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JANGIR (Bowie/Gabrels)

An instrumental track recorded by Bowie with Reeves Gabrels in 1999 for exclusive use in the Omikron computer game.


  • Album: Space Oddity

  • Live: Bowie At The Beeb (Bonus Disc)/Space Oddity (2009)

The jauntiest number on this prevailingly morose album, "Janine" was Tony Visconti's favourite track from the Space Oddity sessions. Although it's apparently a playful admonition of a girl who is "too intense" and in danger of "standing on my toes", other lines suggest more complex undercurrents. For those who like to see Bowie's mask-wearing and play-acting as a mechanism against confronting his own personality, lines like "I've got to keep my veil on my face", "I've got things inside my head that even I can't face", and "if you take an axe to me you'll kill another man, not me at all", suggest that "Janine" offers a substantial early example of the fictive self-distancing that was to acquire legendary proportions in the following decade.

     The 3'32" demo recorded with John Hutchinson around April 1969 is notable for some minor lyrical differences but mainly for its unexpected segue into the closing refrain of The Beatles' "Hey Jude". On the demo tape Bowie reveals that Janine is "the girlfriend of a guy called George who does very nice album covers." He's referring, of course, to his old friend George Underwood, and the following October David told Disc & Music Echo that the song was "a bit hard to explain without sounding nasty. It was written about my old mate George and is about a girl he used to go out with. It's how I thought he should see her." For his part, Underwood was mystified by the song. "I think he was trying to tell me something but I still don't know what," he told Kevin Cann many years later. "He never came out and said he didn't like my girlfriend or anything. He was always nice to her and she never upset him as far as I knew." Bowie did, however, offer Underwood a more obvious insight when he revealed that "I'm doing it like Elvis Presley": sure enough, "Janine" offers a clear early instance of the mock-Elvis vocal delivery which would rear its head from time to time on later Bowie recordings.

     "Janine" was briefly mooted as a follow-up single to "Space Oddity", even being announced as such in the NME in November 1969, but this plan was dropped. Two BBC session versions were recorded on October 20th 1969 and February 5th 1970, of which the former now appears on Bowie At The Beeb and the 2009 reissue of Space Oddity. Thereafter "Janine" disappeared from the Bowie repertoire, although the album version was included on the rare withdrawn US single of "All The Madmen". Many years later it cropped up on the soundtrack album of the 1998 movie Whatever.


  • A-Side: November 1972

  • Album: Aladdin Sane

  • Live: David Live/Santa Monica '72/Aladdin Sane (2003)/Glass Spider (2007 CD/DVD Release)/Live Nassau Coliseum '76 (included on 2010 Reissue of Station To Station)

  • B-Side: November 2012

  • Video: The Video Collection/Best Of Bowie

  • Live Video: Glass Spider

"The Jean Genie" was the first Aladdin Sane song off the starting-blocks, written during the early days of Bowie's 1972 US tour, recorded at RCA's New York studios on Sixth Avenue on October 6th, and mixed in Nashville the following month. The story goes that the song started life as "Bussin'", an impromptu jam on the tour's chartered Greyhound between the first two concerts in Cleveland and Memphis, when Mick Ronson began picking out the chugging Bo Diddley-style riff on his new Les Paul guitar. Thirty years later Bowie would describe "The Jean Genie" as "a smorgasbord of imagined Americana" and "my first New York song", revealing that he wrote the lyric to entertain Cyrinda Foxe, a key figure in the Warhol crowd and an occasional girlfriend during his 1972 US tour. "I wrote it for her amusement, in her apartment," David explained. (Foxe, who later married David Johansen of the New York Dolls and subsequently Steve Tyler of Aerosmith, sadly died in 2002).

