Live performances

David Bowie performed ‘John, I’m Only Dancing (Again)’ throughout the Soul Tour, from its opening night in Los Angeles in September 1974 to its close in Atlanta in December.

A recording from one of the earliest nights, 5 September 1974, was released in April 2017 on Cracked Actor (Live Los Angeles ’74).

Another, from Detroit’s Michigan Palace on 20 October 1974, was released in August 2020 on I’m Only Dancing (The Soul Tour 74).

David Bowie never performed the song after 1974, even after its success as a single five years later.

The release

‘John, I’m Only Dancing (Again)’ was intended to be the opening track on The Gouster, the original version of Young Americans. It was dropped, along with ‘Who Can I Be Now’ and ‘It’s Gonna Be Me’, to make way for ‘Across The Universe’ and ‘Fame’, two songs recorded with John Lennon in January 1975.

The finished Gouster didn’t have ‘Across The Universe’ and ‘Fame’. It was all finished. It’s more about what isn’t on there than what is. I was OK with losing ‘Who Can I Be Now’, but I was sad about ‘John, I’m Only Dancing’ and ‘It’s Gonna Be Me’ – that they weren’t going to be heard.
Tony Visconti
David Bowie: Ultimate Record Collection (Uncut)

The song was issued as a single in 1979 in France, Italy, the Netherlands, South Africa, and the United Kingdom, with a remix of the 1972 version of ‘John, I’m Only Dancing’ on the b-side. The 7″ single version was an edit lasting 3:27, with the full version being released on a 12″ single.

In Germany the two sides were flipped, so the earlier song was the lead track. In the USA, meanwhile, ‘John, I’m Only Dancing (Again)’ was released with ‘Golden Years’ on the b-side.

Why did you release two more versions of ‘John I’m Only Dancing’?

Only because we dug them up and the beat version was something that never got on the Young Americans album. It seemed so right at the time and RCA wanted to put it out, and I agreed to it fully. It was just some more material that was held back there. I’ve still got lots of things canned like that which I’d like to release, things like ‘White Light/White Heat’ with the Spiders.

David Bowie
NME, 13 September 1980

In December 1979 Bowie recorded an hour-long radio special, to promote the single. The show was broadcast on 20 January 1980, by the syndicated US radio show ‘King Biscuit Flower Hour’, as David Bowie – A Look at the Seventies.

During the show Bowie played a number of songs from the 1970s, including several of his own. The running order was ‘Space Oddity’, ‘Instant Karma!’ (John Lennon), ‘Saviour Machine’, ‘Suffragette City’, ‘Deborah’ (Tyrannosaurus Rex), ‘Autobahn’ (Kraftwerk), ‘I Feel Love’ (Donna Summer), ‘DJ’, ‘John, I’m Only Dancing’, ‘John, I’m Only Dancing (Again)’, ‘Virginia Plain’ (Roxy Music), ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog (The Stooges), ‘I’m Looking For A Love’ (Bobby Womack), ‘I Can’t Stand The Rain’ (Ann Peebles), ‘Fame’, ‘Trial-Prison (Philip Glass), ‘Don’t Worry About The Government’ (Talking Heads), and ‘Where Were You?’ (The Mekons).

‘John, I’m Only Dancing (Again)’ was the penultimate song on the 1981 compilation ChangesTwoBowie. It also appeared on The Best of David Bowie 1974/1979 in 1998.

The 12″ version of the song was included as a bonus track on the 1991 Rykodisc reissue of Young Americans, along with the album outtakes ‘Who Can I Be Now?’ and ‘It’s Gonna Be Me’. The song was also included on the 2007 Special Edition of the album.

The 7″ edit was included on Re:Call 2, part of the 2016 box set Who Can I Be Now? (1974–1976). The set also included The Gouster, Bowie’s original version of Young Americans, which kicked off with ‘John, I’m Only Dancing (Again)’.