Tonight (David Bowie album)
|Studio album by David Bowie|
|Released||1 September 1984|
|Studio||Le Studio, Morin Heights, Quebec, Canada|
|Label||EMI America – DB 1|
|David Bowie chronology|
|Singles from Tonight|
Tonight is the sixteenth studio album by David Bowie, released in 1984. It followed his most commercially successful album, Let's Dance. He described the album, released immediately after his previous album's tour wrapped up, as an effort to "keep my hand in, so to speak," and to retain the new audience that he had recently acquired. Although the album was another immediate commercial success, reaching number one in the UK Albums Chart in October 1984, it has received mostly poor reviews from music critics and Bowie expressed dissatisfaction with it in later years.
- 1 Album production
- 2 Singles and videos
- 3 Critical reception
- 4 Track listing
- 5 Production credits
- 6 Charts
- 7 References
David Bowie worked on Tonight after finishing up his Serious Moonlight Tour in support of his previous album Let's Dance. He did not have much luck writing while on tour, so he described the process of recording the album Tonight this way:
It was rushed. The process wasn't rushed; we actually took our time recording the thing; Let's Dance was done in three weeks, Tonight took five weeks or something, which for me is a really long time. I like to work fast in the studio. There wasn't much of my writing on it 'cause I can't write on tour and I hadn't assembled anything to put out. But I thought it a kind of violent effort at a kind of Pin Ups.
Bowie purposefully sought to keep the sound of the band he had used on the previous album and tour, feeling that the new fans he had accumulated would expect to hear the same thing on the new album that they'd heard before, hence the inclusion of the "Borneo Horns" players on the album.
Like Let's Dance, but unlike most previous Bowie albums, Bowie played no instruments on the record, and in fact he delegated almost all responsibility for the music played to his musicians, only occasionally offering critical input.
Bowie brought in Derek Bramble and Hugh Padgham to produce the record, the former receiving the nod from Bowie due to some of the demos he'd recently produced for English female singer Jaki Graham. As with Let's Dance, Bowie prepared for the album by recording some demos before hand, this time showing up with 8 of the 9 songs that would appear on the album. This surprised collaborator Carlos Alomar, who said "it was the first time in the eleven years that I've been with the damn man that he's brought in anything."
Iggy Pop spent a good deal of time in the studio with Bowie and the band while the album was being recorded, stating "I worked extensively on that album. There's a lot more work there than is reflected in just the simple co-writing credit for two songs and some of the old stuff." When asked why Bowie included so much Pop-written material on the album, Iggy could only guess. "I think he just wanted the songs heard more," a sentiment Bowie would mirror when covering Pop's "Bang Bang" on his next album, Never Let Me Down.
Track production details
Some of the demo tracks were not yet named, but they were numbered, called simply "1," "2" and "3." "1" would turn into the "irreligious" album track "Loving the Alien". Bowie described "Loving the Alien" as a very personal bit of writing that he did not feel fit in with the rest of the album because it is such a dark song amidst lighter fare. He said, ""Alien" came about because of my feeling that so much history is wrong - as is being rediscovered all the time - and that we base so much on the wrong knowledge that we've gleaned." Bowie cut the demo for the song in Montreux, Switzerland, with a guitarist and a drummer he had drafted from a local Swiss band.
Demo songs "2" and "3" were not finished for the album, much to Padgham's regret. He said:
They were really just jams. David had some riffs on a tape, in his head, and the band would jam on them and we'd make a bit of a song out of it. But they were quite raunchy songs. At one point, David asked me what my least favorite song out of the eleven or twelve we had was, and I said 'Blue Jean.' I thought it was a bit lightweight. I would have rather had "2" in its place. I couldn't tell you why he didn't put them on the album. But I would have loved to have finished them.