     Juggling appropriate Genie/Aladdin references with lashings of sexual innuendo and whoops of wild abandon, "The Jean Genie" encapsulates all Bowie's 1972 pet subjects in one slice of perfect glam-pop. In early live introductions on the US tour, David announced that the number was "about a guy who lives in New York" and, more explicitly, "for a friend of ours, Iggy Pop". In 1996 he described the song as "focused around Iggy, an Iggy-type character to be fully fair. It wasn't actually Iggy," and he later called the character a "white-trash, kind of trailer-park kid thing - the closest intellectual who would't want the world to know that he reads." Of particular note is the line "Keeps all your dead hair for making up underwear", which appears to be an early indication of the unhealthy interest in voodoo magic which would grip Bowie during the depths of his 1975 Los Angeles period (Angela Bowie and others later claimed that David became obsessed with preserving his hair-trimmings and nail-clippings for fear that witches might use them in magic rituals, a precaution advised in one of Aleister Crowley's "secret teachings"). As for the oft-cited Jean Genet pun, Bowie initially denied that it was intentional. "It was very, very subconscious, but I think it's probably there, yes," he said in 1973. "Lindsay Kemp did the most fantastic production of [Genet's] Our Lady Of The Flowers a couple of years ago, and it's always been in the back of my mind." Of the recording itself, he added that he "wanted to get the same sound the Stones had on their very first album on the harmonica. I didn't get that near to it, but it had a feel that I wanted - that sixties thing." Another sixties thing that might have played its part was Eddie Cochran's 1961 hit "Jeannie Jeannie Jeannie".

     "The Jean Genie" received its live premiere in Chicago on October 7th - the day after the studio recording was completed - while a version recorded a fortnight later survives on Santa Monica '72. Released the same month, the American single reached no higher than number 71, but in Britain, where the single was held back until November, it climbed to number 2 to become Bowie's biggest hit so far - tragically it was kept off the number 1 spot by no less a record than Little Jimmy Osmond's "Long-Haired Lover From Liverpool". In other territories "The Jean Genie" encountered mixed fortunes, becoming a huge hit in Japan but getting itself banned in Rhodesia, where the authorities considered it "undesirable".

     To promote the single at home, Mick Rock's video was shot in San Francisco on October 27th and 28th 1972, featuring snatches of concert footage interspersed with shots of The Spiders posing moodily in and around the appropriately-named Mars Hotel while Bowie, a post-glam Warhol, sizes up a blonde dancer through a film director's finger-frame. "It looks sort of Beatle-y now," said David in 1986. "It was very new in terms of the way it was dressed. We wanted to get a very graphic, white, almost Vogue look - big faces, big bits of faces, eyes against stark white backdrops, and to throw in an environment, so we found a place called the Mars Hotel in California somewhere and we stuck the band in there." The model who dances in the video, often mistakenly identified as Angela Bowie, is in fact Cyrinda Foxe. "Wanting it to locate Ziggy as a kind of Hollywood street-rat," David explained in Moonage Daydream, "it became important to me that he had a consort of the Marilyn brand. So I telephoned Cyrinda Foxe back in New York and asked her if she was into playing the role. She was, quite rightly, as no-one could have done it better, and she flew in immediately." The Mars Hotel sequences were shot early on October 27th, while the live footage of the band performing "The Jean Genie" was filmed the following night at the second of two shows at San Francisco's Winterland.

     Among other things, "The Jean Genie" video commemorates one of Bowie's favourite stage gestures of the Ziggy period: framing his eyes with the forefingers and thumbs of his upside-down hands to create an "alien eyes" effect. "I don't know where the funny little Ziggy finger-mask came from," he wrote in 2002, "but it caught on like crazy with the front row and could be prompted at will." He continued to reprise the gesture on stage over the years, usually heralding the performance of a Ziggy number.

