On This Day in 1972: David Bowie records “The Jean Genie”

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Thursday, October 6, 2016
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On This Day in 1972: David Bowie records “The Jean Genie”

44 years ago today, David Bowie recorded the song that would go on to serve as the first single for his ALADDNI SANE album.

Co-produced by Bowie and Ken Scott, “The Jean Genie” was – per no less an authority than Bowie himself – written while he was hanging out with Cyrinda Foxe, an actress/model who also worked as a publicist for Bowie’s management company, MainMan Artistes LTD. In a 2002 interview with Entertainment Weekly, Bowie described Foxe as a “sexy girl” and said that “The Jean Genie” was written “for her amusement in her apartment.” The character described in the song’s lyrics was apparently inspired by Iggy Pop, but it wasn’t actually written about Iggy, but the lyrics themselves served as inspiration for another artist: the band Simple Minds took their name from the line, “He’s so simple minded / He can’t drive his module.” As for the song’s title, it would seem to have been a pun based on the name of author Jean Genet.

Upon its release, “The Jean Genie” went on to become one of Bowie’s biggest UK hits, hitting the #2 spot on the UK Singles chart, but its performance in the US was decidedly less impressive: the song stalled at #71 on the Billboard Hot 100. That hasn’t stopped it from becoming one of the most familiar tracks in Bowie’s back catalog, however: it can be found on more than half a dozen of his best-of compilations, and you can still hear its familiar chugging rhythm on the radio all the time.