Let's Dance (David Bowie song)

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"Let's Dance"
LetsDance.jpg
Single by David Bowie
from the album Let's Dance
B-side "Cat People (Putting Out Fire)"
Released 14 March 1983 (1983-03-14)[1]
Format
Recorded Power Station, Manhattan, New York City, December 1982
Genre
Length 4:08 (single edit)
7:37 (album version)
Label EMIEA152
Songwriter(s) David Bowie
Producer(s) Nile Rodgers
David Bowie singles chronology
"Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy"
(1982)
"Let's Dance"
(1983)
"China Girl"
(1983)

"Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy"
(1982)
"Let's Dance"
(1983)
"China Girl"
(1983)
Music video
"Let's Dance" on YouTube

"Let's Dance" is the title-track from English singer David Bowie's 1983 album of the same name. It was also released as the first single from that album in 1983 and went on to become one of his biggest-selling tracks. Stevie Ray Vaughan played the guitar solo at the end of the song.

The single was one of Bowie's fastest selling, entering the UK Singles Chart at No. 5 on its first week of release, staying at the top of the charts for three weeks.[6] Soon afterwards, the single topped the Billboard Hot 100, becoming Bowie's second and last single to reach number-one in the U.S. In Oceania, it narrowly missed topping the Australian charts, peaking at No. 2 for three weeks[7] but it topped the chart for 4 consecutive weeks in New Zealand. The single became one of the best selling of the year across North America, Central Europe and Oceania. It is one of the 300 best-selling UK singles of all time.[8]

Demo[edit]

In a New York after hours club in November 1982, Nile Rodgers met David Bowie, and began talking with him about jazz music. Bowie subsequently invited Rodgers to Mountain Studios in Montreux, Switzerland, which Rodgers understood to be an audition.

Bowie played Rodgers what he later described as a "folk-song", on a 12-string acoustic guitar with only six strings, which Bowie wanted to call "Let's Dance". Bowie agreed to let Rodgers arrange the music, and he switched the key up to a B♭ scale. After Rodgers inverted the basic tune and added upstrokes, engineer Bob Clearmountain then separated the groups of notes with a distinctive drum and bass mix delay. Bowie, Rodgers, Erdal Kızılçay and other unnamed musicians then recorded the demo tape on 19 and 20 December 1982 at Mountain Studios.

In 2018, Rodgers recalled "This [demo] recording was the first indication of what we could do together as I took his 'folk song' and arranged it into something that the entire world would soon be dancing to and seemingly has not stopped dancing to for the last 35 years! It became the blueprint not only for 'Let’s Dance' the song but for the entire album as well."[9] An edited version of the demo recording, mixed by Rodgers, was released digitally on 8 January 2018, and the full-length (7:34) demo was released as a 12" vinyl single on 21 April.[10]

Music video[edit]

The music video (which uses the shorter single version) was made in March 1983 by David Mallet on location in Australia including a bar in Carinda in New South Wales and the Warrumbungle National Park near Coonabarabran. In the beginning it featured Bowie with a double bass player inside the one-room pub at the Carinda Hotel and an Aboriginal couple 'naturally' dancing "to the song they're playin' on the radio". The couple in this scene and in the whole video is played by Terry Roberts and Joelene King, two students from Sydney's Aboriginal Islander Dance Theatre. As Bowie opted for real people, some residents of the 194-souls village of Carinda are in the pub too, watching and mocking the couple. They do not understand who David is nor what the take is all about, hence their behaviour towards the couple as seen in the video is real.[11][12][13]

The red shoes mentioned in the song's lyrics appear in several contexts. The couple wanders solemnly through the outback with some other Aborigines, when the young woman finds a pair of mystical red pumps on a desert mountain and instantly learns to dance. Bowie's calling 'put on your red shoes' recalls Hans Christian Andersen's tale "The Red Shoes", in which the little girl was vainly tempted to wear the shoes only to find they could not be removed, separating her from God's grace - "let's dance for fear your grace should fall" [14] "The red shoes are a found symbol. They are the simplicity of the capitalist society and sort of striving for success - black music is all about 'Put on your red shoes'", as Bowie confirmed.[15]

Soon, the couple is visiting museums, enjoying candlelit dinners and casually dropping credit cards, drunk on modernity and consumerism. During a stroll through an arcade of shops, the couple spots the same pair of red pumps for sale in a window display, their personal key to joy and freedom. They toss away the magic kicks in revulsion, stomping them into the dust and return to the mountains, taking one final look at the city they’ve left behind.

Bowie described this video (and the video for his subsequent single, "China Girl") as "very simple, very direct" statements against racism and oppression, but also a very direct statement about integration of one culture with another.[11][12]

Reception[edit]

"Let's Dance" was described by Ed Power in the Irish Examiner as "a decent chunk of funk-rock".[5] Writing for the BBC, David Quantick said "the combination of Bowie and Rodgers on the title track was perfect – Bowie's epic lyric about dancing under 'serious moonlight' and the brilliant filching of the crescendo 'ahh!'s from the Beatles' version of the Isley Brothers' 'Twist and Shout' were masterstrokes, each welded to a loud, stadium-ised drum and bass sound".[16]

The song introduced Bowie to a new, younger audience oblivious to his former career in the 1970s. Although the track was his most popular to date, its very success had the incongruous effect of distancing Bowie from his new fans, with Bowie saying he did not know who they were or what they wanted.[17] His next two albums, made as an attempt to cater to his new-found audience, suffered creatively as a result and Bowie cited them as the albums he was least satisfied with in his career.[18]

Legacy[edit]

In the 2001 movie Zoolander, the song plays as Bowie appears in the movie.

