Any critics who doubted David Bowie's hard rock credentials following his breakthrough in 1972 (and there were some) were forced into a serious rethink following the release of this, his third British hit single of the year, and the biggest one yet. Released just in time for Christmas, "Jean Genie" soared to number two, and that despite the counter-attractions of the latest single by labelmates the Sweet -- "Blockbuster" plundered the self-same Yardbirds/Deviants riff as "Jean Genie," a grisly coincidence which gave Bowie's supporters pause for thought, too. Their hero, after all, was pushing back the frontiers of rock itself. The Sweet, on the other hand were...well, they were the Sweet, an unabashed bubblegum band last seen cavorting around the TV dressed as Native Americans. Hmmm, maybe they weren't so bad after all.
Included on Bowie's next album, Aladdin Sane, "Jean Genie" is surely the most performed song in Bowie's entire repertoire, although it is ironic that the most legendary version of all, recorded at the 1973 farewell concert with Jeff Beck guesting on dual lead guitar, was absent from the official Ziggy Stardust -- The Motion Picture document of the event. It is readily available, however, on bootlegs taken from the concert film's original airing on U.S. TV in 1974. Other impressive performances date from Bowie's own 1974 American tour, the 1983 Serious Moonlight outing, and the 1997 Earthling tour.