Album: Young Americans (1975)
Charted: 17 1
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  • This song is about what it is like to be famous. Bowie gave his thoughts on the subject in a 2003 interview with Performing Songwriter magazine: "Fame itself, of course, doesn't really afford you anything more than a good seat in a restaurant. That must be pretty well known by now. I'm just amazed how fame is being posited as the be all and end all, and how many of these young kids who are being foisted on the public have been talked into this idea that anything necessary to be famous is all right. It's a sad state of affairs. However arrogant and ambitious I think we were in my generation, I think the idea was that if you do something really good, you'll become famous. The emphasis on fame itself is something new. Now it's, to be famous you should do what it takes, which is not the same thing at all. And it will leave many of them with this empty feeling. Then again, I don't know if it will, because I think a lot of them are genuinely quite satisfied. I know a couple of personalities over in England who are famous for being famous, basically. They sort of initially came out of the pop world, but they're quite happy being photographed going everywhere and showing their kids off and this is a career to them. A career of like being there and turning up and saying, 'Yes it's me, the famous girl or guy' (laughs). It's like, 'What do you want?' It's so Warhol. It's as vacuous as that. And that to me, is a big worry. I think it's done dreadful things to the music industry. There's such a lot of rubbish, drivel out there."
  • John Lennon helped write this song - he came up with the title and also sang the background "Fame" parts in the high voice. They started working on the song when Bowie invited Lennon to the studio, and Lennon played rhythm guitar on a jam session that resulted in this track. Bowie met Lennon less than a year earlier at a party thrown by Elizabeth Taylor. Lennon was one of Bowie's idols, and they became good friends.
  • Bowie often had conversations with Lennon about how fame took away parts of their lives. In the same interview, Bowie said: "We'd been talking about management, and it kind of came out of that. He was telling me, 'You're being shafted by your present manager' (laughs). That was basically the line. And John was the guy who opened me up to the idea that all management is crap. That there's no such thing as good management in rock 'n' roll, and you should try to do it without it. It was at John's instigation that I really did without managers, and started getting people in to do specific jobs for me, rather than signing myself away to one guy forever and have him take a piece of everything that I earn. Usually, quite a large piece, and have him really not do very much. So, if I needed a certain publishing thing done, I'd bring in a person who specialized in that area, and they would, on a one-job basis, work for me and we'd reach the agreed fee. And I started to realize that if you're bright, you kind of know you're worth, and if you're creative, you know what you want to do and where you want to go in that way. What extra thing is this manager supposed to do for you? I suppose in the old days, it was [in a hokey New York voice] 'Get you breaks!' (laughs). I don't quite know what managers are supposed to do, even. I think if you have even just a modicum of intelligence, you're going to know what it is you are and where you want to go. Once you know that, you just bring in specific people for specialist jobs. You don't have to end up signing your life away to some fool who's just there kind of grabbing hold of the coattails."
  • Bowie's guitarist Carlos Alomar came up with the guitar riff. It was based on a song called "Foot Stompin'" by The Flares, which Bowie had been performing on tour. "In funk music, what you want to do is put down a lot of holes," Alomar recalled to Mojo magazine of the song's instrumentation, "leaving a little space for someone to be able to dance in. Lennon played acoustic guitar and we reversed it and that's the suction sound you hear at the beginning."

    "Then we put up big reverb upon David's riff," he continued. "Like going to a recreation centre when it's empty, taking your amplifier and your guitar – and filling that room."
  • This was Bowie's first big hit in America, and also his first to do better in the US than the UK. He had a few UK hits before this, including "Rebel Rebel," "Life On Mars," and "Diamond Dogs."
  • Bowie: "Fame can take interesting men and thrust mediocrity upon them."
  • This was recorded at the Sigma Sound studios in Philadelphia, where many soul classics of the '70s were made. Bowie wanted the album to have a rhythm & blues feel, and he called the sound he created "Plastic Soul."
  • Bowie whispers something at the end. It is rumored to be either "Brings so much pain" or "Feeling so gay, feeling gay."
  • Bowie performed this and "Golden Years" on Soul Train in an episode aired November 4, 1975, making him one of the first white artists to appear on the show. Bowie allegedly had a few drinks before he went on to calm his nerves.
  • This was remixed as a Techno version for the Pretty Woman soundtrack. It was re-titled "Fame '90." This version was also included on the album Changesbowie when it was re-issued.
  • At the end of this song, "Fame" is repeated 23 times, each "Fame" being a different note. The repetitions of "Fame" span an amazing four octaves. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Annabelle - Eugene, OR
  • In one of Bowie's first US TV appearances, he performed this on The Cher Show in 1975. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France
  • At the time this song was written, Bowie was under contract with MainMan Records and Tony DeFries. Money was mismanaged after several tours, leaving Bowie broke from having to pay back expenses owed. Bowie wrote this song in response to the whole financial ordeal. Not too long after, Bowie fired DeFries at John Lennon's suggestion. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Thomas - Marion, IN
  • Engineer Eddie Kramer recalled to Uncut: "The story is Carlos Alomar was jamming the riff that became 'Fame' and Bowie walked in and said, 'Oi, I want that,' and that started the process."
  • The "Fame '90" remix is also used in the 1995 thriller Copycat as the murderer zeroes in on his victim in a gay bar.
  • The end of the song is accented by the rattle of a vibraslap, a percussion instrument consisting of a stiff wire connecting a wooden ball to a hollow box full of metal teeth. Prior to "Fame," it showed up in The Lemon Pipers' "Green Tambourine" and The Jimi Hendrix Experience's "All Along The Watchtower."

