Golden Years (song)

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"Golden Years"
Bowie GoldenYears.jpg
Single by David Bowie
from the album Station to Station
B-side"Can You Hear Me?"
Released21 November 1975
RecordedSeptember 1975
StudioCherokee, Los Angeles
Genre
Length3:27 (single)
4:03 (album)
LabelRCA
Songwriter(s)David Bowie
Producer(s)
David Bowie singles chronology
"Fame"
(1975)
"Golden Years"
(1975)
"TVC 15"
(1976)

"Golden Years" is a song written and recorded by English singer-songwriter David Bowie. It was released in November 1975 as the lead single of his tenth studio album Station to Station (1976). Co-produced by Bowie and Harry Maslin, it was recorded in September 1975 at Cherokee Studios in Los Angeles. It was the first track completed during the sessions, a period when Bowie's cocaine addiction was at its peak. At one stage it was slated to be the album's title track. Musically, "Golden Years" is a funk and disco song that is more reminiscent of the music on his previous album Young Americans than the rest of its parent album. The song was a commercial success, peaking at No. 8 in the UK and No. 10 in the US. The song was played sporadically throughout Bowie's 1976 Isolar Tour but regularly on the Serious Moonlight, Sound+Vision and Mini Tours.

Lyrics[edit]

"Golden Years" was the first track recorded for Station to Station in September 1975 at Cherokee Studios in Los Angeles.[1][2] Regarding the recording, co-producer Harry Maslin recalled that the song was "cut and finished very fast. We knew it was absolutely right within ten days. But the rest of the album took forever."[3] At one stage it was slated to be the album's title track.[3]

Sources differ as to who the track was written for. According to authors Nicholas Pegg, David Buckley and Christopher Sandford, the track was supposedly written for Elvis Presley, who turned it down.[1][4][5] Bowie recalled that Presley had heard the demos and, because both artists were signed to RCA Records at the time, Presley's manager Colonel Tom Parker thought that Bowie should write songs for Presley. Bowie stated that he had "adored" Presley and would have loved to work with him.[1] Although the artists' office contacted each other, nothing ever came to fruition. Presley sent a note to Bowie saying, "All the best, and have a great tour"; Bowie kept the note for the rest of his life.[1]

Bowie's first wife Angie Bowie later claimed that the song was written for her,[5][6] saying that he sang the track over the telephone to her, "just the way, all those years before, he'd sung me [the Aladdin Sane track] "The Prettiest Star". It had a similar effect. I bought it."[4] According to Sandford, Ava Cherry also claimed to have been the inspiration for the song.[5]

Composition[edit]

Musically, "Golden Years" is a funk and disco song.[2][7][8] As the lead single of Station to Station, the song is noted as musically different than the rest of its parent album.[9]

Station to Station is commonly regarded as the musical bridge between the funk and soul of Young Americans and the experimental sound of his Berlin Trilogy.[10] "Golden Years" is the only song on the album to showcase the similar funk sound of the earlier Young Americans rather than–in Pegg's words–"the steelier musical landscape" of Station to Station.[3][9] Pegg further comments that its American "soul-pop" roots are "easily discernible": he describes the main riff as "owing a debt to" the 1968 Cliff Nobles and Company song "The Horse" and the multi-tracked vocal refrain to the 1958 single "Happy Years" by the Diamonds.[3]

The song is in the key of B major and begins with a "simple two-chord" riff (F–E),[11] which Buckley believes hooks the listener instantly.[6] Doggett calls the riff "reminiscent"–albeit "in very different circumstances"–to the title track of Aladdin Sane.[2] According to Buckley, Bowie was looking to emulate something of the glitzy nostalgia of "On Broadway", which he was playing on piano in the studio when he came up with "Golden Years".[6] Doggett writes: "The magical ingredients were percussive: the rattling of sticks against the hi-hat cymbal from the start, the startling clack of woodblocks, the sudden drum fills."[12] These combined elements "channel" the spirit of Elvis Presley in the verses with a "haughtier, more strident tone" in the chorus.[12]

Release and aftermath[edit]

