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.