1970-1974 could be considered the glam rock era of David Bowie’s career, with outlandish characters, and frivolous rock pieces. 1975 would be the start of something different.
FAME: YOUNG AMERICANS (1975)
The Diamond Dogs tour, as I inferred in the previous entry, saw Bowie’s sound begin to change. His voice was a little deeper on the preceding album compared to previous albums. By the latter half of that tour, things began to change, as Young Americans were recorded. A few of the songs were premiered on the stage, as Bowie changed his outfits from the spandex of the past to much less frivolous suits. The best way to listen to this change is to listen to the live albums David Live and Cracked Actor, which were recorded in different parts of the tour.
Young Americans is what I consider to be an album where you can only like it or dislike it, unless you are a fan of RnB and Soul. The album feels like it has been made by a completely different person; helped by the fact that Bowie uses a new group of musicians for this album. If you are a fan of the early 70’s glam rock Bowie, this will probably not be your album; though a few of the songs are really good. If you’re an American, you will probably quite like this album, as this is very much an American album.
Fame is perhaps my favourite song on the album, thematically and musically. As a scathing critique of the condition of being famous, it works in showcasing greed and the idea of fame bloating you. Helping that idea is the contributions of John Lennon; at the very peak of his counter-culture phase. Lennon’s work on this song means that two British legends of music are working on this song, and they do good. And as it a last-minute addition to Young Americans, it was almost not on the album.
In fact, Young Americans was almost an entirely different album called The Gouster, with neither Fame on it, nor the brilliant funk cover of Across the Universe that was recorded. You can indeed listen to The Gouster as part of the ‘Who Can I Be Now?’ Boxset, which I mentioned in the previous entry. Its a good alternate reality version of Young Americans.
Musically, there is a definite funk sound to it, with the whining guitar rift present throughout the song, and the angry lyrics are punctuated with the angry vocal delivery of David Bowie. Fame is a good song, and one of the most well known of Bowie’s work. The only bit of negativity to the song was that Bowie’s cocaine addiction at the time, something which affected him in interviews, and in his performances. He was sick and was probably pissed off with his fame. And this is something which continues on his next album.