     With Bowie touring America until late 1972, BBC1's Top Of The Pops promoted "The Jean Genie" by showing the video on December 14th, while the following week saw a performance by the show's resident dance troupe Pan's People. By the New Year, Bowie and The Spiders were at last available to appear in person in the Top Of The Pops studio, performing "The Jean Genie" at Television Centre on January 3rd 1973 for a show transmitted the following day. A bare-chested David wore a new jacket-and-trousers ensemble designed by Freddie Burretti, whose fashionable partner Daniella Parmar joined the studio audience to dance along. Unusually for a Top Of The Pops appearance of the period, The Spiders played live; the performance which made it to the screen was the third take, notwithstanding a minor mishap towards the end when the band miscued the final section. "Everyone thought it was me," said Trevor Bolder some years later, "but the whole band missed the cue. It was a real mess." After the recording, the band had a drink in the BBC bar, where cast members of the Doctor Who serial Planet Of The Daleks were relaxing after a day's filming on location. Seeing The Spiders in their spangly costumes fraternising with Jon Pertwee and Katy Manning, a passer-by asked if they were playing aliens in Doctor Who.

     The master tape of the Top Of The Pops recording was wiped not long afterwards, and for decades the performance was believed lost. It was miraculously unearthed in 2011 courtesy of John Henshall, the BBC cameraman who designed and operated the Telefex fisheye lens used in the clip, as a result of which he had requested a copy on two-inch videotape to keep in his personal archive. "For 38 and a half years it was stored carefully, but never played," explained Henshall, who was unaware that the master was missing until the subject came up during a Johnnie Walker show on BBC radio. "I did not realise how much this had been sought after, because I didn't think anybody would be daft enough to wipe it." Henshall's near-pristine tape was restored by the BFI, who premiered it at a Missing Believed Wiped event on December 11th 2011, and ten days later the BBC transmitted the clip in a Top Of The Pops 2 Christmas Special. Despite the minor miscue that s haunted Trevor Bolder, it's a spectacular performance: raw, rootsy, and showcasing Bowie and The Spiders at the height of their powers.

     By the time "The Jean Genie" peaked in the UK chart in mid-January 1973, its irresistibly catchy guitar riff had been replicated by Sweet's huge hit "Blockbuster!", which promptly sailed past it to succeed Jimmy Osmond with five weeks at number 1. Some controversy surrounded this turn of events, although "Blockbuster!" co-writer Nicky Chinn later insisted that it was an "absolute coincidence. The ridiculous thing was, of course, they were both on the same record label. But I know we had never heard Bowie's "Jean Genie" and to the best of my knowledge he hadn't heard "Blockbuster!". There was a lot of fuss about it at the time." On another occasion, Chinn remarked that "Because Bowie was hipper than Sweet, the tendency was to infer that we'd ripped off Bowie. I remember being introduced to Bowie at Tramp at that very time, and he looked at me completely deadpan and said, "Cunt!" And then he got up and gave me a hug and said, "Congratulations..."" In reality, of course, the "Jean Genie" riff already had its antecedents in The Yardbirds' version of Bo Diddley's "I'm A Man" and, by the same route, their own delta-blues classics like "Over Under Sideways Down".

     An early monitor mix of "The Jean Genie", featuring Mick Ronson's guitar even higher in the mix, has appeared on bootlegs. Meanwhile both the Santa Monica '72 live cut and the original single mix, which is only marginally different from the album version, were both included on 2003's Aladdin Sane reissue. The album version (erroneously labelled as the single mix) was reissued on a 7" picture disc in 2012, backed by the audio debut of the Top Of The Pops performance.

     A close contender with "Rebel Rebel" for the accolade of the most frequently performed number in Bowie's repertoire, "The Jean Genie" featured in every major solo outing from late 1972 onwards with the exceptions of the Outside, 'hours...' and Heathen tours. For the final Ziggy Stardust concert on July 3rd 1973, Jeff Beck joined The Spiders on stage for the number, while a tight live take was recorded at the Marquee on October 19th 1973 for NBC's The 1980 Floor Show. For this version, Ken Scott mixed Bowie's vocal to achieve a close-to-the-mike glam timbre in the style of Marc Bolan or Sweet's lead vocalist Brian Connolly.

