John I'm Only Dancing

Album: ChangesOneBowie (1972)
Charted: 12

Songfacts®:

  • This song is about a homosexual relationship. After dancing with a girl, Bowie reassures his male partner that he's "only dancing" with her and is not romantically involved. It has also been suggested this was Bowie's response to a derogatory comment made by John Lennon about Bowie's cross-dressing.
  • Several months prior to this song's release, Bowie had claimed to be bisexual in an interview with the Melody Maker and this song's gay connotations meant it was overlooked in America until its inclusion on the ChangesOneBowie in 1976.
  • This was the follow-up single to Bowie's British breakthrough "Starman." He'd previously charted with "Space Oddity" back in 1969, but had been unable to follow it up.
  • This song was originally slated to appear on the The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars album but it was eventually released as a stand-alone single. There were two versions: one with and one without a saxophone solo.
  • The official video features dancers from Lindsay Kemp's mime troupe (Kemp trained both Bowie and Kate Bush in dance). Directed by Mick Rock, it was a precursor to the kind of videos MTV aired when they launched nine years later, with studio footage of the performance intercut with quick, eye-catching shots. It was clearly ahead of its time: Top of the Pops wouldn't play the video because they considered it too provocative.

    Bowie made a lot of music videos around this time, which were actually shot on film and more accurately described as "promotional films." They aired mostly in Europe on TV variety shows, but lived on in home-video compilations and later, on YouTube. Mick Rock, who is better known as a still photographer, also directed Bowie's "Life On Mars?," "Space Oddity" and "The Jean Genie."
  • Bowie revisited this song in 1979, in a soul vein, as "John I'm Only Dancing (Again)," giving him another #12 UK hit. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Mark - London, England, for above 2

Comments: 4

  • Passenger from New York CityI thought it was Bowie’s comment to Lennon after he had mocked Jagger’s “fag dancing”.
  • Dave from AberdeenJohn I'm Only Dancing Again recorded in 74 but unreleased until 79.
  • Mark from DevonI'd understood it was about Bowie dancing with Yoko Ono, apology to the Jealous Guy John Lennon.
  • Amara from Victorille, CaNo comments? Shame, this is a very cool song.
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