"Fame" is a song recorded by David Bowie, initially released in 1975. It reached Number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 during the week of 20 September 1975. The song is included in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.

Contents Edit

  • 1 Song development
  • 2 Chart performance
  • 3 1975 track listing
  • 4 Charts and certifications
    • 4.1 Charts
    • 4.2 Certifications
  • 5 1975 musicians
    • 5.1 Fame
    • 5.2 Right
  • 6 Live versions
  • 7 Other releases
  • 8 In pop culture
  • 9 Cover versions
  • 10 "Fame '90"
    • 10.1 Track listing
    • 10.2 Video
    • 10.3 Other releases
    • 10.4 Chart positions
  • 11 References
  • 12 External links

Song development[edit] Edit

With the Young Americans sessions mostly concluded by 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, where he met John Lennon. The pair jammed together, leading to a one-day session at Electric Lady Studios in January 1975. There, Bowie contacted several members of his tour band. First, a cover of Lennon's The Beatles song, "Across the Universe", was recorded. Then, a new song called "Fame", inspired by a guitar riff by Carlos Alomar, and with the title from Lennon, was hurriedly developed and recorded by Bowie, Lennon, and Alomar. Both tracks were finally added to the Young Americans album. Lennon received co-writing credit due to the lyrics (bemoaning the nature of celebrity) having been inspired by conversations he had 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 vocals are also heard singing the repeated words "FAME, FAME, FAME" with his voice heard at fast, normal, and slow playback speeds, until Bowie's vocal is heard singing the final lyrics of the song before the fade.[citation needed]

Bowie would later describe the song as "nasty, angry", and fully admitted that the song was written "with a degree of malice" aimed at the Mainman management group with whom he had been working at the time. In 1990, Bowie reflected: "I'd had very upsetting management problems and a lot of that was built into the song. I've left that all that behind me, now... I think fame itself is not a rewarding thing. The most you can say is that it gets you a seat in restaurants."[3]

Chart performance[edit] Edit

"Fame" became Bowie's biggest hit to that point in the U.S. It was his first number one hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, as well as his first to break the top 10, but would only reach number 17 in the UK.

Bowie would later claim that he had "absolutely no idea" that the song would do so well as a single, saying "I wouldn't know how to pick a single if it hit me in the face."[4]

1975 track listing[edit] Edit

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

Charts and certifications[edit] Edit

Charts[edit] Edit

Chart (1975) Peak


Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[5] 17
Canada (RPM Top Singles) 1
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[6] 6
Norway (VG-lista)[7] 9
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[8] 17
US Billboard Hot 100[9] 1

Certifications[edit] Edit

Region Certification Sales/shipments Canada (Music Canada)[10] Gold 5,000^
United States (RIAA)[11] Platinum 2,000,000^
*sales figures based on certification alone

^shipments figures based on certification alone xunspecified figures based on certification alone

1975 musicians[edit] Edit

Fame[edit] Edit

  • David Bowie – lead vocals, guitar
  • John Lennon – backing vocals, guitar, production, tape loops
  • Carlos Alomar – guitar
  • Dennis Davis – drums

Right[edit] Edit

  • David Bowie – vocals, guitar
  • Carlos Alomar- guitar
  • Willie Weeks – bass
  • Mike Garson – piano
  • Andy Newmark – drums
  • David Sanborn – saxophone
  • Larry Washington – conga
  • Luther Vandross, Robin Clark, Ava Cherry – backing vocals

Live versions[edit] Edit

  • A live version recorded at the Nassau Coliseum stop on the 1976 Station to Station tour was released on Live Nassau Coliseum '76, part of the 2010 Station to Station reissues.
  • A spring 1978 performance from the "Heroes" tour can be heard on Stage.
  • A live performance filmed on 12 September 1983 is included in the concert DVD Serious Moonlight (1983 film).
  • Live versions recorded during Bowie's 1987 Glass Spider Tour (in Sydney, Australia and Montreal, Canada) were released as part of the Glass Spider concert DVD/CD package.
  • An updated version recorded live by Bowie on 27 June 2000 was released on BBC Radio Theatre, London, June 27, 2000, a bonus disc accompanying the first release of Bowie at the Beeb in 2000.
  • A November 2003 live performance from the A Reality Tour is featured on the A Reality Tour DVD, released in 2004, as well as the A Reality Tour album, released in 2010.

Other releases[edit] Edit

  • It was released as the B-side of the U.S. release of "Beauty and the Beast" in January 1978.
  • It appears on several compilations in its album version:
    • ChangesOneBowie (1976)
    • Fame and Fashion (1984)
    • Bowie: The Singles 1969-1993 (1993)
    • The Best of 1974/1979 (1998)
    • Best of Bowie (2002)
    • The Platinum Collection (2006)
    • Nothing Has Changed (2014)
  • The 7" single version appeared on The Best of Bowie (1980), as well as on Have a Nice Decade: The 70s Pop Culture Box (1998).

In pop culture[edit] Edit

  • Bowie performed the song in a 1975 episode of Soul Train, one of the few white artists to appear on the long-running black music television series.
  • In 1990, a new mix was used on the soundtrack for the movie Pretty Woman (see below).
  • It was used in the movie A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries by James Ivory and Ismail Merchant.
  • It was used in the movie Copycat during a murder scene in a bar.
  • It was released as a picture disc in the RCA Life Time picture disc set.
  • It was featured on an episode of Nip/Tuck.
  • It was featured on an episode of Doogie Howser, M.D.
  • It featured in the Ashes to Ashes episode "Charity Begins at Home".
  • It was featured on an episode of Ugly Betty.
  • It appears as a playable track in Guitar Hero 5.
  • It was featured on an episode of Lizzie McGuire.
  • It is downloadable content for Rock Band 3.
  • It was used in the movie Next Friday for Pinky's intro to his record store.
  • It was used in the movie Bustin' Down the Door by Shaun Tomson.
  • It was featured in the Baseball episode The Tenth Inning by Ken Burns.
  • It was featured in the movie Rush.[12]
  • It was used in a US TV commercial for the 2015 Cadillac Escalade (starting during the spring of 2014).
  • It was used in the American Horror Story: Freak Show episode "Pink Cupcakes", along with a cover of "Life on Mars?" by Jessica Lange. It is actually an anachronism, since the plot is set in 1952.
  • It appeared in the movie Foxcatcher in a post-match celebration.[13]

Cover versions[edit] Edit

  • James Brown - "Hot (I Need to Be Loved, Loved, Loved)"(playtime 6.03 ) 7" single polydor records 1975 song writing credited to Mr James Brown ??
  • Dennis Coffey - Fame (playtime: 3:48) / Vinyl-LP: Finger Lickin Good (1975/USA/Westbound)
  • Duran Duran - 12" single for "Careless Memories"; included on Starman: Rare and Exclusive Versions of 18 Classic David Bowie Songs, CD premium from the March 2003 issue of Uncut magazine
  • Egostatic - .2 Contamination: A Tribute to David Bowie (2006)
  • Eurythmics - previously unreleased bonus track on 2005 remaster of the album Touch (1983)
  • The Feelies - Something Wild video
  • FuckEmos - Only Bowie (1995)
  • God Lives Underwater - Up Off The Floor (2004)
  • Nina Hagen - The chorus in Nina Hagen's song "Heiss" is the vocal part and line "Is it any wonder" from Fame
  • Infectious Grooves - Sarsippius' Ark (1993)
  • Jay-Z - "The Takeover" from the album The Blueprint interpolates the "Fame!" vocal
  • Tommy Lee - Featured as "Fame 02" on the album Never a Dull Moment
  • Love and Money - 12" single
  • Dave Matthews Band - Live recording
  • Umphreys McGee - Encore: 30 December 2005
  • George Michael - Performed live at his 1991 Cover to Cover tour.
  • Rie Miyazawa - Japanese lyrics version titled "Game" (1990, 3" CD single)
  • Pearl Jam - Live recording
  • RC - Dr. Dre Presents...The Aftermath (1996)
  • Rikki Rockett - Glitter 4 Your Soul (2003)
  • The Rockridge Synthesiser Orchestra - Plays David Bowie Classic Trax
  • Stardust - Live performance
  • Stickfigure - Hero: The Main Man Records Tribute to David Bowie (2007)
  • Vanilla Ice - Mind Blowin' (1994)
  • Scott Weiland - Features Paul Oakenfold on Weiland's second solo album "Happy" in Galoshes, released in 2008
  • Lady Gaga - Sampled the beat on the early song "Fancy Pants"
  • The Smashing Pumpkins - Live performance in 2014, featuring Ninja of Die Antwoord[14]
Preceded by

