On Oct 6th, 1972 David Bowie went into the RCA studio in New York to record the song Jean Genie. It would end up on his sixth studio album Aladdin Sane.
Bowie described the song as “a smorgasbord of imagined Americana”, with a protagonist inspired by Iggy Pop, and the title is in reference to author Jean Genet. Bowie would go on to clarify
“an Iggy-type character… it wasn’t actually Iggy.” Bowie and Iggy were very close at this time.
Here’s a clip of Iggy Pop speaking about Bowie.
The line “He’s so simple minded, he can’t drive his module” would later give the band Simple Minds their name.
Mick Rock directed a film clip to promote the song, in October 1972 in San Francisco, mixing concert and studio footage of Bowie performing with the Spiders From Mars. The woman in the video is Cyrinda Foxe who was an American actress, model, and publicist, best known for her role in Andy Warhol’s Bad (1977). She was married to both David Johansen of the proto-punk band New York Dolls and Steven Tyler of the hard rock band Aerosmith. She is the mother of Mia Tyler.
It also featured location shots of the singer posing at the Mars Hotel with Cyrinda Foxe. Bowie wanted the video to depict “Ziggy as a kind of Hollywood street-rat” with a “consort of the Marilyn brand”. This led to Foxe’s casting, and she flew from New York to San Francisco especially for the shoot.
The Jean Genie did very well for David Bowie and is considered to be one of his more well-known songs. It spent 17 weeks on the Billboard charts and peaked at #2, making it Bowie’s biggest hit to date.
Watch the music video here: