Golden Years single – GermanyWritten by: David Bowie
Recorded: January 1975
Producers: David Bowie, Harry Maslin

Released: 17 November 1975

David Bowie: vocals, Moog, melodica, handclaps
Carlos Alomar, Earl Slick: guitar
George Murray: bass guitar
Dennis Davis: drums, vibraslap
Geoff MacCormack: vocals, congas

Available on:
Station To Station
Serious Moonlight (Live ’83)
Glastonbury 2000
Changesonebowie
Nothing Has Changed
Legacy

The lead single from David Bowie’s 10th studio album Station To Station, ‘Golden Years’ was an evolution of the smooth funk and soul previously heard on Young Americans.

Bowie is believed to have begun writing ‘Golden Years’ in Los Angeles in May 1975, shortly before filming The Man Who Fell To Earth in New Mexico.

His first wife Angela claimed that the song had been written for her to sing, in anticipation of a possible recording contract.

I worked very hard on his career. Then at a certain point I said I’m going to do this, I’m going to take risks, I’m going to go to these classes. And he was fine, no problem whatsoever. But another point I said OK, well now, I need to actually perform. And I did The Mike Douglas Show , singing ‘I’ve Got A Crush On You’. And David was so astonished that he wrote ‘Golden Years’. But nothing happened. By the time we had helped everyone else, he didn’t have any time for my career. He had forgotten those promises. It wasn’t his job, it was my job to do on my own. It really pissed me off. Oh it got me so angry. I wasn’t in it because I needed to be recognised as some strange intergalactic star. I just needed to be allowed to write.
Angie Bowie
David Bowie: A Life, Dylan Jones

Conversely, Bowie claimed that the song was written for Elvis Presley, although the song was never submitted to the King.

Apparently Elvis heard the demos, because we were both on RCA, and Colonel Tom [Parker, Presley’s manager] thought I should write Elvis some songs. There was talk between our offices that I should be introduced to Elvis and maybe start working with him in a production-writer capacity. But it never came to pass. I would have loved to have worked with him. God, I would have adored it. He did send me a note once. [Perfectly imitates Presley’s drawl] “All the best, and have a great tour.” I still have that note.
David Bowie
Blender, August 2002

One possible antecedents was ‘Happy Days’, a 1958 single by Canadian doo-wop quartet the Diamonds, which shares a similar title, structure, and lyrical themes. Two other Broadway-themed songs were reportedly influential: Dyke and the Blazers’ ‘Funky Broadway’, a similar two-chord vamp with which Wilson Pickett scored a hit single; and ‘On Broadway’, which Bowie had previously sung during the piano solo on ‘Aladdin Sane’.

Golden Years’ was kind of David’s version of ‘On Broadway’, but I told him he had to be careful, so I came up with a new riff for it. Earl Slick and I work in different ways, and while I would record something and just put a holding part in, he would then come in and make it all his own. My line was the inspirational line, his was the real line. His sound was very close to Mick Ronson, which David loved, and he was able to create a link.
Carlos Alomar
David Bowie: A Life, Dylan Jones