On this day (Sept. 20th) in music history, the “Diamond Dog” himself, David Bowie scored his very first No. 1 hit on the US Billboard Hot 100 in 1975 with his celebrity-rejecting anthem “Fame.”
The song was a reflection of what Bowie thought about achieving fame and what that title does to those who reach super-star status. At the time of the song’s inception, Bowie admits the song was “written with a degree of malice” towards the inner workings of the entertainment industry.
So in honor of the song reaching No. 1 on this day 38 years ago, we dug up a little history via SongFacts.com behind this timeless song that you may have not known before.
1. “Fame” is co-written by John Lennon
Bowie met the Beatle legend a year before collaborating on the song, to which Lennon not only helped co-write, but also came up with the title and provided the high vocals to the “Fame” parts being shouted in the background.
2. The guitar riff was inspired by another song
“Fame” is known for its spacey, funky guitar melody that makes you want to dance and contort your body in ways not thought possible. That iconic riff was spawned by Bowie’s guitarist Carlos Alomar, who was inspired by a 1961 doo-wop song of all things called “Foot Stompin'” by The Flares. Bowie had performed the song on stage on past tours; can you hear a resemblance? Listen here.
3. Bowie performed “Fame” on Soul Train
After the song’s release, Bowie was invited to perform the song on the dance/music variety show Soul Train. He was reportedly so nervous about the performance, he knocked back a few drinks to calm his nerves before going on. Watch his performance here.
4. “Fame” is repeated 23 times
Though the word is shouted throughout the song’s entirety, at the very end, “Fame” is repeated over and over 23 times each in a different pitch that ranges over four octaves.
5. Bowie whispers at the end
When the song dies down, Bowie can be heard whispering a phrase towards the end. Though exactly what he says hasn’t been confirmed, it’s rumored that he whispers either “Brings so much pain” or “Feeling so gay, feeling gay.”
Now that you know the history behind the song, re-listen to it and see if you can make out what he whispers at the end!