Young Americans (album)

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Young Americans
Young americans.jpg
Studio album by David Bowie
Released 7 March 1975[1]
Recorded August 1974, November 1974, December 1974, January 1975
Length 40:32
Label RCA
David Bowie chronology
David Live
Young Americans
Station to Station
Singles from Young Americans
  1. "Young Americans"
    Released: 21 February 1975[3]
  2. "Fame"
    Released: 25 July 1975
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 3.5/5 stars[2]
Blender 3/5 stars[4]
Robert Christgau B–[5]
MusicHound 4/5[6]
Pitchfork Media 8.7/10[7]
Q 4/5 stars[8]
Rolling Stone (favourable)[9]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 3/5 stars[10]
Uncut 4/5 stars[11]

Young Americans is the ninth studio album by English musician David Bowie, released in 1975.

For the record, which showed off his 1970s "obsession" with soul music,[12] he let go of the influences he had drawn from in the past, replacing them with sounds from "local dance halls", which, at the time, were blaring with "lush strings, sliding hi-hat whispers, and swanky R&B rhythms of Philadelphia Soul."[13] Bowie is quoted describing the album as "the squashed remains of ethnic music as it survives in the age of Muzak rock, written and sung by a white limey".[14]

Because of the strong influence of black music on the album, Bowie used the term "plastic soul" (originally coined by an unknown black musician in the 1960s) to describe the sound of Young Americans.[15] Although Bowie was an English musician bringing up touchy American issues, the album was still very successful in the US; the album itself reached the top ten in that country, with the song "Fame" hitting the No. 1 spot the same year the album was released.[12]

Album development[edit]

Begun on 11 August 1974, during breaks in David Bowie's Diamond Dogs Tour, Young Americans was recorded by Tony Visconti primarily at Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was agreed early on to record as much of the album as possible live, with the full band playing together, including Bowie's vocals, as a single continuous take for each song. According to Visconti, the album contains "about 85% 'live' David Bowie".[16]

In order to create a more authentically soulful sound, Bowie brought in musicians from the funk and soul community, including an early-career Luther Vandross and Andy Newmark, drummer of Sly and the Family Stone. It was also Bowie's first time working with Carlos Alomar, leading to a working relationship spanning more than 30 years. Carlos, who hadn't heard of Bowie before being called in to help with the album, recalled that Bowie was "the whitest man I've ever seen – translucent white" when they met.[17] Carlos said of how the album was put together:

David always does the music first. He'll listen for a while then if he gets a little idea the session stops and he writes something down and we continue. But later on, when the music is established, he'll go home and the next day the lyrics are written. I'd finish the sessions and be sent home and I never heard words and overdubs until the record was released.[17]

The song "Young Americans", which Bowie said was about "the predicament of two newlyweds", took two days to record.[18]

The sessions at Sigma Sound lasted through November 1974.[16] The recording had attracted the attention of local fans who began to wait outside the studio over the span of the sessions. Bowie built up a rapport with these fans, whom he came to refer to as the "Sigma Kids". On the final day of tracking the Sigma Kids were invited into the studio to listen to rough versions of the new songs.[19]

"Across the Universe" and "Fame" were recorded at Electric Lady Studios with John Lennon in January 1975. They replaced previously recorded tracks "Who Can I Be Now" and "It's Gonna Be Me" on the record, though these songs were later released as bonus tracks on reissues of the album. The guitar riff for "Fame", created by Alomar, was based on the song "Foot Stompin'" by the doo-wop band The Flairs.[15]

Bowie considered several different titles for the album, including "Somebody Up There Likes Me", "One Damned Song", "The Gouster" and "Fascination".[18]

For the album cover artwork, Bowie initially wanted to commission Norman Rockwell to create a painting, but retracted the offer when he heard that Rockwell would need at least six months to do the job. The album's cover photo was eventually taken in Los Angeles on August 30, 1974, by Eric Stephen Jacobs. Bowie's apparent inspiration for the cover came from a copy of After Dark magazine which featured another of Jacobs' photographs of Bowie’s then choreographer Toni Basil.[20]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by David Bowie, except where noted.

Side one[edit]

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Young Americans"     5:10
2. "Win"     4:44
3. "Fascination"   Bowie, Luther Vandross 5:43
4. "Right"     4:13

Side two[edit]

No. Title Writer(s) Length
5. "Somebody Up There Likes Me"     6:30
6. "Across the Universe"   John Lennon, Paul McCartney 4:30
7. "Can You Hear Me?"     5:04
8. "Fame"   Bowie, Carlos Alomar, Lennon 4:12

CD releases[edit]

1991 reissue bonus tracks[edit]

No. Title Writer(s) Length
9. "Who Can I Be Now?" (Previously Unreleased Track From 1974)   4:36
10. "It's Gonna Be Me" (Previously Unreleased Track From 1974)   6:27
11. "John, I'm Only Dancing (Again)" (Single A-side, recorded 1974)   6:57

1989 Sound & Vision box set

No. Title Writer(s) Length
12. "After Today"     3:50

2007 collector's edition bonus tracks[edit]

No. Title Writer(s) Length
9. "John, I'm Only Dancing (Again)" (Stereo mix)   7:03
10. "Who Can I Be Now?" (Stereo mix)   4:40
11. "It's Gonna Be Me" (Stereo mix; alternate version with strings)   6:28
12. "1984" (Live on [The Dick Cavett Show], DVD only)   3:07
13. "Young Americans" (Live on The Dick Cavett Show, DVD only)   5:11
14. "Dick Cavett interviews David Bowie" (DVD only[21])   16:03

The bonus tracks "After Today," "Who Can I Be Now?," and "It's Gonna Be Me," were outtakes from the 1974 Sigma Sound sessions in Philadelphia.[22]



Additional musicians[edit]

  • Larry Washington – conga
  • Pablo Rosario – percussion on "Across the Universe" and "Fame"
  • Ava Cherry, Robin Clark, Luther Vandross – backing vocals
  • John Lennon – vocals, guitar, backing vocals on "Across the Universe" and "Fame"
  • Earl Slick – guitar on "Across the Universe" and "Fame"
  • Emir Ksasan – bass guitar on "Across the Universe" and "Fame"
  • Dennis Davis – drums on "Across the Universe" and "Fame"
  • Ralph MacDonald – percussion on "Across the Universe" and "Fame"
  • Jean Fineberg – backing vocals on "Across the Universe" and "Fame"
  • Jean Millington – backing vocals on "Across the Universe" and "Fame"



  1. ^ "Young Americans album is 40 today". David Bowie Official Website. 
  2. ^ a b Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. Young Americans (album) at AllMusic. Retrieved 14 November 2011.
  3. ^ "Young Americans is next 40th Anniversary Picture Disc". David Bowie Official Website. 
  4. ^ "Young Americans – Blender". Blender. Retrieved 16 June 2009. 
  5. ^ Christgau, Robert. "Young Americans". Consumer Guide Album. Retrieved 14 November 2011. 
  6. ^ Graff, Gary; Durchholz, Daniel (eds) (1999). MusicHound Rock: The Essential Album Guide. Farmington Hills, MI: Visible Ink Press. p. 151. ISBN 1-57859-061-2. 
  7. ^ Wolk, Douglas (January 22, 2015). "David Bowie: Young Americans". Pitchfork Media. 
  8. ^ Gareth Grundy, Q, May 2007, issue 250.
  9. ^ David Bowie Young Americans Review Jon Landau, Rolling Stone, 22 May 1975
  10. ^ "David Bowie: Album Guide". Archived from the original on 30 May 2011. Retrieved 13 January 2016. 
  11. ^ Stephen Troussé, Uncut, April 2007, issue 119.
  12. ^ a b Erlewine, Stephen. "David Bowie". MTV. Retrieved 14 November 2011. 
  13. ^ Van Schaik, Lauren. "Today in Music History: Bowie Starts Recording at Sigma Sound". Retrieved 25 January 2016. 
  14. ^ Smith, Lauren. "David Bowie Starts Recording Young Americans at Stigma Sound". A.V. Club. Archived from the original on 10 September 2011. Retrieved 14 November 2011. 
  15. ^ a b "Bowie Biography". Bowie Zone. Retrieved 14 November 2011. 
  16. ^ a b Griffen, Roger, ed. "Young Americans". Bowie Golden Years. Retrieved 15 November 2011. 
  17. ^ a b Preston, Andrew, "David Bowie's biggest fans reveal all", Daily Mail (London), retrieved 20 May 2013 
  18. ^ a b Kamp, Thomas (1985), David Bowie: The Wild-Eyed Boy 1964–1984 (1st ed.), O'Sullivan, Woodside & Co. 
  19. ^ Buckley, David (2005). Strange Fascination: David Bowie: The Definitive Story. London: Virgin Books. pp. 190–205. ISBN 0-7535-1002-2. 
  20. ^
  21. ^ Discogs – Young Americans – 2007-03-19th reMastered CD & Multichannel PAL DVD-Video, EMI (0946 3 51258 2 5) Europe
  22. ^ Nicholas Pegg The complete David Bowie p2006 298 "The Sigma sessions were prodigiously productive: among the outtakes which would not see the light of day for many years were 'It's Hard To Be A Saint in the City', 'After Today', "Who Can I Be Now?', 'It's Gonna Be Me', "
  23. ^ a b Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, NSW: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6. 
  24. ^ "Top Albums/CDs – Volume 23, No. 9" (PHP). RPM. 26 April 1975. Retrieved 31 January 2014. 
  25. ^ "InfoDisc : Tous les Albums classés par Artiste > Choisir Un Artiste Dans la Liste" (PHP). Retrieved 31 January 2014.  Note: user must select 'David BOWIE' from drop-down.
  26. ^ Oricon Album Chart Book: Complete Edition 1970–2005. Roppongi, Tokyo: Oricon Entertainment. 2006. ISBN 4-87131-077-9. 
  27. ^ " David Bowie – Young Americans" (ASP). Recording Industry Association of New Zealand. Retrieved 31 January 2014. 
  28. ^ " David Bowie – Young Americans" (ASP). Retrieved 31 January 2014. 
  29. ^ "Swedish Charts 1972–1975/Kvällstoppen – Listresultaten vecka för vecka > Mars 1975 > 25 Mars" (PDF). (in Swedish). Retrieved 31 January 2014. Note: Kvällstoppen combined sales for albums and singles in the one chart; Young Americans peaked at the number-six on the list in the 4th week of March 1975.
  30. ^ "David Bowie > Artists > Official Charts". UK Albums Chart. Retrieved 31 January 2014. 
  31. ^ "allmusic ((( Young Americans > Charts & Awards > Billboard Albums )))". Retrieved 31 August 2011. 
  32. ^ "Top Pop Albums of 1975". Retrieved 11 February 2011. 
  33. ^ "Canadian album certifications – David Bowie – Young Americans". Music Canada. Retrieved 31 January 2014. 
  34. ^ "British album certifications – David Bowie – Young Americans". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 31 January 2014.  Enter Young Americans in the field Keywords. Select Title in the field Search by. Select album in the field By Format. Select Silver in the field By Award. Click Search
  35. ^ "American album certifications – David Bowie – Young Americans". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 31 January 2014.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH

External links[edit]