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David Bowie – John, I’m Only Dancing (Nacho’s 2017 edit)

March 3rd, 2017 | by admin

David Bowie’s John, I’m Only Dancing was released as single, on September 1st, 1972. It had been recorded a few months prior, in June of that year.

Then six months later, it was re-recorded during sessions for the Aladdin Sane album, and also released as a single, in April 1973. Confusingly, the ’73 single was given the same catalogue number as the ‘72 version. Fans distinguish the latter recording by referring to it as the “Sax Version”. Neither version was included on any original Bowie album.

Later still in 1974, Bowie recorded a song called John, I’m Only Dancing (Again), in the Young Americans Philly-soul style that he was experimenting with at the time. Tho’ the song title is used, the ’74 version bears almost no resemblance musically, or (apart from the chorus) even lyrically, to the earlier version.

Used here for this video is the 1972 original recording.

The footage used in this video is taken from the 30 minute, 16mm, silent out-takes reel, shot by Mick Rock, on August the 19th, 1972, for the official video that accompanied the single release.

The shoot was at London’s Rainbow Theatre, during the rehearsals for the show at the venue that evening. In some scenes, the familiar Rainbow Theatre on-stage scaffolding, glimpsed on the live footage of the show, can be seen.

Quoting from
“Mick Rock has said that this video was a last minute decision on Bowie’s part and that he had only a $200 budget for the film. Rock managed to find a cameraman at short notice and states that due to the low budget – Bowie and The Spiders were filmed simply miming to the song (played on the Rainbow theatre’s record player) which caused Rock some lip-synch problems later on.

(The John, I’m Only Dancing promo is) “the very moment the modern idea of a video was born.” – Lester Bangs

John, I’m Only Dancing, is one of the four brilliant Bowie promos that Mick Rock produced during the Ziggy era. The others being Space Oddity, The Jean Genie, and Life On Mars. Like all of Mick Rock’s footage and photos of Bowie at the time, the John, I’m Only Dancing video is classic, iconic and super cool. John, I’m Only Dancing was a wonderful deviant Rock n’roll song, and Mick Rock’s video brilliantly accentuated that.

Incidentally, I have previously worked on one of the other classic Mick Rock Bowie videos. Last year, I recreated the original cut of his Life On Mars video, and it can be viewed here, on my parallel Nacho channel, on Vimeo:

Later, in 1979 RCA released a single of the previously unreleased John, I’m Only Dancing (Again) that was recorded during the ’74 Young Americans era, and the 1972 recording of John, I’m Only Dancing was used as the B-side. With no video for the A-side, the single was promoted on TV with the B-side, and Mick Rock’s 1972 video.

Incidentally, in my faulty memory I had at some point mistakenly thought that there was a video for the ’74 version. In this imaginary video, Bowie and his pals are mostly just hanging out looking swanky in their funky soul-man Puerto Rican style threads. And maybe some day, if I can find enough high swank-factor footage, I’ll have a go at making that video!

Anyway, so it was that in 1979, I first saw Mick Rock’s John, I’m Only Dancing video. I was already a young Bowie fan, and familiar with the song. I seem to recall that the video freaked me out a bit, because of it’s extraordinary campness and the creepy green-lit fishnet clad mime dancers. Tho’ the fantastic Rock n’Roll swagger and rebelliousness of it all thrilled me to bits.

The silent 30 minute, 16mm reel of John, I’m Only Dancing outtakes was transferred to video by Mainman in 1995. It has been in the hands of collectors since then, and bits and pieces of the footage can be found on the net. Having acquired a copy of the transfer myself a few months ago, I started investigating it, checking out the different silent scenes of Bowie and the boys miming and pouting, and in Bowie’s case, profusely smoking. I saw so many gorgeous moments that were not used in the original John, I’m Only Dancing promo, and I became attracted to the idea of creating my own video for the song. In the construction, it has been a nice change for me to have plenty of material to work with, and in fact one of the difficulties in the beginning was deciding which of the many takes to use.

Hope you dig it!

Do me an’ yerself a favor – watch it in the Highest Def available with the sound UP LOUD!

Footage supplied by the dbDigital Archive.

If anyone has any other footage, or ideas for another video project, of material from Bowie’s classic period, do please get in touch: [email protected]

Putting this video together was another huge labour of love, made with love and with respect for the source.

I don’t own the rights, and I’m not making any money out of this etc. Just a fan making videos for other fans.

Nacho. March 3rd, 2017.

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