Culture Wikia
This article is about the album by David Bowie. For other uses, see Young Americans (disambiguation).

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Young Americans is the ninth studio album by English musician David Bowie, released on RCA Records in 1975, and his tenth album including the immediately preceding live release David Live (1974). The album marked a departure from the glam rock style of Bowie's previous albums, instead showcasing his mid-1970s interest in African-American soul and R&B music.[6]

Initial recording sessions for Young Americans took place in Philadelphia with producer Tony Visconti and a variety of musicians, including guitarist Carlos Alomar and singer Luther Vandross. Bowie drew influence from the sound of "local dance halls," which were blaring with "lush strings, sliding hi-hat whispers, and swanky R&B rhythms of Philadelphia Soul."[7] Later sessions took place in New York, and included contributions from John Lennon. Bowie would famously call the album's sound "plastic soul," describing it as "the squashed remains of ethnic music as it survives in the age of Muzak rock, written and sung by a white limey".[8]

Although Bowie was among the first English pop musicians of the era to overtly engage with black musical styles, the album was very successful in the US; the album itself reached the top ten in that country, with the song "Fame" hitting the No. 1 spot the same year the album was released.[6] It was generally well-received by critics, and has received praise in contemporary criticism. NME ranked the album at #175 in its list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.[9]

Background and recording[]

Begun on 11 August 1974, during breaks in David Bowie's Diamond Dogs Tour, Young Americans was recorded by Tony Visconti primarily at Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was agreed early on to record as much of the album as possible live, with the full band playing together, including Bowie's vocals, as a single continuous take for each song. According to Visconti, the album contains "about 85% 'live' David Bowie".[10]

In order to create a more authentically soulful sound, Bowie brought in musicians from the funk and soul community, including an early-career Luther Vandross and Andy Newmark, drummer of Sly and the Family Stone. It was also Bowie's first time working with Carlos Alomar, leading to a working relationship spanning more than 30 years. Carlos, who hadn't heard of Bowie before being called in to help with the album, recalled that Bowie was "the whitest man I've ever seen – translucent white" when they met.[11] Carlos said of how the album was put together:

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David always does the music first. He'll listen for a while then if he gets a little idea the session stops and he writes something down and we continue. But later on, when the music is established, he'll go home and the next day the lyrics are written. I'd finish the sessions and be sent home and I never heard words and overdubs until the record was released.[11]

The song "Young Americans", which Bowie said was about "the predicament of two newlyweds", took two days to record.[12]

The sessions at Sigma Sound lasted through November 1974.[10] The recording had attracted the attention of local fans who began to wait outside the studio over the span of the sessions. Bowie built up a rapport with these fans, whom he came to refer to as the "Sigma Kids". On the final day of tracking the Sigma Kids were invited into the studio to listen to rough versions of the new songs.[13]

"Fascination" and "Win" were recorded at Record Plant in New York City in December 1974.

"Across the Universe" and "Fame" were recorded at Electric Lady Studios in New York City with John Lennon in January 1975. They replaced previously recorded tracks "Who Can I Be Now" and "It's Gonna Be Me" on the record, though these songs were later released as bonus tracks on reissues of the album. The guitar riff for "Fame", created by Alomar, was based on the song "Foot Stompin'" by the doo-wop band The Flairs.[14]

Bowie considered several different titles for the album, including Somebody Up There Likes Me, One Damned Song, The Gouster and Fascination.[12]

For the album cover artwork, Bowie initially wanted to commission Norman Rockwell to create a painting, but retracted the offer when he heard that Rockwell would need at least six months to do the job. The album's cover photo was eventually taken in Los Angeles on August 30, 1974, by Eric Stephen Jacobs. Bowie's apparent inspiration for the cover photograph came from a copy of After Dark magazine which featured another of Jacobs' photographs of Bowie’s then choreographer Toni Basil.[15] The cover itself, as well as the cover type was designed in New York at RCA by Craig DeCamps. [16]

Critical reception[]

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic3Star full.svgStar full.svgStar half.svgStar empty.svg[3]
Blender3/5 starsStar full.svgStar full.svgStar empty.svgStar empty.svg[17]
Chicago Tribune3Star full.svgStar full.svgStar half.svg[18]
Christgau's Record GuideB−[19]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music4/5 starsStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar empty.svg[20]
Q4/5 starsStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar empty.svg[22]
Rolling Stone4/5 starsStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar empty.svg[23]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide3/5 starsStar full.svgStar full.svgStar empty.svgStar empty.svg[24]
Uncut4/5 starsStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar empty.svg[25]

In a contemporary review for The Village Voice, Robert Christgau deemed the record "an almost total failure" and said "although the amalgam of rock and Philly soul is so thin it's interesting, it overwhelms David's voice, which is even thinner." He nonetheless appreciated Bowie's renewed "generosity of spirit to risk failure" following the disappointing Diamond Dogs and David Live albums.[26] Rolling Stone's Jon Landau praised the title track and thought that "the rest of the album works best when Bowie combines his renewed interest in soul with his knowledge of English pop, rather than opting entirely for one or the other."[27]