     Over the years the song became the basis of much on-stage experimentation, and the incorporation of other rock'n'roll standards into often lengthy guitar breaks was something of a concert tradition. During the Ziggy tours (including the Top Of The Pops and Jeff Beck performances), "The Jean Genie" segued into The Beatles' "Love Me Do", complete with David on harmonica. The Beck/Ronson duet in that final concert also slipped briefly into The Yardbirds' "Over Under Sideways Down". For the Diamond Dogs show the song was reincarnated in a slow cabaret style, to which the "Love Me Do" interlude was occasionally added during the Soul tour. It was this version that provided the blueprint for the curtain-raiser of the first half of the Serious Moonlight tour, when Bowie strolled on stage to croon the opening lines before snapping into "Star" (the full "Jean Genie" came later in the encores). The Station To Station concerts used "The Jean Genie" as the final encore, often spinning the number out to epic length with guitar jams, false endings and ecstatically abandoned ad-libbed vocals from the frequently sloshed Thin White Duke. The Glass Spider tour had Peter Frampton and Carlos Alomar embarking on a grandstanding guitar duet incorporating The Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction", while for the Sound + Vision tour the song shifted gear into a huge variety of numbers, most commonly Van Morrison's "Gloria", but also incorporating such occasional rarities as Bowie's Iggy Pop covers "Tonight" and "I Wanna Be Your Dog", The Beatles' "A Hard Day's Night", Bob Dylan's "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" and "Blowin' In The Wind", Elvis Presley's "Baby What You Want Me To Do" and "Heartbreak Hotel", Muddy Waters's "Baby Please Don't Go", Sonny Boy Williamson's "Don't Start Me Talkin'", Paul Simon's "I Am A Rock", Johnny Cash's "I Walk The Line", George Clinton's "Knee Deep", Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze", the West Side Story classic "Maria", The Ronettes' "Be My Baby", and even the Ronnie Spector single "Try Some, Buy Some", which David would later record for Reality. In October 1996 Bowie unveiled an unusual acoustic version at the Bridge School benefit shows, while the Smashing Pumpkins' Billy Corgan duetted on a more conventional rendition at David's fiftieth birthday concert. The Earthling tour offered a slow, bluesy first verse, usually augmented by a few lines from an ever-changing selection of blues standards, before picking up speed for a storming chorus.

     Not surprisingly "The Jean Genie" has attracted its share of cover artists, including Van Halen, the Hothouse Flowers, Scott Weiland, Camp Freddy, Shed Seven, Bowie favourites The Dandy Warhols (on the B-side of 2003's "Plan A"), and even Paul Young, whose unlikely Sinatra-style rendition was included on his 2006 album Rock Swings. Stadium giants Simple Minds named themselves after the "so simple-minded" line in the lyric. Mick Ronson continued to use the riff after he parted company with Bowie: when playing lead guitar on Bob Dylan's Rolling Thunder tour in 1975, Ronson led the band in a revamped version of "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" arranged around the riff from "The Jean Genie". Bowie's original version appeared on the soundtrack albums of Julien Temple's 2000 Sex Pistols film The Filth And The Fury and the 2008 Daniel Craig vehicle Flashbacks Of A Fool, and was also heard in a 2006 episode of the BBC's Life On Mars and a memorable sequence in Anton Corbijn's 2007 Ian Curtis biopic Control. In August 2010 the comedian and television producer Jimmy Mulville included "The Jean Genie" among his selection of favourites on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs.


The 1971 T Rex hit, culled from Electric Warrior, is based on a circular guitar riff from Howlin' Wolf's 1962 classic "You'll Be Mine". On their 1989 tour Tin Machine recycled the riff for their live makeover of Bob Dylan's "Maggie's Farm", to which David occasionally added a few lyrics from "Jeepster".

JENNY TAKES A RIDE (Little Richard/Willis)

This 1966 single by Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels was covered live by The Buzz.


Produced by Bowie for Mott The Hoople's All The Young Dudes.

JERUSALEM (Blake/Parry)

In a church scene in The Man Who Fell To Earth, David sings a few words of the famous hymn.

