The release

‘This Is Not America’ was released as a single in February 1985, to coincide with the film The Falcon and the Snowman. The soundtrack album followed the next month.

This single topped the charts in the Netherlands, Poland, and went top ten in Austria, Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland. It reached number 14 in the UK and number 32 in the USA. The b-side was ‘This Is Not America’ (Instrumental).

It isn’t like anything else – it stands apart. It had some good chords; you don’t get many minor-7-flat-5s in pop tunes, with a hip acoustic bass part like that and a form like that tune. It became a pretty big hit in a lot of places, not so much in America. What is really good is that it still sounds fresh to me. And his vocal is amazing. In a lot of ways, I would say that the track has only gained in stature and relevance over the years.
Pat Metheny
David Bowie: Ultimate Record Collection (Uncut)

Bowie’s 1984 album Tonight was reissued by Virgin Records in 1995. The compact disc contained three bonus tracks: ‘This Is Not America’; ‘As The World Falls Down’ from the Labyrinth soundtrack; and ‘Absolute Beginners’.

A remix of ‘This Is Not America’, credited to The Scumfrog vs. David Bowie, was included on the 2003 album Club Bowie.

The song was included on the compilations The Singles Collection (1993), Best of Bowie (2002), and Nothing Has Changed (2014).

The 2018 box set Loving The Alien (1983–1988) included ‘This Is Not America’ on Re:Call 4, a compilation of non-album singles, remixes, b-sides and extras.

Live performances

David Bowie performed ‘This Is Not America’ live on just three occasions, all during the four-date Mini Tour in the summer of 2000.

He first sang it on 16 June at New York’s Roseland Ballroom, and again three days later at the same venue.

The final performance was on 27 June at the BBC Radio Theatre in London. The concert was released as a bonus CD with initial copies of Bowie At The Beeb, and in 2021 as part of the box set Brilliant Adventure (1992-2001).

Lazarus

‘This Is Not America’ was one of the songs featured in Bowie’s 2015 stage musical Lazarus.

It was performed by Sophia Anne Caruso, who also recorded it for the Original Cast Recording album the following year.