In a retrospective review, AllMusic senior critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine wrote that Young Americans is "more enjoyable as a stylistic adventure than as a substantive record."[3] Douglas Wolk of Pitchfork regarded it as "distinctly a transitional record," stating: "It doesn't have the mad theatrical scope of Diamond Dogs or the formal audacity of Station to Station; at times, it comes off as an artist trying very hard to demonstrate how unpredictable he is." Nevertheless, Wolk also praised the fact that "while there had already been a handful of disco hits on the pop charts, no other established rock musician had yet tried to do anything similar."[21] Writing for The Mail on Sunday, Dylan Jones called it "a slab of heartbreaking sophisti-soul that might just be the best seduction record ever made."[28]

In 2013, NME ranked the album at #175 in its list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.[29] The album was also included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[30]

Track listing[]

All songs written by David Bowie, except where noted.

Side A
1."Young Americans" 5:11
2."Win" 4:44
3."Fascination"Bowie, Luther Vandross5:45
4."Right" 4:15
Side B
5."Somebody Up There Likes Me" 6:30
6."Across the Universe"John Lennon, Paul McCartney4:29
7."Can You Hear Me" 5:03
8."Fame"Bowie, Carlos Alomar, Lennon4:16
Total length:40:13

CD releases[]

The album has been released on CD several times: initially by RCA in 1984, and then by Rykodisc/EMI in 1991, with three bonus tracks. A 1999 rerelease by EMI featured 24-bit digitally remastered sound and no extra tracks. The 2007 reissue, marketed as a "Special Edition," included an accompanying DVD, containing 5.1 surround sound mixes of the album and video footage from the Dick Cavett TV show.

The 1991 and 2007 reissues featured, as bonus tracks, "Who Can I Be Now?", "John, I'm Only Dancing (Again)", and "It's Gonna Be Me"; the latter was released in an alternate version with strings on the 2007 edition.

The 1991 reissue replaced the original versions of "Win", "Fascination" and "Right" with alternate mixes, but later reissues restored the original mixes. Another outtake, "After Today", appeared on the 1989 box set Sound + Vision, as did the alternate mix of "Fascination".

1991 reissue bonus tracks
9."Who Can I Be Now?" (previously unreleased track from 1974)4:36
10."It's Gonna Be Me" (previously unreleased track from 1974)6:27
11."John, I'm Only Dancing Again" (single A-side recorded 1974)6:57
Total length:58:06
2007 Special Edition bonus tracks
9."John, I'm Only Dancing (Again)" (stereo mix)7:03
10."Who Can I Be Now?" (stereo mix)4:40
11."It's Gonna Be Me" (stereo mix; alternate version with strings)6:28
12."1984" (live on The Dick Cavett Show; DVD only)3:07
13."Young Americans" (live on The Dick Cavett Show; DVD only)5:11
14."Dick Cavett interviews David Bowie" (DVD only[31])16:03

The bonus tracks "After Today", "Who Can I Be Now?" and "It's Gonna Be Me" were outtakes from the 1974 Sigma Sound sessions in Philadelphia.[32]


  • David Bowie – vocals, guitar, keyboards
  • Carlos Alomar – guitar
  • Mike Garson – piano
  • David Sanbornsaxophone
  • Willie Weeks – bass guitar (except on "Across the Universe" and "Fame")
  • Andy Newmark – drums (except on "Across the Universe" and "Fame")

Additional musicians[]

  • Larry Washington – conga
  • Pablo Rosario – percussion on "Across the Universe" and "Fame"
  • Ava Cherry, Robin Clark, Luther Vandross – backing vocals
  • John Lennon – vocals, guitar, backing vocals on "Across the Universe" and "Fame"
  • Earl Slick – guitar on "Across the Universe" and "Fame"
  • Emir Ksasan – bass guitar on "Across the Universe" and "Fame"
  • Dennis Davis – drums on "Across the Universe" and "Fame"
  • Ralph MacDonald – percussion on "Across the Universe" and "Fame"
  • Jean Fineberg – backing vocals on "Across the Universe" and "Fame"
  • Jean Millington – backing vocals on "Across the Universe" and "Fame"
  • Luther Vandross – vocal arrangements



