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.
Before we can leave the period of Early Pan's People, there is one last hurrah! During the three months between the leaving of Andi, ad the unwrapping of a very special Christmas present gifted by Tony Blackburn to the world, there were about nine to twelve routines by the team. These included such probable delights as 'In A Broken Dream' by Python Lee Jackson ( with a little help from Rod Stewart ) and 'Jean Genie' by David Bowie, which we may never enjoy again, as well as 'Let's Dance' by Chris Montez, of which a fragment can be seen- and perhaps the rest still exists also. But apart from these there is a curiosity, a peculiarity in the shape of another David Bowie number 'John I'm Only Dancing' to be now reviewed.
And what do we find in this odd little film? There is no dancing in this in ay shape or form. But Ruth does look rather fetching in her long flowing white dress with embroidered front and matching overdress. Why was Ruth chosen to feature, when any actress could suffice? Who knows! But here we have it as a survival of someone's strange mind. Some mean and nasty looking bikers have arrived at some kind of industrial plant or refinery. And it looks like they intend to do something alarming to Ruth. The swines! Our Poor Ruth- with her fear of heights- who would put her in this predicament, who is on hand to protect her? At 00.35 our heroine appears, spinning round in the sunlight. And then she is to be seen moving about the site, in terror trying to escape, perhaps, as the menacing men seem to be looking for her. At about 02.14 Ruth comes towards us opening her coat, and revealing her long hippyish dress underneath- very delectable in the face of fear, I must say, with the sun behind her. Oh No! By 02.26 the bikers have found her and Ruth looks threatened by them. What will happen? And from 02.32 we can see that Ruth has shed her over garment as she spins round with her arms aloft. And disappears completely! Therefore leaving the four miscreants- if miscreants they are- alone on top of the structure. What occurred? Have we witnessed a crime or some other sinister event?
Do we need to throw up a crack team of Ruth Rescuers? Maybe not, these bikers do not look too hard, I think I could take them on all by myself, for Ruth! And what is more, I reckon Ruth can handle them herself. You know, I think she has dealt with them and made good her escape. Leaving her bemused would-be assailants looking at thin air, and wondering whither she went. Go Ruth!
Routine- 5/10. Ruth looks good in her long, floaty white dress. But that is all. No dancing to be found here, what a waste of Ruth's talents. She could be dancing with the narrator- David Bowie- himself! Now that would have been a film worth watching!