JEWEL (Gabrels/Black/Bowie/Plati)

Together with Frank Black and Dave Grohl, Bowie co-wrote the lyrics and provided vocals on this track from Reeves Gabrels 1999 album Ulysses (della notte). It's a rambling, dissonant rocker in the Tin Machine style, in which Gabrels sings a chorus about being "the king of cruelty" in between verses provided by his guest vocalists. Dave Grohl would later recall Bowie writing the lyrics on sheets of paper spread across the studio floor.


  • Album: "Heroes"

  • Bonus: "Heroes"

An early instance of the fascination with self-mutilating performance art that would inform the  dark landscape of 1.Outside nearly twenty years later, "Joe The Lion" is Bowie's tribute to artist Chris Burden, who publicly nailed himself to the roof of a Volkswagen in Venice, California in 1974. According to Tony Visconti the song was composed on the mike in the studio, with David "writing the melody and lyrics and singing the final vocal at the same time. It took less than an hour." Bowie later recalled: "I would put the headphones on, stand at the mike, listen to a verse, jot down some key words that came into mind, then take. Then I would repeat the same process for the next section. It was something that I learnt from working with Iggy, and I thought a very effective way of breaking normality in the lyric." One result of this approach was Bowie's deadpan line "It's Monday" - the day of recording was indeed a Monday, and according to Visconti "we had a good laugh about it."

     Restating the alcoholic leitmotif of "Heroes", "Joe The Lion" considers the artist as visionary and the revelatory symbolism of crucifixion ("A couple of drinks on the house and he was a fortune-teller, he said 'Nail me to my car and I'll tell you who you are'"), ponders the blurred division between states of waking and dreaming ("You will be like your dreams tonight, you get up and sleep"), and hints at the urban-gypsy characterisation of the long-lost Halloween Jack ("You slither down the greasy pipe, so far so good, No-one saw you hobble over any freeway"). Interestingly, one of the characters in Bowie's abandoned 1975 film of Diamond Dogs was called "Magge the Lion".

     "Joe The Lion" was performed live on the opening two Serious Moonlight dates, and more frequently during the US leg of the Outside tour. Rykodisc's reissue of "Heroes" included a superfluous 1991 remix.



  • A-Side: September 1972

  • A-Side: April 1973

  • B-Side: December 1979

  • Live: Sound + Vision/Santa Monica '72/Aladdin Sane (2003)

  • Bonus: Ziggy Stardust/Ziggy Stardust (2002)/Aladdin Sane (2003)/Re:Call 1

  • Compilations: Sound + Vision/The Singles Collection/The Best Of David Bowie 1969/1974/Best Of Bowie

  • Video: The Video Collection/Best Of Bowie

Recorded at Olympic Studios on June 26th 1972 and released as the follow-up to "Starman", this landmark Ziggy-era single pushed back the frontiers of David's dalliance with sexual ambiguity and - give or take a little local trouble over The Man Who Sold The World's sleeve artwork - saw his first brush with censorship. Considering it caused such a fuss at the time, "John, I'm Only Dancing" now seems remarkably innocuous. It's by no means a foregone conclusion that the singer is addressing his boyfriend (he could just as easily be a straight man reassuring the girl's lover), but despite its chart success in Britain the song was considered too alarming by RCA in America, where it remained unreleased until ChangesOneBowie later in the decade.

     In Britain the single boasted David's first bona-fide video, directed by Mick Rock on a budget of £200 at London's Rainbow Theatre on August 25th 1972. Inter-cutting moodily side-lit shots of The Spiders with footage of androgynous dancers from the Lindsay Kemp company captured during rehearsals a week earlier, the video went unscreened by Top Of The Pops, who replaced it with a film of butch motorcycle riders (it has been suggested that the BBC found the video too suggestive, but a likelier reason for their refusal too show it was Tony Defries's demand of a £250 fee). The anchor motif painted on David's cheekbone was inspired by an unusual source, as David recalled 30 years later: "When the TV series Bewitched went into colour in the late 1960s, for some strange reason Samantha occasionally wore tiny tattoos on her face. I thought it looked really odd, but inspired. So I used a little anchor on my face myself for the "John, I'm Only Dancing" video."