Comments: 22

  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn November 7th 1975, David Bowie performed "Fame" on the CBS-TV variety program "The Cher Show"...
    At the time the song was at #41 on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; and was in its 20th and next to last week on the Top 100...
    His appearance on the 'Cher' show was his debut on national U.S.A. television...
    Between 1972 and 1997 he had twenty-six Top 100 records; six made the Top 10 with two reaching #1, his other #1 record was "Let's Dance" for 1 week on May 15th, 1983, the three weeks after it peaked at #1 it was at #2 for those three weeks...
    And in two months and one day, on January 8th, 2015 Mr. Bowie, born David Robert Jones, will celebrate his 68th birthday.
  • K.c. from NhPersonally, I am not a fan of the '90s "techno" version. The original is the best. Even my 11-year-old loves it (although I think "Changes" is her favorite Bowie song).
  • Allona from Ottawa, OnIt sounds a lot like earth, wind and fire's Shining Star.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn September 20th, 1975 "Fame" reached #1 for one week, then "I'm Sorry" b/w "Calypso" by John Denver became #1 for one week. But Bowie reclaimed #1 for another week!!!
  • John from Concord, NhFame is a flairy kind of Bowie song, but good nonetheless. However it was created, it's catchy.
  • Rayna from Pembroke Pines, FlIn an interview, the fantastic Mr. B. has admitted to experimenting with the caballero's sword in the past, but he said it was just that --experimenting. He is now very happily living with his wife and child. It doesn't matter. Mister David Bowie is still a very talented and handsome gentleman, no matter what his preferences are. Viva Bowie!
  • Rabia from New York, NyI love how this song is about how John Lennon and David Bowie disliked what fame did to their lives, and here people are talking about their private lives, a strong quality of fame, famous people don't like.

    Great song though.
  • Brian from Vancouver, BcWhen I read the Lyrics to "Queen Bitch" off Honky Dory it seems pretty evident Bowie hung around in the gay scene. The references to "watching the cruizers below" (the act of picking up men ie. cruizing). Also "she's known in the darkest clubs
    For pushing ahead of the dames". That would be a drag queen for sure. I just cant see someone using this jargon if they are totally straight.
  • Karen from Manalapan, NjDuran Duran did a cover of this song. It was a single and not on any of their main albums.
  • John from Dundee, United KingdomDavid is in a straight relationship(family man) and seems to thrive on it. I think that the whole androgynous Bowie was something he made up for suckers to take what they wanted from it. The original "Man Who Sold the World" cover was brilliant. "Ziggy", "Aladdinsane", purported the whole gay thing, "Hunky Dory" was part this and a part that, remember "Kooks" was written for Zowie. And also remember that John Lennon "nutted" the journalist who suggested he had a relationship with Brian Epstein.
    David is a clever man but let's not forget Willie Weekes whose bass playing makes this track.
  • Kyle from Jefferson, MdThis song is used for the Choclate Skateboards montage is the skat video "Yeah Right". During this song, Jesus Fernandez, Chico Brennes and Richard Mulder, as well as Kenny Anderson dropped sock parts.
  • Dennis from Anchorage, AkNot to be argumentative, but this was not remotely Bowie's first big hit in America. That honor would go to A Space Oddity.
  • Joey from Nowhere Land, CaI heard when Lennon died, Bowie moved out of New York, then came back years later

    is that true?
  • Johnny from Los Angeles, CaChangesbowie is the album, actually
  • Johnny from Los Angeles, CaJohn Lennon did not sleep with David Bowie. Period. have any of u guys heard the 90' remix on the album "Changes"
  • Jeremy from Warren , RiIf he did have relations with Jagger he did a long time before the ridiculous Dancing in the Streets video! And if he did so what? Listen to the music and let his personal life remain that. He doesn't care who your sleeping with!
  • Nathan from Defiance, OhLennon and Bowie probably didn't have sex, they both played off the image of being sexually liberated and weird to sell records. Bowie later in his career appeared to play down his bisexuality as a gimick. Bowie claimed to have met his wife while they were dating the same dude.
  • Roger from Los Angeles, CaThere was a rumour that Bowie had a homosexual affair with Lennon, but I don't know if that was ever confirmed. Then again, there are rumours that Bowie has sex withever he performs with. He did Dancing in the Streets with Mick Jagger and there was a rumour that he did it with Mick Jagger too.
  • John from Elkhart, InSo what about the song, "Hot" by James Brown. It's basically the same song, production and all. I know artists have sampled James Brown probably more than any other artist out there, but is this a case of James "sampling" before sampling existed?
  • Stefanie Magura from Rock Hill, Scwhat a great song, and fun to dance to. Especially with that rhythm and blues feel.
  • David from Waco, TxBowie uses the phrase "plastic soul' I had heard that during the early sixties some african american artists had labeled the Rolling Stones as plastic soul. Rumor has it that Paul Mccartney, refering to the Beatles, asked "Whats that make us" and Lennon "Rubber, whatever they say will bounce off". "Rubber Soul"
  • Ethan from Slc, UtBowie was jamming with lennon when john started playing shame shame shame, a beatles song, bowie asked what it was and lennon told him that it was easy to make a good song fast, then bowie disappeared, five minutes later he came back with the lyrics to fame
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