  1. Craig DeCamps RCA staff designer
  2. "Young Americans album is 40 today". David Bowie Official Website.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Young Americans – David Bowie". AllMusic. Retrieved 14 November 2011.
  4. Sheffield, Rob. "David Bowie's Essential Albums". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 3 November 2016.
  5. "Young Americans is next 40th Anniversary Picture Disc". David Bowie Official Website.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Erlewine, Stephen. "David Bowie". MTV. Retrieved 14 November 2011.
  7. Van Schaik, Lauren. "Today in Music History: Bowie Starts Recording at Sigma Sound". Retrieved 25 January 2016.
  8. Smith, Lauren. "David Bowie Starts Recording Young Americans at Stigma Sound". A.V. Club. Archived from the original on 10 September 2011. Retrieved 14 November 2011.
  9. NME 500 Greatest Albums 2013. Retrieved 16 August 2016.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Griffen, Roger, ed. "Young Americans". Bowie Golden Years. Retrieved 15 November 2011.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  11. 11.0 11.1 Preston, Andrew, "David Bowie's biggest fans reveal all", Daily Mail, London, retrieved 20 May 2013
  12. 12.0 12.1 Kamp, Thomas (1985), David Bowie: The Wild-Eyed Boy 1964–1984 (1st ed.), O'Sullivan, Woodside & Co.
  13. Buckley, David (2005). Strange Fascination: David Bowie: The Definitive Story. London: Virgin Books. pp. 190–205. ISBN 0-7535-1002-2.
  14. "Bowie Biography". Bowie Zone. Retrieved 14 November 2011.
  15. "Young Americans Sessions".
  16. Craig DeCamps RCA staff designer
  17. "David Bowie Part 1: The 1960s and '70s". Blender (47). May 2006.
  18. Kot, Greg (10 June 1990). "Bowie`s Many Faces Are Profiled On Compact Disc". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 13 August 2016.
  19. Christgau, Robert (1981). "David Bowie". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies. Ticknor & Fields. ISBN 0-89919-025-1. Retrieved 13 August 2016.
  20. Larkin, Colin (2007). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-857-12595-8.
  21. 21.0 21.1 Wolk, Douglas (22 January 2015). "David Bowie: Young Americans". Pitchfork. Retrieved 22 January 2015.
  22. Grundy, Gareth (May 2007). "David Bowie: Young Americans". Q (250).
  23. Sheffield, Rob (13 June 2007). "David Bowie: Young Americans". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 16 June 2007. Retrieved 14 August 2016.
  24. Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian, eds. (2004). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide. Simon & Schuster. pp. 97–99. ISBN 0-743-20169-8.
  25. Troussé, Stephen (April 2007). "David Bowie: Young Americans". Uncut (119).
  26. Christgau, Robert (12 May 1975). "Christgau's Consumer Guide". The Village Voice. Retrieved 13 August 2016.
  27. Landau, Jon (22 May 1975). "Young Americans". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 14 November 2011.
  28. Jones, Dylan (1 August 2008). "Loving the Alien: Never before seen pictures of David Bowie". Daily Mail. Retrieved 25 May 2016.
  29. NME 500 Greatest Albums 2013. Retrieved 16 August 2016.
  30. Robert Dimery; Michael Lydon (23 March 2010). 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die: Revised and Updated Edition. Universe. ISBN 978-0-7893-2074-2.
  31. Discogs – Young Americans – 2007-03-19th reMastered CD & Multichannel PAL DVD-Video, EMI (0946 3 51258 2 5) Europe
  32. Nicholas Pegg The complete David Bowie p2006 298 "The Sigma sessions were prodigiously productive: among the outtakes which would not see the light of day for many years were 'It's Hard To Be A Saint in the City', 'After Today', "Who Can I Be Now?', 'It's Gonna Be Me', "
  33. 33.0 33.1 Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, NSW: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  34. "Top Albums/CDs – Volume 23, No. 9" (PHP). RPM. 26 April 1975. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  35. "InfoDisc : Tous les Albums classés par Artiste > Choisir Un Artiste Dans la Liste" (PHP). Retrieved 31 January 2014. Note: user must select 'David BOWIE' from drop-down.
  36. Oricon Album Chart Book: Complete Edition 1970–2005. Roppongi, Tokyo: Oricon Entertainment. 2006. ISBN 4-87131-077-9.
  37. " David Bowie – Young Americans" (ASP). Recording Industry Association of New Zealand. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  38. " David Bowie – Young Americans" (ASP). Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  39. "Swedish Charts 1972–1975/Kvällstoppen – Listresultaten vecka för vecka > Mars 1975 > 25 Mars" (PDF). (in Swedish). Retrieved 31 January 2014.Note: Kvällstoppen combined sales for albums and singles in the one chart; Young Americans peaked at the number-six on the list in the 4th week of March 1975.
  40. "David Bowie > Artists > Official Charts". UK Albums Chart. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  41. "allmusic ((( Young Americans > Charts & Awards > Billboard Albums )))". Retrieved 31 August 2011.
  42. "Top Pop Albums of 1975". Retrieved 11 February 2011.
  43. [[[:Template:Certification Cite/URL]] "[[:Template:Certification Cite/Title]]"] Check |url= value (help). Music Canada. Retrieved 31 January 2014. URL–wikilink conflict (help)
  44. [[[:Template:Certification Cite/URL]] "[[:Template:Certification Cite/Title]]"] Check |url= value (help). British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 31 January 2014. URL–wikilink conflict (help) Select albums in the Format field. Select Gold in the Certification field. Type Young Americans in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
  45. [[[:Template:Certification Cite/URL]] "[[:Template:Certification Cite/Title]]"] Check |url= value (help). Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 31 January 2014. URL–wikilink conflict (help) If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH. 

External links[]

  • Young Americans (Adobe Flash) at Radio3Net (streamed copy where licensed)
  • Template:Discogs master

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