Young Americans

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Young Americans
Young americans.jpg
Studio album by
Released7 March 1975 (1975-03-07)
RecordedAugust 1974 – January 1975
Studio
Genre
Length40:13
LabelRCA
Producer
David Bowie chronology
David Live
(1974)
Young Americans
(1975)
Station to Station
(1976)
Singles from Young Americans
  1. "Young Americans"
    Released: 21 February 1975
  2. "Fame"
    Released: 25 July 1975

Young Americans is the ninth studio album by English musician David Bowie, released on 7 March 1975 by RCA Records. The album marked a departure from the glam rock style of Bowie's previous albums, showcasing his interest in soul and R&B. Commentators have described the record as blue-eyed soul, although Bowie himself labelled the album's sound "plastic soul". Initial recording sessions took place following the first leg of his Diamond Dogs Tour in August 1974 at Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia with producer Tony Visconti and a variety of musicians, including guitarist Carlos Alomar, who would become one of Bowie's most frequent collaborators. Backing vocalists included singer Ava Cherry, Alomar's wife Robin Clark and then-unknown singer Luther Vandross. After the initial sessions, the tour continued, with the setlist and design changed due to the influence of the new material recorded. This portion of the tour has been labeled the Soul tour.

At the end of the tour, sessions continued at the Record Plant in New York City. After becoming friends with former Beatle John Lennon, the two collaborated on a session in January 1975 at Electric Lady Studios, with Harry Maslin producing. With Alomar, they recorded "Fame" and a cover of Lennon's Beatles song "Across the Universe". The session also marked drummer Dennis Davis's first appearance on a Bowie record. Throughout the sessions, many outtakes were recorded and the record went through numerous working titles. The cover artwork is a back-lit photograph of Bowie taken by Eric Stephen Jacobs.

Upon its release, Young Americans was very successful in the US, reaching the top 10 on the Billboard Top LPs & Tape chart, with the single "Fame" becoming Bowie's first number one hit. However, it received mixed reviews from music critics and continues to receive mixed reviews. Bowie himself had mixed feelings about the album throughout his lifetime. Nevertheless, Bowie biographers have considered it one of his most influential records, mainly noting him as among the first white musicians of the era to overtly engage with black musical styles. The album has since been reissued multiple times and was remastered in 2016 as part of the Who Can I Be Now? (1974–1976) box set.

Background and development[edit]

David Bowie's eighth studio album Diamond Dogs (1974) was his final album in the glam rock genre,[1] which biographer David Buckley commented: "In the sort of move which would come to define his career, Bowie jumped the glam-rock ship just in time, before it drifted into a blank parody of itself."[2] Despite being mostly glam rock, the album contained two songs, "Rock 'n' Roll with Me" and "1984", that exhibit elements of funk and soul, which Bowie embraced for Young Americans.[3][4][5] Diamond Dogs was also a milestone in Bowie's career as it reunited him with his former producer Tony Visconti, who provided string arrangements and helped mix the album at his own studio in London. Visconti would go on to co-produce much of Bowie's work for the rest of the decade.[6]

In early 1974, Bowie wrote the soul song "Take It in Right" as a single for Scottish singer Lulu. Although recording never came to fruition, while producing the session in New York City,[7][8] he met funk guitarist Carlos Alomar, who would become Bowie's guide into black American music and, for the next 14 years, act as Bowie's bandleader.[1][9] Before they met, Alomar was a session musician at the Apollo Theater, playing with the likes of James Brown, Chuck Berry and Wilson Pickett. Biographer Nicholas Pegg writes that ten years prior, one of Bowie's favourite records was Brown's Live at the Apollo (1963), so meeting a musician who played at the Apollo was a dream come true for Bowie.[1] Although Alomar had never heard of Bowie when they met, they immediately connected and formed a working relationship that would last almost 15 years.[10]

Towards the end of the first leg of his Diamond Dogs Tour in July 1974, Bowie resided at the Tower Theater in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, where he recorded the live album David Live (1974).[11] During his stay, he visited Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia to work on recordings for American musician Ava Cherry, who he allegedly had an affair with at the time.[12][13] The owners of Sigma were the writer-producer duo Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff, who co-founded Philadelphia International Records, the home of many well-known black American musicians.[1] Following the end of the first leg of the tour, Bowie returned to New York City to mix David Live, where he requested a list of black albums to hear in preparation for his return to Sigma Sound.[14]

Recording[edit]

Luther Vandross in 1988
Young Americans features backing vocals from singer Luther Vandross (pictured in 1988), then an unknown singer from New York.

For the backing band, Bowie wanted to hire MFSB (an acronym for "Mother Father Sister Brother"[15]), a rhythm group of over 30 session musicians that resided at Sigma Sound.[16] With the exception of percussionist Larry Washington, all members were unavailable, so Bowie traveled to New York City for further recruitment. Pianist Mike Garson, saxophonist David Sanborn and percussionist Pablo Rosario were retained from the Diamond Dogs Tour, while guitarist Earl Slick was replaced by Alomar. At Alomar's suggestion, Bowie hired former drummer of Sly and the Family Stone, Andy Newmark to replace Tony Newman and bassist Willie Weeks of the Isley Brothers to replace Herbie Flowers. When Bowie informed Visconti in London of Weeks' involvement, Visconti left for New York immediately, explaining: "I'm a bass player myself, and [Weeks] was my idol".[17] Ava Cherry, Alomar's wife Robin Clark and then-unknown singer Luther Vandross performed backing vocals for the sessions.[7]

Philadelphia sessions[edit]

Demo work began at Sigma Sound on 8 August 1974, but official work commenced three days later upon Visconti's arrival.[17] Before Philadelphia, Bowie had spent most of his recording career in Britain, whose methods of recording were different than that of the States. At Olympic and Trident Studios in Britain, engineers applied equalisers and reverb as they were recording, so these effects were heard upon playback. At Sigma Sound, however, the engineers applied zero effects when recording, rather than applying these during the mixing stage. As a result, Bowie was initially confounded when hearing the tapes back, as according to biographer Chris O'Leary, he "hadn't heard his 'naked' voice on tape in years."[7]

[Bowie] did mostly live vocals, and although all the songs were written, they were being heavily rearranged as time went on. Nothing was organised, it turned out to be one enormous jam session.[17]

– Tony Visconti on the sessions

"Take It in Right", now retitled "Can You Hear Me?", was one of the first songs recorded for the album, on 13 August.[7] The sessions moved rapidly, only taking two weeks to complete. 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".[17] During this time, Bowie's cocaine addiction heightened at a rapid pace, and as a result, he stayed up day and night recording while the band slept. According to Pegg, an anonymous musician recalled Bowie "waiting several hours for coke to be delivered from New York and he wouldn't perform until it came." His cocaine use affected his voice, creating what Bowie himself called "a real raspy sound" that prevented him from singing higher notes. Nevertheless, Bowie believed the album contained the highest notes he ever sang on record.[17]

The sessions at Sigma Sound were very productive, resulting in numerous outtakes, including "After Today", "Who Can I Be Now?", "It's Gonna Be Me", a rerecording of "John, I'm Only Dancing" (titled "John, I'm Only Dancing (Again)"), "Lazer", "Shilling the Rubes", a scrapped rerecording of Bruce Springsteen's "It's Hard to Be a Saint in the City" and "Too Fat Polka".[17] Upon Bowie's return to Philadelphia during the second half of the Diamond Dogs tour (referred to as the Soul tour) in November 1974, he and Visconti used the opportunity to add overdubs and start mixing. The recording 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.[18] The album was recorded under several working titles, including Dancin', Somebody Up There Likes Me, One Damned Song (a quote from the title track), The Gouster, Shilling the Rubes and Fascination. An early acetate of The Gouster provide by Visconti showed "John, I'm Only Dancing (Again)", "Who Can I Be Now?" and "It's Gonna Be Me" in the track-listing.[19]

New York sessions[edit]

John Lennon in 1975
Former Beatle John Lennon (pictured in 1975) collaborated with Bowie for "Across the Universe" and "Fame".

Following the conclusion of the Soul tour in December, Bowie, Visconti and Alomar regrouped at the Record Plant in New York City to record two new songs, "Fascination" and "Win". At this point, Bowie told Disc the title would be Fascination (named after the newly recorded track); "John, I'm Only Dancing (Again)" was still in the track-listing but the two new tracks replaced "Who Can I Be Now?" and "Somebody Up There Likes Me". Visconti, who believed the album was completely finished, returned to London to begin mixing, while Bowie remained in New York, working on separate mixing with in-house engineer Harry Maslin.[20][21]

During this time, former Beatle John Lennon was working at the Record Plant on his 1975 covers album Rock 'n' Roll. Lennon, who was in his famous "Lost weekend" period, had previously met Bowie in Los Angeles at a party hosted by actress Elizabeth Taylor in September 1974.[7] The two connected and decided to record together. With Alomar, the two convened at Electric Lady Studios in New York in January 1975 and recorded "Fame" and a cover of Lennon's Beatles song "Across the Universe".[19] In Visconti's absence, the session was co-produced by Maslin.[21] Alongside Alomar, Bowie invited guitarist Earl Slick and drummer Dennis Davis, making their debuts on a Bowie record,[7] as well as bassist Emir Ksasan from the Soul tour band. Newcomers were percussionist Ralph MacDonald and backing vocalists Jean Fineberg and Jean Millington.[19]

