All the Young Dudes

Writer - David Bowie
Unreleased (2024)

Back in 1972, during the height of glam rock, David Bowie offered this song, which he hadn't yet recorded (or at least released) himself, to the band Mott the Hoople, whom he was producing at the time. (He had originally offered them "Suffragette City," also unreleased at the time, only for them to reject it.) It became Mott's biggest hit, reaching #3 in the U.K. and #37 in the United States as well as the Top 40 charts in various other countries. What's more, as I wrote in my 1994 book Rock on the Wild Side, it quickly "became a virtual anthem for the glitter rock movement as well as for certain segments of the early-seventies gay community." Today it's recognized as a bona fide classic of rock/pop music in general. Bowie himself would often perform the song live and recorded it in the studio later in 1972, though he wouldn't release his studio recording until 1995.

Neil and Chris decided to cover "All the Young Dudes" live with the BBC Concert Orchestra (conducted by Anne Dudley) during their February 23, 2024 appearance on BBC Radio Two's Piano Room, preceded by renditions of "Left to My Own Devices" and their new single at the time, "Loneliness." (They had previously teased fans with their advance announcement that they would be covering a Bowie song made famous by someone else.) Neil repeats the original lyrics quite faithfully, making only a few very minor deviations. He also camps his vocals up considerably more than he's in the habit of doing, thereby following the lead of its original vocalist, Mott's Ian Hunter. He does, however, interpolate some new "extra" lines of his own during repetitions of the chorus toward the end: "Have you heard the latest news? Everybody's got the right to choose! You can be a dude, Dad!… I've seen you on the street, the sort of guy I'd like to meet." In this way the Boys make "Dudes" an even gayer song than it had been before—which, to be sure, was already pretty darn "gay" to begin with. And by mentioning "the right to choose," they add a much more blatantly political dimension to the song that was barely hinted at in Mott's and Bowie's previous renditions.

There's no word yet as to whether the Boys will be officially releasing their cover of "All the Young Dudes," either this live performance or a studio recording, perhaps as a future b-side. It's a terrific version, however, so I for one—and I'm sure I'm not the only one—hope they do!


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