     Like many of Bowie's glam classics, "John, I'm Only Dancing" serves to demonstrate his grounding in the American R&B of the previous decade: the opening guitar strum is an R&B standard, perhaps coming to David via Sonny Boy Williamson and The Yardbirds' 1963 recording of "Pontiac Blues", while Mick Ronson's electric riff is poached from the saxophone intro to Alvin Cash's 1968 single "Keep On Dancing" - a connection made even more obvious in the 1974 revamp "John, I'm Only Dancing (Again)".

     The original "John, I'm Only Dancing" exists in several distinct versions which share a rather complicated history. The first attempt to record the song was made at Trident Studios on June 24th 1972, but this cut was scrapped and has never been released. Two days later came a more successful recording at Olympic Studios, produced in Ken Scott's absence by David himself with assistance from engineer Keith Harwood. For this recording The Spiders were joined by violinist Lindsay Scott, a member of the band JSD who played regular support slots during the first Ziggy tour. The hand-claps, for which The Spiders were joined by members of The Faces who had just arrived at the studio, were recorded in Olympic's entrance hall to capture the echoing effect that David wanted. This was the version which was released as a single in September.

     On October 7th 1972, during the first American Ziggy tour, another not-to-be-released studio version was recorded at RCA's Chicago studios. On January 20th 1973 The Spiders recorded yet another take at Trident for possible inclusion as the final track on Aladdin Sane, featuring tighter guitar playing and saxophone from Ken Fordham. This recording, sometimes referred to as the "sax version", was rather confusingly released as a single in April 1973, bearing exactly the same catalogue number and B-side as the previous version. From hereon it would seem that both versions appeared intermittently on fresh pressings of the RCA single over the course of the next decade. The "sax version" was included on some copies of 1976's ChangesOneBowie, before being again replaced by the 1972 cut. Finally, the 1972 single version was remixed in 1979 as the B-side of "John, I'm Only Dancing (Again)", reducing the echo on Bowie's vocal and pushing it higher in the mix. All three versions have since appeared on CD: the original single is on various compilations including ChangesBowie, The Singles 1969-1993 and the 2002 reissue of Ziggy Stardust, while the 1979 remix appears as a bonus track on the 1990 reissue of Ziggy Stardust. Meanwhile the 1973 "sax version", considered the best by many, appears on The Best Of David Bowie 1969/1974, Sound + Vision and the 2003 reissue of Aladdin Sane. The last two also feature a live version recorded in Boston on October 1st 1972. Just to complicate matters further, most editions of Best Of Bowie include the "sax version", but some substitute the original instead. Re:Call 1 has the original and sax versions.

     "John, I'm Only Dancing" was added to Bowie's live set in July 1972, when he was already introducing it as his new single. It was dropped after the 1973 Japanese leg and remained unperformed until the Sound + Vision tour. The song has been covered by The Chameleons and The Polecats, whose 1981 version was a minor UK hit and later appeared on David Bowie Songbook.


  • A-Side: December 1979

  • Bonus: Young Americans/Young Americans (2007)/The Gouster/Re:Call 2

  • Compilation: The Best Of David Bowie 1974/1979

This radical funk reworking of "John, I'm Only Dancing" is a seven-minute track culled from a two-hour jam during the Young Americans sessions at Sigma in August 1974. The opening wah-wah riff is a restatement of Mick Ronson's Alvin Cash-aping guitar line, and the choruses revisit the original composition, but the verses offer an entirely new melody and lyric. The result is even more risqué than the original ("It's got you reelin' and rockin', won't you let me slam my thang in?"), and boasts one of David's most accomplished soul vocals against an infectious James Brown groove.

     "John, I'm Only Dancing (Again)" was added to the live set for the opening night of the Soul tour in Los Angeles, as Bowie nonchalantly announced, "This is something to dance to, anyway. It's an old song." (To American audiences, denied a release of the original version, it was in fact anything but.) A snippet of this first performance was captured on film for the closing moments of Alan Yentob's documentary Cracked Actor. The song was performed for the remainder of 1974, but never thereafter.

