Let's Dance (David Bowie album)

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Let's Dance
Studio album by David Bowie
Released 14 April 1983
Recorded December 1982 at Power Station, New York[1]
Genre Post-disco[2]
Length 39:41
Label EMI
Producer David Bowie, Nile Rodgers
David Bowie chronology
Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)
(1980)
Let's Dance
(1983)
Ziggy Stardust: The Motion Picture
(1983)
Singles from Let's Dance
  1. "Let's Dance" b/w "Cat People (Putting Out Fire)"
    Released: 17 March 1983
  2. "China Girl" b/w "Shake It"
    Released: May 1983
  3. "Modern Love" b/w "Modern Love (Live)"
    Released: September 1983
  4. "Without You" b/w "Criminal World"
    Released: November 1983

Let's Dance is the fifteenth studio album by David Bowie, released in 1983, with co-production by Chic's Nile Rodgers. The title track of the album became one of Bowie's biggest hit singles, reaching No. 1 in the UK, US and various other countries. Further singles included "Modern Love" and "China Girl", which both reached No. 2 in the UK. "China Girl" was a new version of a song which Bowie had co-written with Iggy Pop for the latter's 1977 album The Idiot. The album also contains a rerecorded version of the song "Cat People (Putting Out Fire)" which had been a minor hit for Bowie a year earlier. Let's Dance is also notable as a stepping stone for the career of the Texas blues guitar virtuoso Stevie Ray Vaughan, who played on it.[1] The album was also released as a limited edition picture disc in 1983. Let's Dance has sold at least 7 million copies worldwide, making it Bowie's best-selling album.[3]

The success of the album surprised Bowie, who felt he had to continue to pander to the new pop audience he acquired with the album. This led to Bowie releasing two further solo albums in 1984 and 1987 that, despite their relative commercial success, did not sell as well as Let's Dance, were poorly received by critics at the time and subsequently dismissed by Bowie himself as his "Phil Collins years".[4] Bowie would form the hard rock and grunge-predecessor band Tin Machine in 1989 in an effort to rejuvenate himself artistically.

Songs and album development[edit]

David Bowie had planned to use producer Tony Visconti on the album, as the two had worked together on Bowie's previous five studio albums. However, he chose Nile Rodgers for the project, a move that came as a surprise to Visconti, who had set time aside to work on Let's Dance. Visconti called [Bowie's personal assistant] Coco and she said: "Well, you might as well know - he's been in the studio for the past two weeks with someone else. It's working out well and we won't be needing you. He's very sorry." The move damaged the two men's relationship and Visconti did not work with Bowie again for 20 years (until 2002's Heathen).[5] Rodgers later recalled that Bowie approached him to produce his album so that Bowie could have hit singles.[6]

Bowie, having just signed with EMI Records for a reported $17.5 million, worked with Rodgers to release a "commercially buoyant" album that was described as "original party-funk cum big bass drum sound greater than the sum of its influences." The album's influences were described as Louis Jordan, the Asbury Jukes horn section, Bill Doggett, Earl Bostic and James Brown.[1] Bowie spent three days making demos for the album in New York before cutting the album, a rarity for Bowie who, for the previous few albums, usually showed up with little more than "a few ideas."[7] Despite this, the album "was recorded, start to finish, including mixing, in 17 days," according to Rodgers.[8]

Stevie Ray Vaughan met Bowie at the 1982 Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland. After Vaughan's performance, Bowie was so impressed with the guitarist he later said "[he] completely floored me. I probably hadn't been so gung-ho about a guitar player since seeing Jeff Beck with his band the Tridents." When discussing the album, said, "to tell you the truth, I was not very familiar with David's music when he asked me to play on the sessions. ... David and I talked for hours and hours about our music, about funky Texas blues and its roots - I was amazed at how interested he was. At Montreux, he said something about being in touch and then tracked me down in California, months and months later."[1]

Unusually, Bowie played no instruments on the album. "I don't play a damned thing. This was a singer's album."[1]

A few years later, Bowie discussed his feelings on the track "Ricochet" (which Musician magazine called an "incendiary ballroom raveup")[1] from this album:

I thought it was a great song, and the beat wasn't quite right. It didn't roll the way it should have, the syncopation was wrong. It had an ungainly gait; it should have flowed. ... Nile [Rodgers] did his own thing to it, but it wasn't quite what I'd had in mind when I wrote the thing.[9]

Bowie later described the title track the same way: the original demo was "totally different" from the way that Nile arranged it.[10] Bowie played an early demo of the song for Nile Rodgers on a 12-string guitar with only 6 strings strung, and said to Nile, "Nile darling, I think I have a song which feels like it's a hit."[6] Nile then took the chords (which he said "felt folksy") and helped craft them into the version used in the final production of the song.[6]

Long-time collaborator Carlos Alomar, who had worked with Bowie since the mid-1970s and would continue to work with Bowie into the mid-'90s, has claimed was offered an "embarrassing" fee to play on the album, and refused to do so.[11] He also said (when working on Bowie's follow-up album, Tonight) that he didn't play on Let's Dance because Bowie only gave him two weeks' notice, and he was already booked with other work.[7] Alomar did however play on the accompanying tour.

