Five Years (David Bowie song)

Fame (David Bowie song)

"Fame" is a song recorded by David Bowie, initially released in 1974 and in remixed versions, in 1990.

With the Young Americans sessions mostly concluded in late 1974, the material was delayed while Bowie extricated himself from his contract with manager Tony DeFries. During this time he was staying in New York, and met John Lennon. The pair socialised and jammed together, which led to a one-day session at The Power Plant studio in January 1975. There, Bowie contacted several members of his tour band. Firstly a cover of The Beatles’ "Across the Universe" was recorded. Then a new song called "Fame," inspired by a guitar riff written by Carlos Alomar and with the title from Lennon, was then hurriedly developed by Bowie, and recorded. Both tracks were then added to the Young Americans album. Despite having only a minor contribution, Lennon was given a co-writing credit due to the lyrics (bemoaning the nature of celebrity) being inspired by conversations he had with Bowie on the subject, and because Bowie acknowledged that Lennon singing "Fame!" over Alomar’s guitar riff was the catalyst for the song.

Lennon's voice was heard at the ending of the song, repeating the word: "FAME, FAME, FAME", from a fast track to a slow track of his voice, as it started from a high voice, culminating in his regular voice, and ending in a lower deep voice, before Bowie finished the song with the words: "Fame, What's your name, what's your name, what's your name, what's your name, what's your name". The songwriting credit list order has always been David Bowie, Carlos Alomar, and John Lennon.

An edited version of "Fame" was issued as the second single from the album, and shot to number one on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 (ironically, a few months before a reissue of "Space Oddity" would give Bowie his first UK number-one single). In the UK, "Fame" would only reach number seventeen.

Interestingly, James Brown plagiarised the essential musical content and production style in his 1976 single "Hot (I Need To Be Loved, Loved, Loved, Loved)" (R&B #31). Given the long tradition of white musicians' borrowing of the creations of black artists, and the fact that the song's style seems to emulate Brown's own work from that period, many wrongly assumed it to have originally been Brown's creation.

1975 track listing

  1. "Fame" (Bowie, Alomar, Lennon) – 3:30
  2. "Right" (Bowie) – 4:13
  3. The alternate version of the single had "Golden Years" as the B-side.
  4. The Italian version of the single had "Space Oddity" as the B-side.

1975 musicians

"Fame '90"

A remixed version of "Fame" was released by EMI in 1990 to coincide with the Sound + Vision tour and the release of the ChangesBowie compilation. The "Gass Mix" was also included on the "Pretty Woman" soundtrack.

Track listing

Song written by David Bowie, Carlos Alomar, and John Lennon.

  1. "Fame '90" (with Queen Latifah) –5:58
  2. "Fame '90" (House mix) –5:58
  3. "Fame '90" (Gass mix) – 3:36
  4. "Fame '90" (Hip hop mix) – 3:10
  5. "Fame '90" (Absolutely Nothing Premeditated/Epic Mix) – 14:25

Film director Gus Van Sant directed the promotional video for this version, which featured clips from many of Bowie’s previous videos. In the music video, Bowie also performs a dance with Louise Lecavalier, one of the main dancers of the Québécois contemporary dance troupe La La La Human Steps (whom Bowie would collaborate with on the Sound + Vision tour).

In both the UK and the U.S. this appeared in a variety of formats, including a 7" picture disc, an "Arthur Baker Remixes" 12 inch single and a "Changes pack" with three prints of Bowie at different eras. None of the British releases (on EMI USA) feature the "Absolutely Nothing Premeditated mix". It stayed in the UK chart for four weeks, peaking at number twenty-eight.

Live versions

  • A live version recorded on the Heroes tour at the Philadelphia Spectrum, April 28-29th, 1978, was released on Stage.
  • An updated version recorded from Bowie's performance at the BBC Radio Theatre, June 27th, 2000, was released on Disc 3 of Bowie at the Beeb and on BBC Radio Theater: London June 27, 2000.

Other releases

Film and television use

Cover versions

is the core sample of the similarly named song on Unfinished Business (EPMD album).

References

  • Pegg, Nicholas, The Complete David Bowie, Reynolds & Hearn Ltd, 2000, ISBN 1-903111-14-5

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