     Further work was carried out on the studio version at Sigma in November 1974. Although originally track-listed for Young Americans it remained unreleased until 1979, when it appeared as a a single backed by a remix of the 1972 original. The 7" edit subsequently turned up on Bowie Rare and Re:Call 2, while the full-length version was included on ChangesTwoBowie, the 1991 and 2007 reissues of Young Americans, The Best Of David Bowie 1974/1979, and The Gouster.


  • Album: David Bowie

Written, according to a Decca press release, at an open-air café on Clapham Common on November 6th 1966, this entertainingly cynical snapshot of a vacuous London clique - the spiritual successor of "I Dig Everything" and a distant ancestor of "Fashion" - was recorded on November 24th. It features Bowie's most explicit references yet to drug-taking ("acid" and "joints" supplant the coy "pills" of "The London Boys"), and introduces a parade of wounded characters of the kind who would later populate entire albums. The swinging London archetypes include Molly, "the model in the ads", Arthur the inebriate rock singer (possibly a tip of the hat to Arthur Brown, who shared the bill with David at more than one gig in 1966), and Johnny the existentialist, heralded by a crazed sitar paying tongue-in-cheek homage to the Eastern influences then being popularised by George Harrison. Both sitar and acoustic guitar on the track were handled without credit by the legendary session player Big Jim Sullivan, who would later play on "Let Me Sleep Beside You". "I love the sitar at the front," Gus Dudgeon told David Buckley, "it's totally manic, bloody brilliant!" The transience of musical fads is stressed by another moment of melodic wit: just after the line "This club's called The Web, it's this month's pick", Bowie inserts the bass-line of the Spencer Davis Group's hit "Gimme Some Loving", which peaked at number 2 the very same week that "Join The Gang" was recorded.

     "Join The Gang" was played live by The Buzz, and like several other Bowie compositions of the period it was offered unsuccessfully to Peter, Paul and Mary. Contrary to some reports, it was not recorded by Oscar of "Over The Wall We Go" notoriety; the confusion arises from Oscar's 1966 cover of Pete Townshend's "Join My Gang", a song which Bowie had certainly heard but which bears no similarity to his composition besides its title.


  • B-Side: March 1987

  • Bonus: Never Let Me Down

  • Download: May 2007

A strong contender for the most mundane title ever given to a Bowie song, this Never Let Me Down outtake was demoted to B-side status, despite being arguably one of the best tracks from the whole session. It's a pleasingly melodic pop throwaway, structured on the same chords and phrasing as Iggy Pop's "Bang Bang", and addressed to an unattainable girl ("Julie, pretend for me that I'm someone in your life..."). It might even have given Bowie a decent hit single.


  • A-Side: March 1993

  • Album: Black Tie White Noise

  • B-Side: January 1997

  • Bonus: Black Tie White Noise (2003)

  • Download: June 2010

  • Video: Black Tie White Noise/Best Of Bowie

On January 16th 1985, Bowie's 47-year-old half-brother Terry walked out of Cane Hill Hospital in South London and took his life on the railway track at Coulsdon South station. The tabloid press had a predictably prurient field-day, and David elected not to allow the funeral at Elmers End cemetery to become a media circus. He stayed in Switzerland, sending a wreath and a message but otherwise remaining silent on the subject.

     Eight years later, "Jump They Say" finally confronted Bowie's feelings about his brother's life and death. "It's the first time I've felt capable of addressing it," he told Rolling Stone in 1993, adding in another interview that his childhood relationship with Terry had never been easy, affected not only by his brother's incipient schizophrenia but by the ten-year age gap and Terry's periodic ousting from the family home: "I saw so little of him and I think I unconsciously exaggerated his importance. I invented this hero-worship to discharge my guilt and failure, and to set myself free from my own hang-ups."