Mixing for Young Americans was completed at the Record Plant on 12 January 1975. Bowie contacted Visconti about the collaborations with Lennon two weeks later. According to Pegg, Bowie was apologetic and asked if two tracks could be replaced by "Across the Universe" and "Fame"; the tracks replaced were "Who Can I Be Now?" and "It's Gonna Be Me". Commenting about the replacement, Visconti said: "Beautiful songs and it made me sick when he decided not to use them. I think it was the personal content of the songs which he was a bit reluctant to release, although it was so obscure I don't think even I knew what he was on about in them!"[22]

Songs[edit]

Young Americans presented a new musical direction for Bowie.[23] Although songs on Diamond Dogs, including "Rock 'n' Roll with Me" and "1984",[3][4] exhibited a funk and soul direction Bowie would be taking, Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic writes that the blue-eyed soul showcased on the album "came as a shock".[24] Along with blue-eyed soul, the music on Young Americans has been described as R&B and Philadelphia soul,[25][26] while Bowie himself labeled the sound of the album as "plastic soul", describing it as "the squashed remains of ethnic music as it survives in the age of Muzak rock, written and sung by a white limey".[27] Ashley Naftule of Consequence of Sound described the album as "a blue-eyed soul album that plays matchmaker between Bowie's artsy rocker tendencies and the warm earnestness of soul and R&B."[28] Biographer Christopher Sandford writes that the album is "a record of high spirits and lively, colliding ideas".[23] Biographer Marc Spitz felt that the album doesn't showcase "Bowie does black music", but rather "Bowie and black music do each other".[29]

Side one[edit]

The opening track is the title track, which Bowie said was "just [about] young Americans", more specifically "a newly-wed couple who don't know if they really like each other. Well, they do, but they don't know if they do or don't."[7] References are made to the Watergate scandal and McCarthyism, while the line "I heard the news today, oh boy" is from the Beatles' song "A Day in the Life", acknowledging Lennon's influence on Bowie and their imminent collaboration later on in the album. The syncopated backing vocals were suggested to Bowie by Vandross.[30] Doggett writes that the song introduced the world to an entirely new Bowie, catching everyone by surprise.[31] Bowie wrote "Win" about people who "don't work very hard".[32] Saxophones and strings feature throughout, while the backing vocalists are more relaxed and in line with Bowie's lead. O'Leary cites "Win" as the track on Young Americans that mostly foreshadows Bowie's direction on his next album Station to Station (1976).[7] Buckley calls the track the album's standout and "one of the most gorgeous melodies Bowie has ever written."[33]

"Fascination" evolved out of a Vandross track titled "Funky Music (Is a Part of Me)", which Bowie added new lyrics too. Bowie kept most of Vandross' structure but changed the interplay of the backing vocalists.[a][7][34] Doggett cites elements in the novels City of Night (1963) and The Occult Reich (1974) as inspirations for the title,[35] while Buckley writes that it reaffirms the 'strange fascination' motif of Bowie's 1971 track "Changes".[33] "Right" is the only track on Young Americans to feature Bowie's old friend Geoff MacCormack. The call and response between Bowie and the backing singers "lends an air of immaculate sophistication to the lyric's paean to positive thinking", according to Pegg. In 1975, Bowie called the song a mantra: "People forget what the sound of Man's instinct is—it's a drone, a mantra. And people say, 'Why are so many things popular that just drone on and on?' But that's the point really. It reaches a particular vibration, not necessarily a musical level."[36] Bowie, Vandross, Clark and Cherry are seen rehearsing the song in the BBC documentary Cracked Actor.[7][37]

Side two[edit]

Ava Cherry in 2016
Singer Ava Cherry (pictured in 2016) sang backing vocals throughout the album. She is also the supposed inspiration for "Can You Hear Me?".[7]

Originally developed from "I Am Divine", the title of "Somebody Up There Likes Me" was taken from the 1956 film of the same name starring Paul Newman.[7][38] Similar to "Right", it uses a call-and-response structure[39] and is embellished in strings, saxophone and synthesisers which hide its rather dark lyrics. Pegg states that the lyrics discuss the idea of celebrity and the "hollowness of fame and adulation". Bowie himself described the song as a "Watch out mate, Hitler's on your back" warning.[40] Buckley finds the lyrics inauthentic as a soul song, comparing them to his 1969 track "Cygnet Committee".[39] Bowie's rendition of "Across the Universe" is a blue-eyed soul reworking that features Lennon on guitar and backing vocals.[41] Bowie had previously called the Beatles' original version "very watery" and wanted to "hammer the hell out of it".[7] His cover has been maligned by critics and biographers,[7][26][42] and is often considered as one of Bowie's low points in what Pegg calls his "golden years".[41]

After Lulu's version of "Take It in Right" failed to come to fruition, Bowie rerecorded it under the title "Can You Hear Me?". O'Leary describes it as contemporary R&B,[7] while Doggett believes its style is more reminiscent of southern music rather than Philly soul.[8] Pegg praises Visconti's string arrangement as one of the album's highlights, further noting that it foreshadows the "majestic ballad style" of Station to Station.[43] In 1975, Bowie stated that the song was "written for somebody" but declined to disclose who; his biographers agree that it was most likely for Cherry.[7][43][44]

"Fame" was co-written by Bowie, Alomar and Lennon. The lyrics represent Bowie and Lennon's dissatisfaction with the troubles of fame and stardom.[45] Alomar originally developed the guitar riff for Bowie's cover of "Footstompin'" by the Flairs, which Bowie then used to create "Fame".[46][47] Lennon's voice is heard interjecting the falsetto "Fame" throughout the song. Sources differ as to the extent of Lennon's contributions. Although Doggett argues that Lennon only made the "briefest lyrical contributions",[48] Bowie would later say that Lennon was the "energy" and the "inspiration" for "Fame", and that's why he received a co-writing credit. Lennon would later contradict this story in a 1980 interview where he said: "We took some Stevie Wonder middle eight and did it backwards, you know, and we made a record out of it!"[45][48]

Outtakes[edit]

"Who Can I Be Now?" reflects the theme of self-identity. Over its runtime, it builds to a what Pegg calls a "gospel-choir climax".[49] O'Leary writes that Bowie would revisit a similar theme of Gnostic teachings on "Station to Station".[7] Doggett writes that its title summarises Bowie's career up to this point, sharing a similar theme as "Changes".[50] "It's Gonna Be Me" is a ballad similar in style to Aretha Franklin. Originally titled "Come Back My Baby", it is lyrically similar to "Can You Hear Me?", in that it follows a casual seducer who realises the error of his ways and works to redeem himself. Biographers have generally praised the track as one of the most overlooked gems of Bowie's entire career.[51][52] "John, I'm Only Dancing (Again)" is a radical seven-minute funk and disco reworking of Bowie's 1972 glam rock single "John, I'm Only Dancing". Although it mostly retains the original song's chorus, Bowie wrote new verses and an entirely different melody. Biographers have generally praised Bowie's vocal performance. It was released as a single in 1979.[7][53][54]

Release and promotion[edit]

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. According to Pegg, another rejected idea was a full-length portrait of Bowie in a "flying suit" and white scarf, standing in front of an American flag and raising a glass. The final cover photo, a back-lit and airbrushed photo of Bowie, was taken in Los Angeles on 30 August 1974 by photographer Eric Stephen Jacobs.[55] Using that photo, the cover was designed by Craig DeCamps at the RCA Records office in New York City.[56] Sandford calls it one of the "classic" album covers.[23]

A black and white photo of a man singing into a microphone
Bowie performing on the Soul tour in 1974.

After recording much of the album's material in August 1974, Bowie was eager to perform his new work live. Embarking on the second half of the Diamond Dogs tour, lasting 2 September to 1 December 1974, this portion has been given the nickname the Soul Tour, due to the influence of the new material. Because of this, the shows were heavily altered, no longer featuring elaborate set-pieces, partly due to Bowie's exhaustion with the design and wanting to explore the new sound he was creating. Songs from the previous leg were dropped, while new ones, including some from the new album, were added.[57] During this time, a documentary was filmed that depicts Bowie on the Diamond Dogs tour in Los Angeles, using a mixture of sequences filmed in limousines, hotels and concert footage, most of which was taken from a show at the Los Angeles Universal Amphitheatre on 2 September 1974.[58] Directed by Alan Yentob and broadcast on BBC1 in the UK on 26 January 1975, Cracked Actor is notable for being a primary source of footage of the Diamond Dogs tour, while also showing Bowie's decaying mental state during this period due to his increasing cocaine addiction. Although Cracked Actor has never received an official release, Pegg calls it "arguably the finest documentary made about David Bowie". After seeing an advanced screening of the film, director Nicolas Roeg immediately contacted Bowie to discuss a role in The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976).[58]

On 29 October 1974, Bowie appeared on The Dick Cavett Show and performed "1984", "Young Americans" and a version of "Footstompin'". During his interview, he was visibly drugged, barely being able to talk and nose sniffing constantly.[59] RCA later released the title track as the lead single on 21 February 1975, with the Ziggy Stardust track "Suffragette City" as the B-side.[60][61] In the US, it was released in edited form, with a length of 3:11, omitting two verses and a chorus.[62] It managed to reach number 18 on the UK Singles Chart while it charted at number 28 on the Billboard Hot 100, his best chart peak in the US up to that point.[62][63]