M. Ward covered the song on his 2003 album Transfiguration of Vincent.

In 2007, Bowie gave R&B singer Craig David permission to sample the song for his single "Hot Stuff (Let's Dance)".[19]

Let's Dance: Bowie Down Under, a short documentary by Rubika Shah and Ed Gibbs, explored the making of the music video in the Australian outback. It premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival in February 2015.[20]

Jimmy Fallon covered the song as a tribute to Bowie on a 2017 episode of Saturday Night Live;[21] the episode was the first-ever to be broadcast live across the entire United States. Nile Rogers also played the song on guitar as well.

The song was used in commercials to promote figure skating for the 2018 Winter Olympics on NBC.

Live performances[edit]

The track was a regular on the Serious Moonlight Tour (the name derived from a lyric in "Let's Dance"), and was released on the 1983 concert video Serious Moonlight. The song was also performed live on Bowie's 1987 Glass Spider Tour (and released on 1988's Glass Spider), and on his 1990 Sound+Vision Tour. It was played acoustically in 1996 and then reworked semi-acoustically for tours in 2000 and later. A live recording from 27 June 2000 was released on BBC Radio Theatre, London, June 27, 2000, a bonus disc accompanying the first release of Bowie at the Beeb in 2000. Nile Rodgers also regularly plays the song, and it was part of his set during his 2017/18 world tour with Chic.

Track listing[edit]

7": EMI America / EA 152 (UK)[edit]

  1. "Let's Dance" (Single Version) (David Bowie) – 4:07
  2. "Cat People (Putting Out Fire)" (Bowie, Giorgio Moroder) – 5:09

12": EMI America / 12EA 152 (UK)[edit]

  1. "Let's Dance" (Bowie) – 7:38
  2. "Cat People (Putting Out Fire)" (Bowie, Moroder) – 5:09

Cassette[edit]

  1. "Let's Dance" (Bowie) – 7:38
  2. "Cat People (Putting Out Fire)" (Bowie, Moroder) – 5:09

Personnel[edit]

Production

Chart performance[edit]

Weekly charts[edit]

Year-end charts[edit]

Chart (1983) Rank
Australia (Kent Music Report)[57] 24
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[58] 16
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[59] 1
Canada Top Singles (RPM)[60] 3
France (IFOP)[61] 10
Germany (Official German Charts)[62] 19
Italy (FIMI)[63] 19
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[64] 10
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[65] 14
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[66] 1
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[67] 10
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[68] 4
US Billboard Hot 100[69] 18
US Cash Box[70] 4

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Canada (Music Canada)[71] Platinum 100,000^
France (SNEP)[72] Gold 873,000[73]
United Kingdom (BPI)[74] Gold 1,064,227[75]
United States (RIAA)[76] Gold 1,000,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone

Other releases[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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  2. ^ Erlewine,Stephen Thomas. "David Bowie - Let's Dance review". Allmusic. Retrieved February 2, 2016. 
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  6. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. pp. 421–2. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
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  18. ^ Interview with David Bowie. Friday Night with Jonathan Ross. BBC. 5 July 2002.
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  21. ^ "Jimmy Fallon Let's Dance Monologue - SNL". Retrieved 22 June 2017. 
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  57. ^ "Forum – ARIA Charts: Special Occasion Charts – Top 100 End of Year AMR Charts - 1980s". Australian-charts.com. Hung Medien. Archived from the original on 28 August 2014. Retrieved 15 June 2016. 
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  63. ^ "Hit Parade Italia - I singoli più venduti del 1983". FIMI (in Italian). Retrieved 10 June 2016. 
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  65. ^ "Dutch Jaaroverzichten Single 1983". Single Top 100 (in Dutch). Retrieved 10 June 2016. 
  66. ^ "Official New Zealand Music Chart - End of Year Charts 1983". Recorded Music NZ. Retrieved 10 June 2016. 
  67. ^ "Schweizer Jahreshitparade 1983". Swiss Singles Chart (in German). Archived from the original on 5 August 2016. Retrieved 10 June 2016. 
  68. ^ "Chart Archive – 1980s Singles". everyHit.com. Retrieved 25 February 2017. 
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  70. ^ "The CASH BOX Year-End Charts: 1983". Archived from the original on 11 September 2012. Retrieved 2012-09-11. . Cash Box magazine.
  71. ^ "Canadian single certifications – David Bowie – Let's Dance". Music Canada. Retrieved 27 February 2016. 
  72. ^ "French single certifications – David Bowie – Let's Dance" (in French). InfoDisc.  Select DAVID BOWIE and click OK. 
  73. ^ "Les Singles en Or :" (in French). Infodisc.fr. Archived from the original on 10 January 2014. Retrieved 12 June 2013. 
  74. ^ "British single certifications – David Bowie – Let's Dance". British Phonographic Industry.  Select singles in the Format field. Select Gold in the Certification field. Enter Let's Dance in the search field and then press Enter.
  75. ^ Copsey, Rob (19 September 2017). "The UK's Official Chart 'millionaires' revealed". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 29 September 2017. 
  76. ^ "American single certifications – David Bowie – Let's Dance". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 12 June 2013.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH. 
General
  • Pegg, Nicholas, The Complete David Bowie, Reynolds & Hearn Ltd, 2000, ISBN 1-903111-14-5
  • Mojo Bowie, EMAP Performance Network Ltd, 2004

External links[edit]