David Bowie

Panic in Detroit

Composed by David Bowie

Song Review by

Certainly one of the highlights of 1973's Aladdin Sane album, and one of the hardest-driving numbers David Bowie has ever recorded, "Panic in Detroit" was written the previous year, inspired by Iggy Pop's anecdotes about life in that city during the late-'60s riots. Set to a pulsing percussive soundtrack, with a backing chorus clearly modeled on the Rolling Stones' similarly foreboding "Gimme Shelter," "Panic in Detroit" is a furious succession of musical climaxes, riddled with imagery which is both gleefully apocalyptic and knowingly mundane.

Compared with the fury of the studio version, no live rendition has ever truly hit the spot -- indeed, the one in-concert performance which has been officially released, a B-side drawn from the 1974 American tour, so degenerates into a drum solo that it is scarcely even comparable. A more focused, but similarly unfulfilling studio version was recorded in 1979 and appears among the bonus tracks on Rykodisc's reissue of Scary Monsters. The original, however, remains untouchable.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Aladdin Sane 1973 Atlantic / Elektra / Rhino / Warner Bros. / Warner Music
David Live 1974 EMI Digital / Parlophone / Warner Music 5:41
Station to Station 1976 EMI Music Distribution
Scary Monsters 1980 Rykodisc 3:00
No Image 1982 RCA 5:53
Sound + Vision 1989 EMI Music Distribution 4:27
Alternative Biography 1997 Alter Ego
Heathen 2002 Columbia / Iso 2:59
Best of Bowie 2002 Virgin 4:28
Aladdin Sane/Diamond Dogs 2004 EMI Music Distribution 4:26
David Bowie Box 2007 Sony Legacy 3:01
101 Driving Songs 2008
Various Artists
Virgin 4:24
Five Years 1969-1973 2015 Rhino 4:28
Who Can I Be Now? (1974-1976) 2016 Parlophone
David Live [2005 Mix] 2016 Parlophone / Rhino / Warner Music 5:39
Live Nassau Coliseum '76 2017 Parlophone / Rhino / Warner Music 6:02
blue highlight denotes editor's pick