12 All The Young Dudes
Bowie’s version was never released on a studio album, but is available on a number of compilations and David Live (November 1974)
After Mott The Hoople rejected “Suffragette City”, Bowie came up with this career-saving track that they took to No 3
ROBERT WYATT: On the chorus of “All The Young Dudes” there’s a slight out-of-sync-ness between the chords as they go under the vocal melody. The chords start marching off before the tune comes in, so the word “dudes” is already on the third chord. Then there’s a great catch-up at the end of the chorus where the chords stamp their feet a couple of times waiting for the melody to catch up. Most writers would strum and hum, having the melody and chords coming in at the same time, but Bowie gives the song a great sense of motion. It’s got the immediate appeal of a timeworn folk melody, or one of the better football chants. I think it’s extraordinary and very generous that Bowie chose to give this song away and that his own role in it was so modestly placed.
I only met David for the first time very recently. We were guests at a David Gilmour concert at the Albert Hall. He came in to do a couple of old Pink Floyd songs. He was an extremely nice young man – I call him young, I’m in my sixties – and what he was doing on stage was blindingly good. All due respect to Syd, but his songs couldn’t have been realised any better. David’s voice is terrific now – it’s got a warm weight to it, and real authority.
11 The Jean Genie
From Aladdin Sane (April 1973); released as a single, November 1972. Highest UK chart position: 2; Highest US chart position: 71
Inspired by a combination of Jean Genet and Iggy Pop, hitched to a quasi Yardbirds riff, this proved Bowie’s biggest hit to date
JOHNNY MARR: It’s one of those amazing bits of noise that existed as a commercial release. It’s got sex and subversion and artistry in it. But it’s not so obscure that it couldn’t get on the radio. It really is a superb advertisement for what was once called rock’n’roll . Of course Mick Ronson’s guitar-playing is fantastic, but it’s the atmosphere created by the vocal and the attitude of the singer: it’s remote and scary and… quite alluring. It’s all the things that attracted me to rock music in the first place. And that it’s all wrapped up in a 7-inch 45 format is just perfect. It’s also really funny! The actual words themselves are a great example of why you don’t need to be earnest in pop music. And a great example of a sort of nonsense. It’s all about imagery over message. It’s just… cool!