"Rhinestone Cowboy" by Glen Campbell
"I'm Sorry" / "Calypso" by John Denver

Billboard Hot 100 number-one single

20 September 1975
4 October 1975

Succeeded by

"I'm Sorry" / "Calypso" by John Denver
"Bad Blood" by Neil Sedaka

"Fame '90"
Single by David Bowie
from the album Changesbowie
A-side Fame '90
Released 26 March 1990
Format Single
Length 3:36 (Gass Mix)
Label EMI / Rykodisc
David Bowie singles chronology
"Never Let Me Down"


"Fame '90"


"Real Cool World"


"Fame '90"[edit] Edit

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. Bowie wanted to remix a successful American single for the tour & album release, and of the two options ("Let's Dance" and "Fame"), "Let's Dance" was simply too recent. Bowie liked the choice: "It covers a lot of ground, Fame; it stands up really well in time. It still sounds potent. It's quite a nasty, angry little song. I quite like that."[3]

The "Gass Mix" was also included on the Pretty Woman soundtrack.

Track listing[edit] Edit

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

US CD single (Rykodisc RCD5 1018)

  1. "Fame '90 (with Queen Latifah)" – 4:10
  2. "Fame '90 (House Mix)" – 5:58
  3. "Fame '90 (Gass Mix)" – 3:38
  4. "Fame '90 (Hip Hop Mix)" – 5:58
  5. "Fame '90 (Absolutely Nothing Premeditated/Epic Mix)" – 14:25

West Germany maxi CD single (EMI CDP 560-20-3805-2)

  1. "Fame '90 (House Mix)" - 5:58
  2. "Fame '90 (Hip Hop Mix)" - 5:58
  3. "Fame '90 (Gass Mix)" - 3:38
  4. "Fame '90 (Queen Latifah's Rap Version)" - 3:10

"Exclusive Changes pack" 7" vinyl single (FAMES 90)

  1. "Fame '90 (Gass Mix)" – 3:38
  2. "Fame '90 (Queen Latifah's Rap Version)" - 3:10

Limited edition 7" vinyl picture disc (FAME PD 90)

  1. "Fame '90 (Gass Mix)" – 3:38
  2. "Fame '90 (Bonus Beat Mix)" – 4:45
  • The single was released in a variety of formats: as a 7" single, a cassette single, a 12" single, CD singles and two limited edition releases: a picture disc (featuring the unique "Bonus Beat mix") and a 7" envelope pack that included 3 prints reflecting different phases in Bowie's career and a unique mix of Queen Latifah's mix[15]

Video[edit] Edit

Film director Gus Van Sant directed the promotional video for this version, which featured clips from many of Bowie’s previous videos.[15] 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).[16]

David Bowie's "Fame" was used as the soundtrack of an animated music video of the same title, directed by Richard Jefferies (screenwriter) and Mark Kirkland while students at California Institute of the Arts. The film, released in 1975, went on to win the Student Academy Award for animation and aired on NBC's The Midnight Special (TV series).

Other releases[edit] Edit

  • "Fame '90" also appeared on:
    • Changesbowie (1990)
    • Best of Bowie (2002) (Germany/Switzerland/Austria and Australia versions; Colombia/Ecuador/Peru/Venezuela contains both versions)

Chart positions[edit] Edit

Chart Peak position
Belgium Singles Chart 22[17]
Holland Singles Chart 16[17]
New Zealand Singles Chart 32[17]
Switzerland Singles Chart 29[17]
UK Singles Chart 28[18]

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.