“John, I’m Only Dancing” is a single by English rock musician David Bowie, released in two versions – entirely different recordings, but carrying the same catalogue number – in September 1972 and April 1973. Bowie later re-worked the song into the disco-influenced “John, I’m Only Dancing (Again),” recorded in 1974 but unreleased until 1979.
side A. John I’m Only Dancing (disco Version 1979) 3:25
Producer – David Bowie, Tony Visconti
Written-By – D. Bowie
side B. John I’m Only Dancing (New wave Version 1972) 2:45
Written-By – D. Bowie
Label: RCA Victor – PB 9482
Format: Vinyl, 7″, 45 RPM, Single
Released: 17 December 1979
Media Condition: Very Good Plus (VG+)
Sleeve Condition: Near Mint (Very Good Plus/Mint (VG+/NM)
ring wear: No
All three seams looking perfect: Yes
Picture sleeve looks near mint: Yes
creases or folds: No
stamps or writing: No
Personnel side B. John I’m Only Dancing (New wave Version 1972)
David Bowie – vocals, acoustic guitar, saxophone (sax version), producer
Mick Ronson – lead guitar
Lou Reed – rhythm guitar
Trevor Bolder – bass guitar
Mick Woodmansey – drums
Ken Fordham – saxophone (sax version)
Ken Scott – producer
Personnel side A. John I’m Only Dancing (disco Version 1979)
Producers: Tony Visconti
Musicians: David Bowie – lead and backing vocals, acoustic rhythm guitar, piano
Carlos Alomar – lead guitar
Willie Weeks – bass
Andy Newmark – drums
Mike Garson – piano
David Sanborn – saxophone
Larry Washington – conga
Luther Vandross, Robin Clark, Ava Cherry – backing vocals
– A previously unreleased live version from Boston Music Hall, recorded on 1 October 1972, was released in 1989 on the original Sound + Vision box set, but was not included in subsequent versions of this compilation. The same track, however, was issued on the bonus disc of the Aladdin Sane – 30th Anniversary Edition in 2003.
– A live version recorded at Santa Monica Civic Auditorium on 20 October 1972 has been released on Santa Monica ’72 and Live Santa Monica ’72.
– The Portugal release of the single “Starman” from September 1972 had “John, I’m Only Dancing” as the B-side.
– In November 1972 it was released as the B-side of the single “The Jean Genie” in Japan.
– It appeared on the B-side of the “Cracked Actor” single in Eastern Europe in June 1973.
– In 1979, a remix of the 1972 version of the song was released on various UK and US singles, either as an A-side or as the B-side to “John, I’m Only Dancing (Again)”. This version was included as a bonus track on the Rykodisc CD release of Ziggy Stardust in 1990.
The song has appeared in the following compilations:
Changesonebowie (1976) – the first 1000 copies of the album included the sax version of the single
The Best of Bowie (1980) – sax version
Sound + Vision (1989) – sax version
Changesbowie (1990) – original version
The Singles Collection (1993) – original version
The Best of David Bowie 1969/1974 (1997) – sax version
Best of Bowie (2002) – original version
– The sax version was released on the bonus disc of the 30th Anniversary Edition of Aladdin Sane in 2003.
– Both the 1972 original and the sax version were included on Re:Call 1, part of the Five Years (1969–1973) boxed set, in 2015.
– The song was released as a picture disc in the RCA Life Time picture disc set.
John, I’m Only Dancing (Again)
“John, I’m Only Dancing (Again)” is a re-recording of “John, I’m Only Dancing”, made in 1974 during the sessions in Philadelphia for the album Young Americans. It was pencilled in as the opening track of the new album, before further sessions in New York generated more tracks which pushed it out of the running order.
Finally released as a standalone single in December 1979, the re-recording featured a much more funk-influenced take on the track, and has some similarities with the song “Stay” recorded for the Station to Station album in 1976. Originally running at 6:57, the track was cut for a 7″ single release, but the full version was issued on 12″ vinyl – the first Bowie single to have a regular 12″ release in the UK. For the B-side, the original version of “John, I’m Only Dancing” was remixed. After the relative disappointment of the singles from Lodger on the charts, the single gave Bowie some greater degree of mainstream exposure during a period when his work was increasingly being perceived as esoteric and experimental. The long 12″ version was included as a bonus track on the 1991 Rykodisk/EMI remaster CD of Young Americans, on the 2007 collectors edition of the album, and on The Best of David Bowie 1974/1979. The 7″ single version was not released on CD until 2016’s Who Can I Be Now? (1974–1976).
The reworking of “John, I’m Only Dancing” drops the original verses, only leaving the chorus’ lyrics intact, perhaps because of the supposed homosexual nature of the original piece. The new lyrics were simply an embrace of the dance floor and the spirit of disco. The chorus is delivered more slowly and unswung with dance beats instead of the rather retro blues beats of the original, giving time for Bowie to demonstrate vocal virtuosity. The changes were considered somewhat strange given the original’s context, especially the transformation into the “overlong” dance track, given the 12″ version’s extended mix, in which half of the song is a repetitive riff consisting of the lyrics “dancing, dancing, dancing, woo woo woo-oo”.