14 John, I’m Only Dancing
Released as a single, September 1972, re-released January 1980; “John, I’m Only Dancing (Again)” (1975) released as a single, December 1979; Highest UK chart position: 12
Bowie’s first successful follow-up single, six months after “Starman”, consolidated his career and cemented the “Hi, I’m bi!” pose
SIOUXSIE SIOUX: It always takes me back to when I was 14. I just remember the feeling of that time. I think “School’s Out” by Alice Cooper was out, too. I was just getting ready to turn, I think. When Bowie’s music happened, it was a lifeline. I’d always grown up with music, but to be into something that was happening currently, something of my own that my sister and my brother hadn’t played first… it felt personal. I liked the subversiveness of Bowie. That was his appeal, and the fact that there was all that confusion about “Is it a boy? Is it a girl?” And I was pretty confused about myself, and that really tapped into something. I’d never be tempted to cover “John, I’m Only Dancing”. It’s perfect as it is. It’s so of a time. I wouldn’t want to mess with that.
13 Diamond Dogs
From Diamond Dogs (May 1974); released as a single, June 1974; highest UK chart position: 21
The title track from Bowie’s George Orwell concept opera once again mines Stones riffola and wasted Iggyish hijinks
HERBIE FLOWERS (Diamond Dogs bassist): The first time I played with Bowie was on the session for “Space Oddity”. Dear Gus [Dudgeon] was quaking in his boots. It might have been the first thing he ever produced. “Space Oddity” was this strange hybrid song. Rick Wakeman went out to buy a little Stylophone for seven shillings from a small shop on the corner where Trident Studios was. With that and all the string arrangements, it’s like a semi-orchestral piece.
We did Diamond Dogs very fast, doing basic tracks in three days in the little studio at Olympic. Bowie was writing a lot of the stuff as we were going. I think it was a semi-rescue attempt from his proposed George Orwell musical. The music was weird. I have to say I found it mildly unattractive at the time, but it was interesting stuff. Touring Diamond Dogs across America afterwards, it felt like those new songs were anarchic, all about tearing things down. It was prophetic in many ways. And the music was so loud and angry. Those shows were well organised. Strange things were going on, too. There was some in-fighting and maybe a lot of other things going on. But the band stuck together.