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 3/5 stars[2]
Blender 4/5 stars[12]
Robert Christgau (B)[13]
Rolling Stone 4/5 stars[14]
Smash Hits 6.5/10 stars[15]

The album was generally positively reviewed by critics,[2][12][13][14] with at least one reviewer calling it "Bowie at his best."[7]

Legacy[edit]

The success of the album surprised Bowie. In 1997, he said "at the time, Let's Dance was not mainstream. It was virtually a new kind of hybrid, using blues-rock guitar against a dance format. There wasn't anything else that really quite sounded like that at the time. So it only seems commercial in hindsight because it sold so many [copies]. It was great in its way, but it put me in a real corner in that it fucked with my integrity."[16] Bowie recalled, "[It] was a good record, but it was only meant as a one-off project. I had every intention of continuing to do some unusual material after that. But the success of that record really forced me, in a way, to continue the beast. It was my own doing, of course, but I felt, after a few years, that I had gotten stuck."[17]

Bowie would later state that the success of the album caused him to hit a creative low point in his career which lasted the next few years.[16][18][19] "I remember looking out over these waves of people [who were coming to hear this record played live] and thinking, 'I wonder how many Velvet Underground albums these people have in their record collections?' I suddenly felt very apart from my audience. And it was depressing, because I didn't know what they wanted."[16]

After his follow-up albums Tonight (1984) and Never Let Me Down (1987) were critically dismissed,[20] Bowie formed the grunge-precursor band Tin Machine in an effort to regain his artistic vision.[21]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by David Bowie, except where noted.

Side one[edit]

  1. "Modern Love" – 4:46
  2. "China Girl" (Bowie, Iggy Pop) – 5:32
  3. "Let's Dance" – 7:38
  4. "Without You" – 3:08

Side two[edit]

  1. "Ricochet" – 5:14
  2. "Criminal World" (Peter Godwin, Duncan Browne, Sean Lyons) – 4:25
  3. "Cat People (Putting Out Fire)" (Lyrics: Bowie; music: Giorgio Moroder) – 5:09
  4. "Shake It" – 3:49

Reissues[edit]

In 1995 Virgin Records re-released the album on CD with "Under Pressure" as a bonus track. EMI did the second re-release in 1999 (featuring 24-bit digitally remastered sound and no bonus tracks).

In 1998 there was a reissue in the UK which was similar to the 1995 re-release but did not include the bonus track.

The Canadian version of the 1999 EMI release includes a data track, so that when the CD is loaded on a Windows PC, the user is presented with a promotion of internet access services and other premium content from the davidbowie.com website. This marks one of the earliest attempts by a mainstream artist to combine internet and normal promotion and distribution methods.

There was a further reissue in 2003 when EMI released the album as a hybrid stereo SACD/PCM CD.

Personnel[edit]

Performance[edit]

Technical[edit]

Charts[edit]

Sales and certifications[edit]

