Singles Chart Top 75 26 October 1980 - 01 November 1980".
  2. ^ Sheffield, Rob (18 August 2016). "Rob Sheffield on David Bowie's Essential Albums". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 4 August 2019.
  3. ^ a b Petridis, Alexis (19 March 2020). "David Bowie's 50 greatest songs – ranked!". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 January 2020.
  4. ^ a b c Roy Carr & Charles Shaar Murray (1981). Bowie: An Illustrated Record: pp.113-114
  5. ^ a b c Nicholas Pegg (2000). The Complete David Bowie: pp.75-76
  6. ^ " End Of Year Lists 1980..." Retrieved 10 March 2018.
  7. ^ a b David Buckley (1999). Strange Fascination - David Bowie: The Definitive Story: pp.372–374
  8. ^ David Buckley (1999). Ibid: p.207
  9. ^ Angus MacKinnon (1980). "The Future Isn't What It Used to Be". NME (13 September 1980): p.37
  10. ^ "Albums and Tracks of the Year". NME. 2016. Retrieved 30 October 2016.
  11. ^ "Fashion" (Single liner notes). David Bowie. UK: RCA Records. 1980. BOW 7/PB 9622.CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  12. ^ "A NEW CAREER IN A NEW TOWN (1977 – 1982) - David Bowie Latest News". 22 July 2016. Archived from the original on 29 July 2014. Retrieved 30 September 2017.
  13. ^ "Fashion in Irish Chart". IRMA. Archived from the original on 3 June 2009. Retrieved 28 June 2013. 4th result of the 1st page when searching "Fashion"
  14. ^ "David Bowie – Fashion". Top 40 Singles.
  15. ^ "David Bowie – Fashion". VG-lista.
  16. ^ Samson, John. "Fashion in South African Chart". Retrieved 28 June 2013.
  17. ^ "David Bowie – Fashion". Singles Top 100.
  18. ^ "1980 Top 40 Official UK Singles Archive - 22nd November 1980". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 28 June 2013.
  19. ^ "Scary Monsters awards on Allmusic". Allmusic. Retrieved 28 June 2013.
  20. ^ " – David Bowie – Fashion". GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved 18 February 2019.
  21. ^ Rettig, James (10 January 2021). "Watch Trent Reznor Cover "Fantastic Voyage" & "Fashion" For David Bowie Tribute Livestream". Stereogum. Retrieved 10 January 2021.


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

External links[edit]