My song today is ‘The Jean Genie’. This song was recorded by David Bowie, an English songwriter, and singer. The song was originally released in November 1972 as the lead single to his album ‘Aladdin Sane’. According to Bowie, it was “a smorgasbord of imagined Americana” (a large heterogeneous mixture), with a protagonist inspired by Iggy Pop, and the title of the song being an allusion to author Jean Genet. One of Bowie's most famous tracks, it was promoted with a film clip featuring Andy Warhol associate Cyrinda Foxe. The song peaked at Number 2 on the ‘UK Singles Chart’.
According to author Nicholas Pegg, ‘The Jean Genie’ originated as an impromptu jam, at this point titled ‘Bussin', on the tour bus between the first two concerts. The song’s chugging R&B riff is often compared to the ‘Yardbirds’.
In the US, it reached Number 71 on the ‘Billboard Hot 100’ chart. While biographer David Buckley has described it as "derivative, plodding, if undeniably catchy" it remains one of Bowie's signature tunes and was often played at his concerts.
I had just started being a Probation Officer in Huddersfield after completing my training up in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1971 and was settling into a new stage of my life. I had been married a mere three years and as my wife did not want to have children in the first five years of our marriage, all our leisure hours were spent in the company of six newly married neighbours who lived in the same crescent of new-built houses. We all had professions that paid well enough to give us a comfortable lifestyle that included frequent nights out and one big holiday annually.
We would spend every evening of our week entertaining each other in rotation at our homes, drinking and socialising together, partying and even holidaying together during spring and summer months. I will always remember one member of the group who was called Tony. Tony was an up and coming architect who was into different musical sounds and tastes than the rest of us. He had a large selection of vinyl and would proudly get out his latest record purchase for us to dance to whenever it came around for him and June to entertain the gang in their house. All the group dressed fashionably but tended to dress more soberly than Tony and his wife June. Tony and June were flamboyant in their style of clothes. They dressed like a couple of San Francisco hippies in free-flowing colourful garments that could only be bought from the boutiques of King’s Road in London (or some other exclusive ‘way-out’ shop down Portobello, where Bowie himself was known not have purchased items of clothing items from).
On the night in question when Tony first played this record (The Jean Genie), he could hardly contain his enthusiasm, “You must hear this! You’ve just got to!” We must have played the record repeatedly all night long, and over the next few months. I never understood a word of what Bowie was singing about until I recently researched its background for this post, but I must admit, the song was always a great beat and drum sound to dance to!
Love and peace Bill xxx