RCA issued Young Americans on 7 March 1975,[7][64] with the catalogue number RS 1006.[55] It reached number nine on the US Billboard Top LPs & Tape chart and remained on the chart for 51 weeks.[65] It stayed on the UK Albums Chart for 17 weeks, peaking at number two,[66] being kept off the top spot by Tom Jones's 20 Greatest Hits.[67] However, sales were overall lower than Diamond Dogs according to Buckley.[63] The second single "Fame" was released on 25 July 1975, with album track "Right" as the B-side.[61] Although it only reached number 17 in the UK, "Fame" topped the charts in the US.[68] Its chart success was a surprise to Bowie, who recalled in 1990: "Even though [Lennon] had contributed to it and everything, and I had no idea, as with 'Let's Dance', that that was what a commercial single is. I haven't got a clue when it comes to singles. I just don't know about them, I don't get it, and 'Fame' was really out of left-field for me."[68] He appeared on ABC TV's Soul Train in early November 1975, where he gave a mimed performance of "Fame" and his most recent single "Golden Years";[69][70] he was one of the first white artists to appear on the programme.[7] He then sang "Fame" and "Can You Hear Me?" live on CBS's The Cher Show on 23 November.[70][71]

Critical reception[edit]

Retrospective professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic3.5/5 stars[24]
Chicago Tribune3.5/4 stars[72]
Christgau's Record GuideB−[73]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music4/5 stars[74]
Pitchfork8.7/10[26]
Q4/5 stars[75]
Rolling Stone4/5 stars[76]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide3/5 stars[77]
Select5/5[78]
Spin Alternative Record Guide6/10[79]
Uncut4/5 stars[80]

Young Americans was released to a generally favorable reception, particularly in America.[55] Billboard wrote that the album "should not only endear Bowie even more to his current fans but should open up an entirely new avenue of fans for him", and selected it among their "Top Album Picks" for the week of 15 March 1975.[81] It was further described by Record World as his "most compelling album to date", while Cashbox called the artist "the brightest star in the pop music constellation with this latest RCA release".[55] Reviewing for The Village Voice, Robert Christgau described the record "an almost total failure" and said "although the amalgam of rock and Philly soul is so thin it's interesting, it overwhelms David's voice, which is even thinner." He nonetheless appreciated Bowie's renewed "generosity of spirit to risk failure" following Diamond Dogs and David Live, which Christgau had found disappointing.[82] Rolling Stone's Jon Landau praised the title-track and thought that "the rest of the album works best when Bowie combines his renewed interest in soul with his knowledge of English pop, rather than opting entirely for one or the other."[83] Writing for Phonograph Record, John Mendelsohn felt the album was overall very weak, finding the melodies "as good as non-existent", and further criticising the lyrics and Bowie's vocal performance.[84] In the NME, Ian MacDonald felt the record was more of a transitional one, created out of a confused state of mind not knowing where to take his career next. Nevertheless, he greatly enjoyed it despite its flaws.[85]

Retrospectively, Young Americans continues to receive mixed reviews from critics and fans.[86] Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic felt the album was affected by a lack of strong songwriting. Although he praised the title track and "Fame", he concludes "Young Americans is more enjoyable as a stylistic adventure than as a substantive record."[24] Douglas Wolk of Pitchfork regarded it as "distinctly a transitional record," stating: "It doesn't have the mad theatrical scope of Diamond Dogs or the formal audacity of Station to Station; at times, it comes off as an artist trying very hard to demonstrate how unpredictable he is." Nevertheless, Wolk also praised the fact that "while there had already been a handful of disco hits on the pop charts, no other established rock musician had yet tried to do anything similar."[26] Jeff Giles of Ultimate Classic Rock gave the album a positive review, saying "it remains a beloved bright spot in a discography with more than its share".[87]

Legacy[edit]

Buckley considers Young Americans to be one of Bowie's most influential records and writes that it brought fans of both glam rock and soul together in the wake of the disco era.[63] Pegg similarly states that "By jumping on the Stax/George McCrae bandwagon" with the album, "Bowie had undertaken the first significant excursion into Black Soul by a mainstream white artist," and paved the way for other artists to engage in similar styles.[86] Sandford adds that while many British rockers have tried and failed to experiment with black musical styles, Bowie was one of the first to succeed.[23] In the UK, artists who would follow in Bowie's footsteps were Elton John (with his single "Philadelphia Freedom"), Roxy Music (with their single "Love Is the Drug") and Rod Stewart (with his album Atlantic Crossing).[86] Pegg writes that Bowie's foray into soul and funk would influence numerous bands in ensuing years, including Talking Heads, Spandau Ballet, Japan and ABC.[86]

Spitz writes that Young Americans was also Bowie's first album in three years to not feature Ziggy Stardust, but Bowie himself.[29] By not featuring Ziggy, Bowie showcased maturity, which Sandford believes was his ticket into the US market.[23] Indeed, the album turned Bowie from "a mildly unsavoury cult artist to a chat-show friendly showbiz personality" in the US.[86] Biographer Paul Trynka states that although the album as a whole is inconsistent, it nevertheless at the time restored Bowie's momentum after David Live, and the "impressionist working methods" used in its making would "underpin Bowie's career through the rest of the decade".[88] In 2016, Joe Lynch of Billboard argued that "Fame" and Young Americans as a whole served as an influence not only on other funk artists (naming George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic's song "Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof off the Sucker)"), but also early hip hop artists and the West Coast G-funk genre of the early 1990s.[89]

