John, I’m Only Dancing

John I’m Only Dancing is one of my favorite songs ever made by anyone. But because of RCA’s decision in 1972 to NOT include it on Ziggy Stardust, it’s teetered on the edge of obscurity even though it was a monster hit in Europe, Peaking at #12. Not too shabby for a song with no album to support it. Of all the bone-headed decisions major record labels made during this era, dropping this song from Ziggy strikes me as being one of the Top 10. It’s a hell of song, and fun to sing as well:

Well, Annie’s pretty neat, she always eats her meat
Joe is awful strong, bet your life he’s putting us on
Oh lordy! oh lordy! You know I need some loving
I’m moving, touch me!
John, I’m only dancing
She turns me on, but I’m only dancing
She turns me on, don’t get me wrong
I’m only dancing
Oh shadow love was quick and clean, life’s a well thumbed machine
I saw you watching from the stairs, you’re everyone that ever cared
Oh lordy, oh lordy, you know I need some loving
I’m moving, touch me!
John, I’m only dancing She turns me on, but I’m only dancing
She turns me on, don’t get me wrong
I’m only dancing
John, I’m only dancing
She turns me on, but I’m only dancing
She turns me on, don’t get me wrong
I’m only dancing Dancing
won’t someone dance with me?
Touch me!
Ohhh!

Now, I really don’t think I need to interpret this one too much. It seems to be quite clear in its intent. This was not a terribly typical Bowie song in that respect. It’s probably just as deceptive as any Bowie song could be, but he came across more sincere than usual. However, the interpretation of this song got it banned in the US for quite some time.

Now, John I’m Only Dancing managed to get banned nearly a decade before MTV existed. However, promotional short movies were used before MTV existed, and Bowie was the forefront of pushing it to the limits. As silly as the lyrics were, and as lively as the music was, Bowie put this oddly Gothic video to it. It’s downright disturbing:

The video marked one of the original collaborations between Mick Rock and Bowie. The “scary monsters” were Lyndsey Kemp and the Astronettes.  Oddly enough, this video was only shown in the US, but effectively banned in England. An alternate version of the video was produced for England, much against Bowie’s desires. So, you could see the song in the US, but not listen to it on the radio. You could listen to the song on the radio in England, but not see the video. And, you could buy the album, but not get the song. And, to top it off, if you bought the original ChangesOneBowie early enough, you got a different version than if you bought the same album later. And, to make things even more confusing, Bowie re-made it as a disco song during the recording of Young Americans, but didn’t put it on that album either. So, “John, I’m Only Dancing” is possibly the only song in history to be recorded multiple times and never put on an album. It is on many greatest hits though. Later, if you bought the Rhino ”Ziggy Stardust”, they put it on that as a bonus track, but it’s a different version than the other FOUR. And, for bootleg officiandos such as myself, there is the demo “lazy” version as well which is quite enjoyable. My personal favorite was the Changesonebowie version. It was tightest, crispest, and just sounded like a fun rock song. Bowie is often called a chameleon. That trait has passed on to many of his songs. “John, I’m Only Dancing” probably being the most chameleon like. It’s had about as many personalities as Bowie himself.