     The jittery, perversely catchy "Jump They Say", bristling with distorted bursts of guitar, trumpet and reversed sax, deploys characteristically abstruse lyrics to consider the pressures driving a man to desperate straits. Those seeking a detailed confessional about Terry will not find it in this song, which is even less lyrically direct than "All The Madmen" or "The Bewlay Brothers". Bowie explained to NME's Steve Sutherland that it was "semi-based on my impression of my step-brother [sic] and, probably for the first time, trying to write how I felt about him committing suicide. It's also connected to my feeling that sometimes I've jumped metaphysically into the unknown and wondering whether I really believed there was something out there to support me, whatever you want to call it; a God or a life-force. It's an impressionist piece - it doesn't have an obvious, cohesive narrative storyline to it, apart from the fact that the protagonist in the song scales a spire and leaps off." In the Black Tie White Noise documentary he added that the song was about "when you're living on the edge of life, and when you really want to explore areas that haven't been explored or places that you're not supposed to go, whether you're really right to do that, whether you should stay with the crowd."

     "Jump They Say" was released ahead of its parent album in March 1993, accompanied by an unforgettably graphic Brit Award-nominated video directed at London's Mayfair Studios by newcomer Mark Romanek (later famous for state-of-the-art promos like Missy Elliot's "She's A Bitch" and Michael & Janet Jackson's "Scream"). The success of the video lies in its evocative tumble of non-linear images, juxtaposing shots of Bowie poised to leap from a skyscraper with scenes of his broken body on the street below, intercut with sinister medical orderlies spying through telescopes and restraining Bowie in some sort of nightmarish sensory-deprivation apparatus inspired by Chris Marker's 1962 film La Jetée ("Bowie and I shared an admiration for La Jetée," Romanek later revealed, "so we contrived to pay homage to it...I was deeply relieved to hear that Mr Marker was pleased and not offended by the gesture." The "Jump They Say" video is an exercise in cinematic reference, containing further quotes from Fritz Lang's Metropolis, Kubrick's 2001, Orson Welles's The Trial, the paranoid identity-theft thrillers of John Frankenheimer, and Hitchcock's The Birds, Vertigo and Rear Window. Perhaps more significantly it reshuffles many of Bowie's past characterisations, including the business-suited executive of "Let's Dance", the wired-up asylum patients of "Ashes To Ashes" and "Loving The Alien", and the spreadeagled corpse of the Lodger sleeve. Rivalling the likes of "Ashes" and "Blackstar" as one of Bowie's finest videos, "Jump They Say" assembles an allusive bricolage of executive stress, peer pressure, conformity, mental illness, spying, voyeurism, brainwashing, vertigo, desperation and ultimately suicide.

     Bowie's estranged aunt Pat, who had proved an eager participant in the public trashing of her famous nephew when Terry was alive, was moved by the "Jump They Say" video to offer a further outpouring to Britain's tabloids. "Now he is using [Terry's] tragic death to put his record in the charts and I find that not only macabre but pathetic," she told The Sun on March 31st 1993. "The picture of David with his face scarred so much upset me terribly. There is a real resemblance. David looks just like Terry did when he became schizophrenic..."

     The single shot to number 9 in the UK, at the time Bowie's best placing single since "Absolute Beginners" seven years previously. It performed equally well across Europe, bur despite the additional exposure of a playback performance on The Arsenio Hall Show on May 6th 1993 the American market failed to bite. In addition to the numerous remixes on single formats, an inferior "Alternate Mix" was included on the CD and cassette formats of Black Tie White Noise itself. In 1994 the song became the central focus of Jump, a CD-ROM which included a reworked "Lift Music" version. "Jump They Say" became a live highlight of the Outside tour.


As bootlegs reveal, Bowie toyed with the idea of adding Eartha Kitt's signature tune to the middle of "Changes" during rehearsals for the Station To Station tour.


Jangan Susahkan Hatiku
The Jean Genie
Jenny Takes A Ride
Jerkin' Circus
Joe The Lion
John Brown's Body
John, I'm Only Dancing
John, I'm Only Dancing (Again)
Join The Gang
Jump They Say
Just An Old Fashioned Girl
Just One Moment Sir
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