"Golden Years" was released on 21 November 1975 as the lead single to Bowie's tenth studio album Station to Station by RCA Victor (as RCA 2640/PB-10441) with the Young Americans track "Can You Hear Me?" as the B-side and a length of 3:27.[13] It subsequently appeared as the second track on the album, between the title track and "Word on a Wing", with a longer length of 4:03.[14] According to Pegg, the single version is "essentially" the album version with an earlier fade.[4] Bowie allegedly got drunk to perform the song for the American TV show Soul Train; Bowie was the second white artist to appear on the program after Elton John did earlier in the year.[15] The resultant video clip was used to promote the single, and assisted Bowie's continued commercial success in the US, where it charted for 16 weeks and reached No. 10 in early 1976. It achieved No. 8 in the UK, where it was "hard on the heels" of the chart-topping "Space Oddity" reissue,[4] and No. 17 in Canada.[16] The song was also a top ten hit in Ireland, the Netherlands and Sweden. As a digital download, it reached number four in the Hungarian singles chart in 2016.

"Golden Years" was played sporadically by Bowie on his Isolar – 1976 Tour,[17] if at all, but regularly on the Serious Moonlight, Sound+Vision and Mini Tours. Live versions from the Serious Moonlight and Mini Tours appear on Serious Moonlight (1983) and Glastonbury 2000 (2018).[18]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by David Bowie.[13]

  1. "Golden Years" – 3:22
  2. "Can You Hear Me?" – 5:04

Personnel[edit]

Other releases[edit]

  • The song appeared as the B-side of an alternate version of the single "Fame".
  • It was released as the B-side of the US release of "John, I'm Only Dancing (Again)" in December 1979.[19]
  • In November 1981 it appeared as the B-side of the single "Wild Is the Wind".[20]
  • Several Bowie compilations have featured the song:
  • The 7 in. single version appeared on The Best of Bowie,The Best of David Bowie 1974/1979, Best of Bowie, The Platinum Collection, Nothing Has Changed, and Bowie Legacy. It is also included on Re:Call 2, part of the Who Can I Be Now? (1974–1976) compilation.
  • The song was included on the album Trainspotting #2: Music from the Motion Picture, Vol. #2 (1997).
  • The song was included on the original soundtrack of A Knight's Tale (2001), starring Heath Ledger. The original film score was written for the film by Hollywood composer Carter Burwell. One scene in the movie is a formal dance, which calls for courtly music based on Burwell's love theme to segue into David Bowie's song "Golden Years". It presented several challenges. First, the whole dance had been choreographed and filmed to an arbitrary tempo which begins at a slow courtly pace and speeds up and up until Bowie's song kicks in. Burwell had to match that tempo and the choreography after the fact and also find some credible path from a formal and restrained dance to a joyful '70s pop tune. They obtained Bowie's permission to pull tracks from his multitrack master of the song so they could mix these into Burwell's arrangement, helping to introduce his song before it has really begun. The end result is not on either of the CDs which were released (song or score soundtrack). Tony Visconti, who produced the original recording of the song, supervised the remix session, and Bowie dropped by as well to hear what they found in his multitrack.[21] Cultural critic Anthony Lane called the film's use of "Golden Years" "the best and most honest use of anachronism that I know of."[22]

Chart history[edit]

David Bowie vs KCRW[edit]

"Golden Years David Bowie vs KCRW"
DavidBowie-GoldenYearsKCRW.jpg
Single by David Bowie
Released2011
LabelVirgin
David Bowie singles chronology
"Rebel Never Gets Old"
(2004)
"Golden Years David Bowie vs KCRW"
(2011)
"Where Are We Now?"
(2013)

An updated single of "Golden Years" was released in 2011 to coincide with the re-release of Station to Station. Four new remixes were provided by DJs from radio station KCRW in California.[36]

Track listing[edit]

  1. "Golden Years (Single Version)"  – 3:27
  2. "Golden Years (Anthony Valdez KCRW Remix)"  – 4:22
  3. "Golden Years (Eric J. Lawrence KCRW Remix)"  – 3:11
  4. "Golden Years (Chris Douridas KCRW Remix)"  – 4:25
  5. "Golden Years (Jeremy Sole KCRW Remix)"  – 4:37

