John, I'm Only Dancing (Again) single – United KingdomWritten by: David Bowie
Recorded: 11-18 August 1974
Producer: Tony Visconti

Released: 7 December 1979

Available on:
Cracked Actor (Live Los Angeles ’74)
I’m Only Dancing (The Soul Tour 74)
Who Can I Be Now? (1974-1976)

Personnel

David Bowie: vocals
Carlos Alomar: electric guitar
Mike Garson: Fender Rhodes, clavinet
David Sanborn: alto saxophone
Willie Weeks: bass guitar
Andy Newmark: drums
Luther Vandross, Ava Cherry, Robin Clark, Anthony Hinton, Diane Sumler: vocals
Larry Washington: congas
Pablo Rosario: cowbell, chimes

A funk-infused reincarnation of David Bowie’s 1972 hit single, ‘John, I’m Only Dancing (Again)’ was recorded in 1974 during the Young Americans sessions, but remained unreleased until 1979.

‘John, I’m Only Dancing’ had been Bowie’s follow-up to the ‘Starman’ single. He recorded versions of it in 1972 and 1973, and it was a standalone single in numerous countries. In America, however, RCA chose not to release it due to its homoerotic lyrics.

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

Bowie had re-recorded an unreleased version of ‘John, I’m Only Dancing’ in October 1972 in Chicago, and another – the so-called ‘sax version’ – in London in January 1973. That recording was originally intended to close the Aladdin Sane album.

‘John, I’m Only Dancing (Again)’ contains a clear reference to cocaine, to which Bowie was becoming increasingly addicted in 1974: “Jumping John, the great goose is gone/Got a lion in my hand, a Charlie on my back.”

I started on the drugs at the end of 1973 and then with force in 1974. As soon as I got to America, pow! It was so freely available in those days. Coke was everywhere. It was just impossible to get away from. Because I have a very addictive personality, I was a sucker for it.
David Bowie
Rolling Stone, 10 June 1993

In the studio

David Bowie began recording Young Americans in August 1974 at Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia.

‘John, I’m Only Dancing (Again)’ emerged from a jam during one of the recording sessions. At a little over seven minutes long – and faded at the end – it is the longest song released from the album sessions.

Further overdubs were recorded at Sigma in November 1974.

The Gouster began with the outrageous brand new, funkafied version of David’s classic ‘John, I’m Only Dancing’, a single he wrote and recorded in 1972, only this time our version sounded like it was played live in a loft party in Harlem and he added (Again) to the title. It wasn’t the two and a half minute length of the original either. We maxed out at virtually seven minutes!
Tony Visconti, May 2015
Who Can I Be Now? (1974-1976) book

The Station To Station track ‘Stay’ shares the same structure and chord sequences as ‘John, I’m Only Dancing (Again)’, even down to the single bar in 3/4 time in the verses. ‘Stay’ began with Bowie’s musicians playing the older song, before it mutated into an extended rock and funk workout with a new melody and lyrics.