Region Certification Sales/shipments
Canada (Music Canada)[45] 5× Platinum 500,000^
Finland (Musiikkituottajat)[46] Gold 45,201[46]
France (SNEP)[47] Platinum 847,700[48]
Japan (Oricon Charts) 302,500[28]
Netherlands (NVPI)[49] Platinum 100,000^
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[50] Gold 50,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[51] Platinum 360,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[51]
1999 release
Silver
United States (RIAA)[52] Platinum 1,000,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f Timothy, White (May 1983), "David Bowie Interview", Musician magazine (55): 52–66, 122 
  2. ^ a b c http://www.allmusic.com/album/r2510
  3. ^ David (Bio), retrieved 17 July 2013 
  4. ^ Interview with David Bowie. Friday Night with Jonathan Ross. BBC. 5 July 2002.
  5. ^ David Currie, ed. (1985), David Bowie: The Starzone Interviews, England: Omnibus Press, ISBN 0-7119-06858 
  6. ^ a b c Preston, Andrew, "David Bowie's biggest fans reveal all", Daily Mail (London), retrieved 20 May 2013 
  7. ^ a b c Fricke, David (December 1984), "David Bowie Interview", Musician magazine (74): 46–56 
  8. ^ "Nile Rodgers interviewed by Peter Paphides". Twentyfirstcenturymusic.blogspot.com. 10 November 2011. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  9. ^ Isler, Scott (1987), "David Bowie Opens Up - A Little", Musician magazine: 64 
  10. ^ Interview with Craig Bromberg for Smart magazine, 1990
  11. ^ Edwards, Henry (1987), "The Return of the Put-Together Man", Spin magazine 2 (12): 56–60 
  12. ^ a b "Let's Dance – Blender". Blender. Retrieved 16 June 2009. 
  13. ^ a b http://www.robertchristgau.com/get_artist.php?name=david+bowie
  14. ^ a b http://www.rollingstone.com/music/albumreviews/lets-dance-19970617
  15. ^ Bush, Steve (14–27 April 1983). "David Bowie: Let's Dance". Smash Hits: 25. 
  16. ^ a b c Pond, Steve (March 1997), "Beyond Bowie", Live! magazine: 38–41, 93 
  17. ^ Fricke, David (19 October 1995), "Art Crime", Rolling Stone magazine (719): 148 
  18. ^ Mary Campbell for the Associated Press, 6 August 1993
  19. ^ Cohen, Scott (September 1991), "David Bowie Interview", Details magazine: 86–97 
  20. ^ Barton, David (8 June 1989), "David Bowie puts career on the line", Journal-American: D5 
  21. ^ Hendrickson, Mark (November 1995), David Bowie: Outside Looking in, retrieved 1 August 2013 
  22. ^ a b c Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, NSW: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6. 
  23. ^ "David Bowie – Let's Dance – austriancharts.at" (ASP). Retrieved 1 May 2014. 
  24. ^ "Top Albums/CDs - Volume 38, No. 12" (PHP). RPM. 21 May 1983. Retrieved 1 May 2014. 
  25. ^ "dutchcharts.nl David Bowie – Let's Dance" (ASP). dutchcharts.nl. MegaCharts. Retrieved 1 May 2014. 
  26. ^ "InfoDisc : Tous les Albums classés par Artiste > Choisir Un Artiste Dans la Liste" (PHP). infodisc.fr. Retrieved 1 May 2014.  Note: user must select 'David BOWIE' from drop-down.
  27. ^ a b "Hit Parade Italia – Gli album più venduti del 1983" (in Italian). hitparadeitalia.it. Retrieved 1 May 2014. 
  28. ^ a b Oricon Album Chart Book: Complete Edition 1970-2005. Roppongi, Tokyo: Oricon Entertainment. 2006. ISBN 4-87131-077-9. 
  29. ^ "charts.org.nz David Bowie – Let's Dance" (ASP). Recording Industry Association of New Zealand. Retrieved 1 May 2014. 
  30. ^ "norwegiancharts.com David Bowie – Let's Dance" (ASP). Retrieved 1 May 2014. 
  31. ^ Salaverri, Fernando (September 2005). Sólo éxitos: año a año, 1959–2002 (1st ed.). Spain: Fundación Autor-SGAE. ISBN 84-8048-639-2. 
  32. ^ "swedishcharts.com David Bowie – Let's Dance" (ASP). Sverigetopplistan. Retrieved 1 May 2014. 
  33. ^ "David Bowie > Artists > Official Charts". UK Albums Chart. Retrieved 1 May 2014. 
  34. ^ "allmusic ((( Let's Dance > Charts & Awards > Billboard Albums )))". allmusic.com. Retrieved 31 August 2011. 
  35. ^ "Album Search: David Bowie – Let's Dance" (ASP) (in German). Media Control. Retrieved 10 October 2013. 
  36. ^ "Austriancharts.at - Jahreshitparade 1983". Hung Medien. Retrieved 31 January 2014. 
  37. ^ "RPM Top 100 Albums of 1983". RPM. Retrieved 31 January 2014. 
  38. ^ "Dutch charts jaaroverzichten 1983" (in Dutch). Dutchcharts.nl. Retrieved 1 May 2014. 
  39. ^ "Les Albums (CD) de 1983 par InfoDisc" (PHP) (in French). infodisc.fr. Retrieved 29 January 2012. 
  40. ^ "年間アルバムヒットチャート 1983年(昭和58年)" [Japanese Year-End Albums Chart 1983] (in Japanese). Oricon. Retrieved 31 January 2014. 
  41. ^ "Everyhit.com UK Year-End Album Charts". Retrieved 31 January 2014. 
  42. ^ "Billboard BIZ: Top Pop Albums of 1983". billboard.biz. Archived from the original on 31 December 2012. Retrieved 1 May 2014. 
  43. ^ "RPM Top 100 Albums of 1984". RPM. Retrieved 12 March 2012. 
  44. ^ "Billboard BIZ: Top Pop Albums of 1984". billboard.biz. Archived from the original on 31 December 2012. Retrieved 1 May 2014. 
  45. ^ "Canadian album certifications – David Bowie – Let's Dance". Music Canada. Retrieved 25 May 2012. 
  46. ^ a b The first web page presents the sales figures, the second presents the certification limits:
  47. ^ "French album certifications – David Bowie – Let's Dance" (in French). InfoDisc.  Select DAVID BOWIE and click OK
  48. ^ "Les Albums Platine :" (in French). Infodisc.fr. Retrieved 25 May 2012. 
  49. ^ "Dutch album certifications – David Bowie – Let's Dance" (in Dutch). Nederlandse Vereniging van Producenten en Importeurs van beeld- en geluidsdragers. Retrieved 25 April 2011. 
  50. ^ "Solo Exitos 1959–2002 Ano A Ano: Certificados 1979–1990". Solo Exitos 1959–2002 Ano A Ano. 
  51. ^ a b "British album certifications – David Bowie – Let's Dance". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 21 January 2014.  Enter Let's Dance in the field Search. Select Title in the field Search by. Select album in the field By Format. Click Go
  52. ^ "American album certifications – David Bowie – Let's Dance". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 25 May 2012.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH