David Bowie – Young Americans ——— Songs that reference Richard Nixon

Do you remember, your President Nixon? Do you remember, the bills you have to pay
For even yesterday?

This song and album had to be a shock at the time. Bowie went from Glam Rock to more of a soul sound within a year. Young Americans peaked at #28 in the Billboard 100, #33 in Canada, #18 in the UK, and #7 in New Zealand. The album peaked at #5 in the Billboard Album Chart in 1975.

Young Americans was the first Bowie album that guitarist Carlos Alomar played on. Bowie first saw Alomar playing in the house band at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem, and convinced him to play on this album and join the tour. Alomar became a major contributor, playing on several of Bowie’s albums and coming up with guitar riffs for songs like “Fame” and “Golden Years.”

John Lennon appeared on the album on songs Across The Universe and Fame.

From Songfacts

Bowie never was a young American – he was born and raised in England. Bowie said that this was the result of cramming his “whole American experience” into one song.

This was recorded between tour dates at Philadelphia’s Sigma Sound Studios, which was the capital of black music in the area. The soul influence had a very obvious effect on Bowie’s style. He even completely redesigned the stage for the rest of his Diamond Dogs tour.

Over the course of about eight very creative days, Bowie recorded most of the songs for Young Americans at Sigma Studios. He usually recorded his vocals after midnight because he heard that’s when Frank Sinatra recorded most of his vocals, and because there weren’t so many people around.

Sigma had a staff of very talented producers and musicians (known as MFSB – the same folks who had a #1 hit with “TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia)”), but Bowie used his own people – Tony Visconti produced this track.

The line near the end, “I heard the news today, oh boy,” is a reference to the Beatles song “A Day In The Life.” John Lennon worked with Bowie on “Fame” and also Bowie’s cover of “Across The Universe.” Both songs are on this album.

The lead instrument in this song the saxophone, which was played by the American jazz player David Sanborn. He was just starting to get noticed when Bowie brought him in to play on this.

Bowie hired Luther Vandross, who had yet to establish himself as a solo artist, to sing backup and create the vocal arrangements on the Young Americans album.

Near the end of the song, Bowie sings, “Black’s got respect and white’s got his soul train.” Soul Train is an American TV show targeted to a black audience that started in 1970. The show featured lots of very expressive dancing as well as a musical guest, and in November 1975, Bowie became one of the first white singers to perform on the show, something he was very proud of. The “Young Americans” single was released in February 1975, so Bowie performed “Fame” and “Golden Years,” which was his current single.

The album was going to be called “Dancin'” before Bowie decided to name it after this track.

At a performance at Giants Stadium, Bowie stopped after singing the line, “Ain’t there one damn song that can make me…”, and dropped to the stage, where he stayed for 10 minutes. The crowd went nuts, but got concerned after a while. Bowie did it to see what kind of reaction he would get.

The Cure did a version of this in appreciation of Bowie, their longtime friend. The lyrics “Do you remember President Nixon?” were changed to “…President Clinton?” The Cure’s version was originally released on a British radio demo CD only, but can now be found on various bootlegs.

Young Americans

They pulled in just behind the bridge
He lays her down, he frowns
Gee my life’s a funny thing, am I still too young?
He kissed her then and there
She took his ring, took his babies
It took him minutes, took her nowhere
Heaven knows, she’d have taken anything, but

All night
She wants the young American
Young American, young American, she wants the young American
All right
She wants the young American

Scanning life through the picture window
She finds the slinky vagabond
He coughs as he passes her Ford Mustang, but
Heaven forbid, she’ll take anything
But the freak, and his type, all for nothing
Misses a step and cuts his hand, but
Showing nothing, he swoops like a song
She cries where have all Papa’s heroes gone?

All night
She wants a young American
Young American, young American, she wants the young American
All right
She wants the young American

All the way from Washington
Her bread-winner begs off the bathroom floor
“We live for just these twenty years
Do we have to die for the fifty more?”

All night
He wants the young American
Young American, young American, he wants the young American
All right
He wants the young American

Do you remember, your President Nixon?
Do you remember, the bills you have to pay
For even yesterday?

Have you have been an un-American?
Just you and your idol singing falsetto ’bout
Leather, leather everywhere, and
Not a myth left from the ghetto
Well, well, well, would you carry a razor
In case, just in case of depression?
Sit on your hands on a bus of survivors
Blushing at all the afro-Sheilas
Ain’t that close to love?
Well, ain’t that poster love?
Well, it ain’t that Barbie doll
Her heart’s been broken just like you have

All night
All night was a young American
Young American, young American, you want the young American
All right
All right you want the young American

You ain’t a pimp and you ain’t a hustler
A pimp’s got a Cadi and a lady got a Chrysler
Black’s got respect, and white’s got his Soul Train
Mama’s got cramps, and look at your hands ache
(I heard the news today, oh boy)
I got a suite and you got defeat
Ain’t there a man you can say no more?
And, ain’t there a woman I can sock on the jaw?
And, ain’t there a child I can hold without judging?
Ain’t there a pen that will write before they die?
Ain’t you proud that you’ve still got faces?
Ain’t there one damn song that can make me
Break down and cry?

All night
I want the young American
Young American, young American, I want the young American
All right
I want the young American, young American whoa whoa

Young American, young American
I want what you want
I want what you want
You want more
I want you
You want I
I want you
I want what you want
But you want what you want
You want I
I want you
And all I want is a young American
Young American

Author: badfinger20

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

26 thoughts on “David Bowie – Young Americans ——— Songs that reference Richard Nixon”

    1. My all time favorite of his is Life On Mars but he has so many that rank high. He was like Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Beatles, and Van Morrison…continually changing their sound but still great.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. LOL…. You are missing an obvious one! When you see it you will know right away! Sweet Home Alabama I thought about…no it’s another one with his name…plus another one that is out there.

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    1. Yes I do…songs like Somebody Up There Likes Me… the difference is very noticeable between Diamond Dogs and this one but that is why we like Bowie.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I remember hearing this the first time I had a lyric sheet in front of me and was knocked over by how good it was and how determined to learn it by heart. The whole Young Americans album is exquisite. I cry every time I listen to “Win.” Bowie fell to earth and brought wondrous things from afar. When he left he made sure to leave some magic behind.

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  2. I had no idea he’d been on Soul Train. That is a trip.

    I loved the way Bowie crossed boundaries…Bing Crosby/White Christmas. Just when you think you have a handle on who and what he is all about, he shifts gears.

    His Let’s Dance days will always be my favorite. That video of him playing the guitar in white gloves…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Bing/Bowie video really tripped me out. So Ziggy Stardust and Bing were doing a duet…it just didn’t add up….but I loved it.

      My favorite Bowie era was right before Ziggy Stardust….the Life On Mars period. But yea I remember the Lets Dance era very well.

      Liked by 1 person

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