Bowie himself expressed mixed statements about Young Americans throughout his lifetime. In late 1975 he described it as "the phoniest R&B I've ever heard. If I ever would have got my hands on that record when I was growing up I would have cracked it over my knee."[44] He would further voice his dislike for the record and describe it as "a phase" in a 1976 interview with Melody Maker.[90] Bowie would later reverse his stance in the 1990s, speaking to Q magazine in 1990: "I shouldn't have been quite so hard on myself, because looking back it was pretty good white, blue-eyed soul."[86]

Despite the overall mixed reception, Young Americans was voted Bowie's ninth best album in a 2013 readers' poll for Rolling Stone. The magazine argued that its style shift helped introduce Bowie to a wider audience.[91] That same year, NME ranked the album at number 175 in its list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.[92] The album was also included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[93] The aggregate website Acclaimed Music lists Young Americans as the 19th most acclaimed album of 1975, the 234th most acclaimed album of the 1970s and the 920th most acclaimed album in history.[94]

Reissues[edit]

The album was first released on CD by RCA in 1984, and then by Rykodisc/EMI in 1991, with three bonus tracks.[95] This reissue charted at number 54 on the UK Albums Chart for one week in April 1991.[96] A 1999 rerelease by EMI featured 24-bit digitally remastered sound and no extra tracks.[97] The 2007 reissue, marketed as a "Special Edition," included an accompanying DVD, containing 5.1 surround sound mixes of the album and video footage from The Dick Cavett Show.[1] In 2016, the album was remastered for the Who Can I Be Now? (1974–1976) box set; the set also includes an earlier, rawer-sounding draft of the album, titled The Gouster.[98] It was released in CD, vinyl, and digital formats, both as part of this compilation and separately.[99]

The 1991 and 2007 reissues featured, as bonus tracks, "Who Can I Be Now?", "John, I'm Only Dancing (Again)", and "It's Gonna Be Me"; the latter was released in an alternate version with strings on the 2007 edition.[1] The 1991 reissue replaced the original versions of "Win", "Fascination" and "Right" with alternate mixes, but later reissues restored the original mixes. Another outtake, "After Today", appeared on the 1989 box set Sound + Vision, as did the alternate mix of "Fascination".[7][100]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks are written by David Bowie, except where noted.

Side one
No.TitleWriter(s)Length
1."Young Americans" 5:11
2."Win" 4:44
3."Fascination"Bowie, Luther Vandross5:45
4."Right" 4:15
Side two
No.TitleWriter(s)Length
1."Somebody Up There Likes Me" 6:36
2."Across the Universe"John Lennon, Paul McCartney4:29
3."Can You Hear Me?" 5:03
4."Fame"Bowie, Carlos Alomar, Lennon4:16
Total length:40:13

Personnel[edit]

Adapted from the Young Americans liner notes.[101]

