I was reminded of this song when "Hoople" appeared as a crossword entry this past week. And since I'd never been able to quite decipher all the words, I sought out this lyrics-annotated version.
"All the Young Dudes" is a song written by David Bowie, originally recorded and released as a single by Mott the Hoople in 1972. In 2004, Rolling Stone rated "All the Young Dudes" No. 253 in its list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time... It is also one of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.
Bowie himself once claimed that the song was not intended to be an anthem for glam, that it actually carried a darker message of apocalypse. According to an interview Bowie gave to Rolling Stone magazine in 1973, the boys are carrying the same news that the newscaster was carrying in the song "Five Years" from Ziggy Stardust; the news being the fact that the Earth had only five years left to live. Bowie explains: "All the Young Dudes is a song about this news. It's no hymn to the youth, as people thought. It is completely the opposite."
The original Mott the Hoople release had to be changed lyrically in order that it might be played on UK radio and TV. The line in the second verse: "Wendy's stealing clothes from Marks and Sparks" was a reference to UK retailer Marks & Spencer, also known by that colloquialism. As such, air play of the song in its original form would have breached broadcasting regulations relating to advertising in force at the time. The line was replaced with: "Wendy's stealing clothes from unlocked cars". Today, both versions are freely aired.