John I'm Only Dancing _________________________________________________________________________________
Performed byDavid Bowieand reaching number 12 in the UK charts _________________________________________________________________________________
Original broadcast date28/09/1972Duration of dance - 2.48 mins _________________________________________________________________________________
Dancer: Ruth _________________________________________________________________________________
A link to the dance:
David Robert Jones, better known by his stage name David Bowie, is one of the elite artists whose songs all three of our favourite troupes have danced to. Today's featured clip is the earliest example of a dancer being present for an interpretation of a Bowie song. Why such an intricate phrasing? Well, the answer is easy: this is not a dance routine by any stretch of the imagination.
Recorded just when "Starman" entered the UK charts and Bowie transformed into a mega rock star fuelled by his alter ego "Ziggy Stardust", "John" was never officially issued on an album. The song was widely believed to be concerned with a gay relationship, the narrator informing his boyfriend not to worry about the girl he's with because he's "only dancing" with her (thanks wikipedia). However, Bowie never confirmed this. The single followed "Starman" into the UK Top 20 (even though it peaked two places lower), making it the first time that Bowie charted with two consecutive 45's.
David Bowie has always been a pioneer, and so it's not too surprising that even his earliest releases were promoted by videos. However, the video that had been made for "John I'm Only Dancing" was banned by Top of the Pops. Moreover, unlike a couple of months earlier when Bowie promoted "Starman" with one of his rare studio performances (only three during all of the 70s and 80s!), he did not visit TOTP again for "John". These circumstances resulted in the shooting of a special "Top of the Pops Promo Video". As usual, the video had absolutely no connection to the song itself: "Shots of four bikers in leather & denim through chemical plant; girl from Pans People in long white dress with gold embroidery running along gantrys, walkways etc. Bikers chase girl who runs across rooftops & twirls round in her long white dress, cape a-flowing". Does that make any sense to you? Me neither.
There has been some discussion if this video belongs to the Pan's People canon at all. Yes it is debatable. I decided to include it just for completeness sake. It's available, it includes Ruth - that's good enough for me!
However, there is a caveat: You can comment on this video as usual but I will ignore any ratings given. This clip will not be listed on the favourites table.
Personally, I'm glad the video has survived but that's about it. Even as a Ruth fan I hardly ever play it. It's not a pretty sight at all to see how poor Ruth had to climb up to the top of that plant despite her fear of heights, while being chased by those butch bikers.
Fortunately, there was also a real Pan's People performance on the same show, the great "Back Stabbers" which survived on a rehearsal tape.
Quite an oddity this one. As our host says it seems to have nothing to do with the song really. Ruth looks quite good in her Roussos-prototype marquee but the apparent chase through the Gasworks is a bit sterile to my eyes. If you're going to go to the trouble of making a Promo why not make it a bit more visually appealing or relevant? Oh well, maybe it's artistic.
Some Dancers who gave a good time, broke all the rules, played all the fools, yeah yeah yeah they blew our minds
The sight of an unfeasably dressed woman climbing up high at an electricity power plant, will always turn heads, allbeit for maybe the wrong reasons, & I'll wager that the bikies found it rather a weird sight, despite that air of elegance, emanating from Ruth.
What a strange production this is. While it might be cinematically quite good and I like the effect of Ruth's dress billowing in the breeze and the footage taken into the sun, there is nothing much here to encourage me to view this very often. I'm not a massive fan of David Bowie and there is virtually no dancing at all.
The location looks very familiar and I have a feeling that it might have featured in a Jon Pertwee Doctor Who story, although I suppose most refinery's look similar so I could be completely wrong.
More often that not, these hastily made, sometimes wacky and bizarre films generally starred anonymous dancers or models. Occasionally, a member of The Young Generation might turn up in one and probably even less likely, one of Pan's People. Certainly Andrea and Ruth made such solo TOTP appearances on film but I'm not sure about other members.
This was at least Ruth's 2nd appearance in one of these, on this occasion in something of the damsel in distress role along with a lot of hairy bikers! Ruth's generally concerned expression is either due to the part she is playing or the height at which she finds herself on various gantries amongst the metalwork. I for one would not like to walk across the mesh walkway between the two storage cylinders! Quite what it is all about, especially at the end is anyone's guess - a portal into a parallel universe perhaps? These Top Of The Pops films either take a literal approach or are just plain bizarre and I would say this is in the latter category. Interesting and good that it survives but I'm not sure how much re-watch value it has.
I know nothing about motorbikes, but those long bikes with the high backed seat (easy rider style) look kinda cool. The set up here makes no sense, and my Ruth as a guardian angel theory probably holds no weight whatsover, so i'll agree with Patti4PM's 'art' conclusion. Nice for Ruth to get a centre stage at least.
Watched this for the first time last night and likewise I was so disappointed. Spent time looking at the bikers. A real bad routine if you could call it that. I certainly won't be watching it again but glad I have it. I would have preferred the full troupe dancing to this in the studio.
Everywhere, wherever you look, manipulation rearing it's head.
Southall Gasworks is a place that I am too familiar with as it dominates the skyline of the surrounding areas of Southall and I can see it as far as 7.5 miles west. Though I do have doubts about the location, it is the most likely as BBC productions have been done there in the past and only a short distance on the Uxbridge Road, or a 207 bus ride for Ruth. The dance isn't one that I would really say is a proper dance, more of an overthought idea for a routine to the song. Ruth looks very uncomfortable and I was worried that she might fall over at some point. I know ratings aren't in operation, btu I would give this a 5/10 with a couple of bonus points because the setting is local to me.