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Buckley 2005, pp. 236–237.
  2. ^ a b c Doggett 2012, p. 288.
  3. ^ a b c d Pegg 2016, p. 175.
  4. ^ a b c d Pegg 2016, p. 176.
  5. ^ a b c Sandford 1998, p. 146.
  6. ^ a b c Buckley 2005, p. 237.
  7. ^ Mojica, Frank (4 October 2010). "David Bowie – Station to Station [Special Edition]". Consequence of Sound. Archived from the original on 9 July 2016. Retrieved 1 June 2016.
  8. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Station to Station – David Bowie". AllMusic. Archived from the original on 24 April 2019. Retrieved 4 August 2019. ...as well as the disco stylings of 'Golden Years.'
  9. ^ a b Thompson, Dave. ""Golden Years" – David Bowie". AllMusic. Retrieved 1 April 2020.
  10. ^ Carr & Murray 1981, pp. 78–80.
  11. ^ Doggett 2012, pp. 288–289.
  12. ^ a b Doggett 2012, p. 289.
  13. ^ a b "Golden Years" (Single liner notes). David Bowie. UK: RCA. 1975. RCA 2640/PB-10441.CS1 maint: others (link)
  14. ^ Station to Station (liner notes). David Bowie. UK: RCA Victor. 1976. APL1 1327.CS1 maint: others (link)
  15. ^ Carr & Murray 1981, pp. 75–80.
  16. ^ "Image : RPM Weekly – Library and Archives Canada". Bac-lac.gc.ca. Archived from the original on 9 October 2016. Retrieved 10 October 2016.
  17. ^ Pegg 2000, pp. 82–83.
  18. ^ Collins, Sean T. (5 December 2018). "David Bowie: Glastonbury 2000 Album Review". Pitchfork. Archived from the original on 11 July 2019. Retrieved 14 March 2020.
  19. ^ "John I'm Only Dancing (Again)" / "Golden Years" (Single liner notes). David Bowie. US: RCA. 1979. PD-11886.CS1 maint: others (link)
  20. ^ "Wild Is the Wind" (Single liner notes). David Bowie. UK: RCA. 1981. BOW 10/PB 9815.CS1 maint: others (link)
  21. ^ "A Knight's Tale". Carter Burwell. Archived from the original on 6 September 2010. Retrieved 10 October 2016.
  22. ^ Lane, Anthony. "David Bowie in the Movies". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2 August 2020.
  23. ^ "Ultratop.be – David Bowie – Golden Years" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved 12 September 2020.
  24. ^ "Ultratop.be – David Bowie – Golden Years" (in French). Ultratop 50. Retrieved 12 September 2020.
  25. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 4101a." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 12 September 2020.
  26. ^ "Lescharts.com – David Bowie – Golden Years" (in French). Les classement single. Retrieved 12 September 2020.
  27. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Golden Years". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved September 23, 2018.
  28. ^ "Dutchcharts.nl – David Bowie – Golden Years" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 12 September 2020.
  29. ^ "Flavour of New Zealand, 9 April 1976". Archived from the original on 23 September 2018. Retrieved 23 September 2018.
  30. ^ "Swedishcharts.com – David Bowie – Golden Years". Singles Top 100. Retrieved 12 September 2020.
  31. ^ "Official Charts Company". Archived from the original on 17 February 2015. Retrieved 16 July 2018.
  32. ^ Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955–1990ISBN 0-89820-089-X
  33. ^ "Cash Box Top 100 Singles, March 27, 1976". Archived from the original on 20 October 2018. Retrieved 23 September 2018.
  34. ^ "Top Singles – Volume 26, No. 14 & 15, January 08 1977". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Archived from the original on 10 June 2016. Retrieved 22 January 2016.
  35. ^ "Musicoutfitters.com". Archived from the original on 16 November 2018. Retrieved 23 September 2018.
  36. ^ Morgenstern, Ariana. "KCRW DJs Remix Golden Years by David Bowie – KCRW Music Blog". Blogs.kcrw.com. Archived from the original on 10 October 2016. Retrieved 10 October 2016.
Sources

External links[edit]