It was November 24, 1972, when David Bowie released the lead single from his sixth studio album, Aladdin Sane: "The Jean Genie." Powered by an instantly classic rock guitar riff, the song is among Bowie's most enduring and truly timeless tunes.
The single wasn't exactly a chart monster, peaking at #71 on the Hot 100 for the week of December 23, 1972. The #1 song in America that week: Billy Paul's "Me and Mrs. Jones." Here's a look back at David Bowie's 1972 hard rocking favorite, "The Jean Genie."
1. The song was inspired by Iggy Pop, Cyrinda Fox, Jean Genet and New York City
The high-energy track was the result of a whirlwind of influences borne from a 1972 trip to NYC. He was hanging out with Andy Warhol associate Cyrinda Foxe, and started writing the tune as a way to win her over. "Starting out as a lightweight riff thing I had written one evening in NY for Cyrinda's enjoyment, I developed the lyric to the otherwise wordless pumper and it ultimately turned into a bit of a smorgasbord of imagined Americana... based on an Iggy-type persona," the artist shared in book Moonage Daydream. "The title, of course, was a clumsy pun upon Jean Genet."
2. Another influence: the Rolling Stones
“I wanted to get the same sound as the Stones had on their first album on the harmonica,” Bowie once said, via Rolling Stone. “I didn’t get that near to it but it had a feel that I wanted – that Sixties thing.”
3. "The Jean Genie" is where the band Simple Minds got its name
Childhood friends Jim Kerr and Charlie Burchill were ready to take their music careers seriously, they broke up previous band, Johnny and the Self Abusers, and looked to Bowie for guidance. Inspiration came in the form of "The Jean Genie" lyric, "He's so simple-minded, he can't drive his module." Simple Minds was born.
4. An inventive cameraman saved Bowie's Top of the Pops 1973 performance of "The Jean Genie" on "Top of the Pops"
After Bowie blew minds with the performance, the BBC promptly erased the tape for reuse as a way to save money. Thankfully, cameraman John Henshall, having utilized a homemade fish-eye lens for the moment, captured the performance onto a videotape. He held the tape in his personal stash for almost 40 years before revealing it to the world. “I just couldn’t believe that I was the only one with it,” Henshall told Rolling Stone. “I just thought you wouldn’t be mad enough to wipe a tape like that.”
5. Photographer Mick Rock directed the original music video for "The Jean Genie"
The famous rock photog captured the moment in a San Francisco studio, as well as footage from the Mars Hotel. Warhol associate Cyrinda Foxe was flown out for the occasion.