Bowie timesingle.jpg
   Lyrics                     Video
From the album  Aladdin Sane
B-side “The Prettiest Star”
Released 13 April 1973 (1973-04-13) (United States)
Format 7″ single
Recorded Trident Studios, London, England, January 1973
Length 3:38 (7″ single edit)
5:14 (Full-length album version)
Label RCA
0007 (U.S.)
Writer(s) David Bowie
  • Ken Scott
  • David Bowie
Bowie Singles Discography
More from Aladdin Sane album
“Cracked Actor”
“The Prettiest Star”

Time is a song by David Bowie. Written in New Orleans in November 1972 during the American leg of Bowie’s first Ziggy Stardust tour, it was recorded in London in January 1973 and released as the opening track on side two of the album Aladdin Sane that April. An edited version of the song supplanted the release of the single “Drive-In Saturday” in the United States and Japan. The piece has been described as “burlesque vamp,” and compared to the cabaret music of Jacques Brel and Bertolt Brecht/Kurt Weill. Keyboardist Mike Garson said that he employed “the old stride piano style from the 20s and I mixed it up with avant-garde jazz styles plus it had the element of show music, plus it was very European.” Co-producer Ken Scott took credit for the idea of mixing the sound of Bowie’s breathing right up front when the music paused, just before guitarist Mick Ronson launched into his cacophonous solo.

The song’s best-known couplet is “Time – he flexes like a whore / Falls wanking to the floor”; RCA allowed it to remain in the US single edit, being unfamiliar with the meaning of the British term “wanking”. However, when Bowie came to perform the song on the U.S. television special The 1980 Floor Show in August 1973, he slurred the line in such a way as to render it “Falls swanking to the floor. Conversely, RCA cut the line “In quaaludes and red wine” from the single, while Bowie retained it for The 1980 Floor Show. The phrase “Billy Dolls” refers to Billy Murcia, late drummer for the New York Dolls.

Like its parent album, “Time” has divided critical opinion. Biographer David Buckley calls the full-length version “five minutes of wired perfection” and the lyrics “poetic and succinct”, while NME critics Roy Carr and Charles Shaar Murray have described the words as sounding “strained and incomplete”, concluding that “with such a weak lyric, the overly melodramatic music sounds faintly absurd”