Released: 17 February 1975
David Bowie: vocals
Carlos Alomar: electric guitar
Mike Garson: piano
David Sanborn: alto saxophone
Willie Weeks: bass guitar
Andy Newmark: drums
Larry Washington: congas
Luther Vandross, Ava Cherry, Robin Clark: vocals
The title track of David Bowie’s ninth studio album, ‘Young Americans’ revealed his new ‘plastic soul’ direction. The song became his first hit single in the United States.
No story. Just young Americans. It’s about a newly-wed couple who don’t know if they really like each other. Well, they do, but they don’t know if they do or don’t. It’s a bit of a predicament.
New Musical Express, 23 August 1975
In October 1974 the Diamond Dogs Tour gave way to the Soul Tour after Bowie chose to ditch the elaborate Hunger City set and theatrical stage show, in order to more fully pursue his interest in funk and R&B music.
My Young American was plastic, deliberately so, and it worked in a way I hadn’t really expected, inasmuch that it really made me a star in America, which is the most ironic, ridiculous part of the equation. Because while my invention was more plastic than anyone else’s, it obviously had some resonance. Plastic soul for anyone who wants it. We really worked hard to make that record come alive.
David Bowie: A Life, Dylan Jones
The single gave David Bowie his biggest American hit to date, peaking at number 28 on the Billboard Hot 100, and 20 on the Cash Box chart. His previous highest-charting single had been ‘Rebel Rebel’, which went no higher than number 64.
The American single had a live version of ‘Knock On Wood’ on the b-side, taken from the David Live album. In the UK the b-side was a live recording of ‘Suffragette City’ from the same album.
The US release was an edited to shorten its running time from 5:10 to 3:16. This version excised the second verse (“Scanning life through the picture window…”), and everything between the lines “Do you remember, the bills you have to pay?/Or even yesterday?” and “You ain’t a pimp and you ain’t a hustler”.
The edited version was included on the compilations Bowie Rare, Best Of 1974/1979 and Best Of Bowie. Tony Visconti’s 2007 remix was similarly edited and included on Nothing Has Changed, Legacy, and on a 40th anniversary picture disc single in 2015.