Additional musicians

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

Charts and certifications[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Vandross would release his own version of "Funky Music (Is a Part of Me)" on his 1976 album Luther.[34]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f Pegg 2016, p. 374.
  2. ^ Buckley 2005, p. 189.
  3. ^ a b Buckley 2005, p. 187.
  4. ^ a b Pegg 2016, pp. 198–199.
  5. ^ Guarisco, David A. ""1984" – David Bowie". AllMusic. Archived from the original on 31 May 2019. Retrieved 15 August 2020.
  6. ^ Buckley 1999, pp. 208–17.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u O'Leary 2015, chap. 9.
  8. ^ a b Doggett 2012, pp. 249–250.
  9. ^ Buckley 2005, p. 194.
  10. ^ Buckley 2005, pp. 194–195.
  11. ^ Pegg 2016, pp. 373–374.
  12. ^ Pegg 2016, pp. 367, 374.
  13. ^ Buckley 2005, p. 178.
  14. ^ Pegg 2016, pp. 374–375.
  15. ^ Jackson 2004, p. 115.
  16. ^ Nite 1978, p. 320.
  17. ^ a b c d e f Pegg 2016, p. 375.
  18. ^ Buckley 2005, pp. 190–205.
  19. ^ a b c Pegg 2016, p. 376.
  20. ^ Pegg 2016, pp. 376–377.
  21. ^ a b Visconti 2007, pp. 222–224.
  22. ^ Pegg 2016, pp. 377–378.
  23. ^ a b c d e Sandford 1997, p. 138.
  24. ^ a b c Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Young Americans – David Bowie". AllMusic. Archived from the original on 17 June 2012. Retrieved 14 November 2011.
  25. ^ Sheffield, Rob (18 August 2016). "David Bowie's Essential Albums". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 20 February 2018. Retrieved 27 March 2018.
  26. ^ a b c d Wolk, Douglas (22 January 2016). "David Bowie: Young Americans Album Review". Pitchfork. Archived from the original on 1 February 2020. Retrieved 5 September 2020.
  27. ^ Smith, Lauren (11 August 2011). "Aug. 11, 1974: David Bowie starts recording Young Americans at Sigma Sound". The A.V. Club. Archived from the original on 10 September 2011. Retrieved 14 November 2011.
  28. ^ Naftule, Ashley (6 March 2020). "David Bowie Fell to Earth and Found His Plastic Soul on Young Americans". Consequence of Sound. Archived from the original on 8 April 2020. Retrieved 6 September 2020.
  29. ^ a b Spitz 2009, p. 253.
  30. ^ Pegg 2016, pp. 322–324.
  31. ^ Doggett 2012, pp. 259–261.
  32. ^ Pegg 2016, p. 315.
  33. ^ a b Buckley 2005, p. 221.
  34. ^ a b Pegg 2016, p. 89.
  35. ^ Doggett 2012, pp. 270–271.
  36. ^ Pegg 2016, p. 226.
  37. ^ Doggett 2012, p. 269.
  38. ^ Doggett 2012, pp. 267–269.
  39. ^ a b Buckley 2005, pp. 220–221.
  40. ^ Pegg 2016, p. 250.
  41. ^ a b Pegg 2016, pp. 14–15.
  42. ^ Doggett 2012, p. 274.
  43. ^ a b Pegg 2016, pp. 54–55.
  44. ^ a b Buckley 2005, p. 220.
  45. ^ a b Pegg 2016, pp. 86–88.
  46. ^ Spitz 2009, p. 249.
  47. ^ Buckley 2005, pp. 215–217.
  48. ^ a b Doggett 2012, pp. 275–278.
  49. ^ Pegg 2016, p. 312.
  50. ^ Doggett 2012, pp. 262–263.
  51. ^ Pegg 2016, pp. 134–135.
  52. ^ Doggett 2012, pp. 263–264.
  53. ^ Pegg 2016, pp. 143–144.
  54. ^ Doggett 2012, pp. 265–266.
  55. ^ a b c d Pegg 2016, p. 378.
  56. ^ Barendregt, Erwin (7 March 2020). "David Bowie changes course towards (plastic) soul: Young Americans". A Pop Life. Retrieved 13 September 2021.
  57. ^ Pegg 2016, pp. 562–565.
  58. ^ a b Pegg 2016, pp. 639–640.
  59. ^ Buckley 2005, p. 212.
  60. ^ "Young Americans is next 40th Anniversary Picture Disc". David Bowie Official Website. Archived from the original on 15 August 2016. Retrieved 8 December 2014.
  61. ^ a b O'Leary 2015, Partial Discography.
  62. ^ a b Pegg 2016, p. 323.
  63. ^ a b c Buckley 2005, p. 219.
  64. ^ "Young Americans album is 40 today". David Bowie Official Website. Archived from the original on 15 August 2016. Retrieved 7 March 2015.
  65. ^ a b "Young Americans Chart History". Billboard. Archived from the original on 12 July 2020. Retrieved 22 August 2020.
  66. ^ a b "David Bowie > Artists > Official Charts". UK Albums Chart. Archived from the original on 3 November 2013. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  67. ^ "Official Albums Chart Top 50: 06 April 1975 – 12 April 1975". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 15 October 2021.
  68. ^ a b Pegg 2016, p. 87.
  69. ^ Buckley 2005, p. 223.
  70. ^ a b Pegg 2016, pp. 87–88.
  71. ^ Buckley 2005, p. 244.
  72. ^ Kot, Greg (10 June 1990). "Bowie's Many Faces Are Profiled On Compact Disc". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on 16 April 2016. Retrieved 11 November 2020.
  73. ^ Christgau, Robert (1981). "David Bowie: Young Americans". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies. Boston: Ticknor and Fields. ISBN 0-89919-026-X. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 13 August 2016.
  74. ^ Larkin, Colin (2011). "Bowie, David". The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th concise ed.). London: Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-0-85712-595-8.
  75. ^ Grundy, Gareth (May 2007). "David Bowie: Young Americans". Q. No. 250.
  76. ^ Sheffield, Rob (13 June 2007). "David Bowie: Young Americans". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 16 June 2007. Retrieved 14 August 2016.
  77. ^ Sheffield, Rob (2004). "David Bowie". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. pp. 97–99. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
  78. ^ Cavanagh, David (May 1991). "Return of the Thin White Duke". Select. No. 11. p. 88. Archived from the original on 11 September 2017. Retrieved 11 September 2017.
  79. ^ Sheffield 1995, p. 55.
  80. ^ Troussé, Stephen (April 2007). "David Bowie: Young Americans". Uncut. No. 119.
  81. ^ "Top Album Picks" (PDF). Billboard. 15 March 1975. p. 80. Archived (PDF) from the original on 5 August 2020. Retrieved 12 December 2020 – via worldradiohistory.com.
  82. ^ Christgau, Robert (12 May 1975). "Christgau's Consumer Guide". The Village Voice. Archived from the original on 13 March 2016. Retrieved 13 August 2016.
  83. ^ Landau, Jon (22 May 1975). "Young Americans". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 29 May 2012. Retrieved 14 November 2011.
  84. ^ Mendelsohn, John (April 1975). "David Bowie: Young Americans (RCA)". Phonograph Record. Archived from the original on 5 May 2021. Retrieved 2 March 2021 – via Rock's Backpages (subscription required).
  85. ^ MacDonald, Ian (15 March 1975). "David Bowie: Young Americans". NME. Archived from the original on 5 May 2021. Retrieved 2 March 2021 – via Rock's Backpages (subscription required).
  86. ^ a b c d e f Pegg 2016, p. 379.
  87. ^ Giles, Jeff (7 March 2016). "Revisiting David Bowie's R&B Move, 'Young Americans'". Ultimate Classic Rock. Archived from the original on 30 August 2020. Retrieved 11 September 2020.
  88. ^ Trynka 2011, p. 486.
  89. ^ Lynch, Joe (14 January 2016). "David Bowie Influenced More Musical Genres Than Any Other Rock Star". Billboard. Archived from the original on 18 April 2021. Retrieved 3 September 2021.
  90. ^ Charlesworth, Chris (13 March 1976). "David Bowie: Ringing the Changes". Melody Maker. Archived from the original on 6 May 2021. Retrieved 19 September 2020 – via Rock's Backpages (subscription required).
  91. ^ "Readers' Poll: The Best David Bowie Albums". Rolling Stone. 16 January 2013. Archived from the original on 29 May 2021. Retrieved 5 October 2021.
  92. ^ "The 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time: 200–101". NME. 25 October 2013. Archived from the original on 4 January 2017. Retrieved 19 September 2020.
  93. ^ Dimery, Robert; Lydon, Michael (23 March 2010). 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die: Revised and Updated Edition. New York City: Universe. ISBN 978-0-7893-2074-2.
  94. ^ "Young Americans". Acclaimed Music. Archived from the original on 10 September 2021. Retrieved 10 September 2021.
  95. ^ Young Americans (liner notes). David Bowie. US/Europe: Rykodisc/EMI. 1991. RCD 10140/CDP 79 6436 2.CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  96. ^ a b "Young Americans (1991 version)". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 26 August 2021.
  97. ^ Young Americans (liner notes). David Bowie. Europe: EMI. 1999. 7243 521905 0 8.CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  98. ^ "Who Can I Be Now? (1974–1976) details". David Bowie Official Website. Archived from the original on 11 February 2017. Retrieved 12 September 2020.
  99. ^ Gerard, Chris (28 September 2016). "David Bowie: Who Can I Be Now? (1974/1976)". PopMatters. Archived from the original on 23 October 2020. Retrieved 6 December 2020.
  100. ^ Pegg 2016, pp. 374, 502–503.
  101. ^ Young Americans (liner notes). David Bowie. RCA Records. 1975. RS 1006.CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  102. ^ a b Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, NSW: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  103. ^ "Top Albums/CDs – Volume 23, No. 9". RPM. 26 April 1975. Archived from the original (PHP) on 24 February 2014. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  104. ^ "InfoDisc : Tous les Albums classés par Artiste > Choisir Un Artiste Dans la Liste". infodisc.fr. Archived from the original (PHP) on 7 November 2011. Retrieved 31 January 2014. Note: user must select 'David BOWIE' from drop-down.
  105. ^ Oricon Album Chart Book: Complete Edition 1970–2005. Roppongi, Tokyo: Oricon Entertainment. 2006. ISBN 4-87131-077-9.
  106. ^ "charts.nz David Bowie – Young Americans" (ASP). Recording Industry Association of New Zealand. Archived from the original on 21 May 2017. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  107. ^ "norwegiancharts.com David Bowie – Young Americans" (ASP). Archived from the original on 16 October 2013. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  108. ^ "Swedish Charts 1972–1975/Kvällstoppen – Listresultaten vecka för vecka > Mars 1975 > 25 Mars" (PDF). hitsallertijden.nl (in Swedish). Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 May 2017. 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.
  109. ^ "Italiancharts.com – David Bowie – Young Americans". Hung Medien. Retrieved 25 July 2020.
  110. ^ "Swisscharts.com – David Bowie – Young Americans". Hung Medien. Retrieved 25 July 2020.
  111. ^ "Top Pop Albums of 1975". Billboard. Archived from the original on 8 December 2012. Retrieved 11 February 2011.
  112. ^ "Canadian album certifications – David Bowie – Young Americans". Music Canada. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  113. ^ "British album certifications – David Bowie – Young Americans". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  114. ^ "American album certifications – David Bowie – Young Americans". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 31 January 2014.

Sources[edit]

External links[edit]