While David Bowie’s stratospheric rise to the fame with his fifth album, 1972’s The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars – and his subsequent killing-off of the Ziggy character – would have been enough to see him go down in rock history, his often overlooked 1975 album, Young Americans, can be seen as just as pivotal a record.
Listen to Young Americans here.
From red-haired alien to blue-eyed soul boy
Young Americans was the first Bowie album to offer a truly startling musical about-face. A shift from the doomy glam of 1974’s Diamond Dogs, it featured his take on the soul and funk music he’d loved as a youth, and then fallen back in love with on that album’s US tour, the final leg of which was variously known as The Soul Tour and The Philly Dogs tour, after the sound Philadelphia International Records had minted on their rise to becoming the Motown of the 70s.
Remarkably, Bowie pulled off his transition from red-haired alien to blue-eyed soul boy. Released on 7 March 1975, Young Americans was a Top 10 hit in the US, and its second single, the irresistible sparse funk of Fame, became his first US No.1. Not only that, but in November 1975 Bowie received the ultimate nod of approval when he was invited to be one of the first white artists to perform on the hugely influential US TV show Soul Train. The success of Young Americans gave him the artistic freedom to follow his muse wherever it took him.