UK single release: John, I’m Only Dancing

David Bowie’s single ‘John, I’m Only Dancing’ was released in the UK on 1 September 1972.

It was Bowie’s follow-up to the hit single ‘Starman’. He recorded versions of it in 1972 and 1973, and in 1975 remade it as ‘John, I’m Only Dancing (Again)’.

It was my attempt to do a bisexual anthem, and it was incredibly successful. I was amazed that the Beeb played it.
David Bowie, 1993
Any Day Now, Kevin Cann

Standalone singles were common in the 1960s and 1970s, when artists and management sought to give their fans value for money by not endlessly issuing songs as singles which were already available on albums. The practice mostly died out in the 1980s, when record labels became more determined to exploit every possible song for hit singles.

There was a big discussion about whether to put it out or not, a song not from an album – I thought the mood of it was just right for the way things were developing. Then when it didn’t chart so high, Tony [Defries] was taking the piss, like, ‘So much for your powers of perception…’
Dai Davies, MainMan PR
David Bowie: Ultimate Record Collection (Uncut)

This version was recorded in nine takes on 26 June 1972. The video was shot at London’s Rainbow Theatre on 25 August.

The single spent ten weeks on the chart, peaking at number 12. Its catalogue number was RCA 2263, and ‘Hang On To Yourself’ was on the b-side.

‘John, I’m Only Dancing’ was also released in Australia, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and South Africa.

While we were in the US our new single, ‘John, I’m Only Dancing’, was slowly climbing the charts back in the UK. We’d spent a few days in Olympic Studios, London, back in June, recording it. I was particularly proud of my tom-tom fills which definitely added dynamics to the arrangement. We were all in the studio recording backing vocals for the song when Rod Stewart and the Faces burst in through one of the doors. They were dancing about and singing ‘la, la, las’ until everybody cracked up laughing. Then one of them said, ‘See ya later’, and they exited through one of the other doors as quickly as they’d arrived.
Woody Woodmansey
Spider from Mars: My Life with Bowie

John, I'm Only Dancing single – United Kingdom

Last updated: 25 April 2023
Live: Royal Ballrooms, Bournemouth
Live: Top Rank Suite, Doncaster
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