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Album: Best Of BowieReleased: 1985Charted:
This was originally a hit for Martha & the Vandellas in 1964. Bowie and Jagger covered it for the Live Aid charity at the insistence of Bob Geldof, who also put together the "Do They Know It's Christmas?
" single. Bowie and Jagger's cover features some lyrical changes. Their version begins with an announcement to the world (to reflect the universality of the charity's message): "OK, Tokyo South America, Australia, France, Germany, UK, Africa!" They also slip in a reference to The Beatles' track, "Back In The U.S.S.R
Bowie and Jagger recorded this song in just four hours. In 2007, Mick Jagger toldRolling Stone: "We banged it out in just two takes. It was an interesting exercise in how you can do something without worrying too much."
The producer Clive Langer told 1000 UK #1 Hits
: "We were working on "Absolute Beginners
" with Bowie. We were doing the backing track and David said, 'Do you mind if we do a charity single tonight?' I said, not at all, we'll help you. David said, 'Mick will be coming down.' Mick came into the studio and was twiddling his arms around and everything and we knocked the backing track down. We recorded most of it. I think they did the horns in America and somebody else mixed it. It was nice of David to put our names on it because it was really produced by a lot of people."
Bowie's musicians performed on the track. One of them was drummer, Neil Conti, who told 1000 UK #1 Hits: "It was a huge ego trip for Mick, he kept trying to upstage David."
When recording wrapped up at Abbey Studios, Bowie and Jagger headed straight to the London Docklands to film the song's official video, which has since become somewhat infamous for its cheesy choreography. This video was shown twice during the UK Live aid concert on July 13, 1985.
Bowie and Jagger had originally planned to perform the song together at the 1985 Live Aid concerts via a satellite link-up, with Bowie performing at Wembley Stadium in London and Jagger at John F. Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia. It was later realized the satellite link-up would cause a delay that would make the performance impossible unless Bowie or Jagger mimed, which neither was willing to do.