Two songs were covers of older Iggy Pop songs: "Neighborhood Threat" and "Tonight", the former of which stands out as a track Bowie wished he had not done, with him later calling it "disastrous". "That's one I wish I'd never touched, or at least touched it differently. It went totally wrong. It sounded so tight and compromised, and it was such a gas doing it. It was the wrong band to do it with -- wonderful band, but it wasn't quite right for that song."
"Don't Look Down", which was one of Bowie's returns to a reggae-style track (after Lodger's "Yassassin"), perplexed Bowie: "I tried it every which way. I tried it jazz-rock, I tried it as a march, and then I just hit on an old ska-sounding beat, and it picked up life. Taking energy away from the musical side reinforced the lyrics and gave them their own energy. I think working with Derek Bramble helped because he played popper reggae bass lines."
For "Tonight", the title track and the other reggae-style track on the album, Bowie eliminated Iggy's original spoken-word introduction, calling it an "idiosyncratic thing" of Iggy's that "seemed not part of my vocabulary. ... I guess [removing the spoken introduction] changed the whole sentiment around. It still has that same barren feeling, but it's out of that specific area that I'm not at home in." Pop approved of Bowie's changes. For the vocals to the song, Bowie and Turner sang face-to-face, although Bowie went back and re-recorded the first verse after deciding to sing his part in a higher octave.
"Dancing with the Big Boys", which Bowie also co-wrote with Pop, was written and recorded in eight hours as they egged each other on. In what was described as an "exhilarating rush", Bowie and Pop "went in [to the studio] with a few bottles of beer and would virtually bellow out anything that came into their heads," said Padgham. "And I just recorded it all." The song is about the "little guy" being crushed by "oppressive corporate structures." The lyrics were taken from a backlog of unused lyrics; the line "this dot marks your location" was a reference to a "lengthy irritating stay" at a New York Hotel (Bowie had been looking at the hotel room's fire escape map), and "Your family is a football team" was a reference to the immigrant families working in New York; "the whole family [has] to work together for survival." The track elicited this from Bowie:
There's a particular sound I'm after that I haven't really got yet; I'll either crack it on the next album or retire from it. I think I got quite close to it on "Dancing with the Big Boys." ... I got very musical over the last couple of years - trying to write musically and develop things the way people used to write in the Fifties. I stayed away from experimentation. Now, I think I should be a bit more adventurous. And in "Big Boys," Iggy and I broke away from all that for one track, and it came nearer to the sound I was looking for than anything else.
Singles and videos
The album spawned three singles: "Tonight", "Blue Jean" and "Loving the Alien". "Blue Jean" in turn spawned several videos, including an "elaborate" 20-minute-long collaboration with Julien Temple which was described as more of a "minifilm" than a video, and represented Bowie's interest in making actual movies.
|The Rolling Stone Album Guide|||
Despite some positive contemporary reviews of the album, other contemporary reviews recognised this effort as "more of a stopgap than a startling new burst of creativity" and Padgham, who co-produced the album, admitted at the time it was not as innovative as other Bowie albums.
An article for Melody Maker later dismissed Tonight as "rotten". AllMusic critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine called it "one of the weakest albums Bowie ever recorded" and wrote that "none of the material equals the songs on Let's Dance", although he made an exception for "Blue Jean". The New Rolling Stone Album Guide described Tonight as "an expensive quickie padded with lame covers". Alexis Petridis of The Guardian stated in a retrospective of Bowie's career in 2016: "Let’s Dance... had its moments ... Tonight, however, did not".
Bowie would later distance himself from the album, acknowledging that it was not one of his stronger efforts. In 1989 when working with Tin Machine, he mused "There's stuff on [the album] that I could really kick myself about. When I listen to those demos it's, 'How did it turn out like that?' You should hear "Loving the Alien" on demo. It's wonderful on demo. I promise you! (laughs). But on the album, it's ... not as wonderful."
Despite the general consensus on the album, Stylus Magazine reviewed the album in 2005 as part of its "On Second Thought" section and concluded that "Tonight is not a great album. It is, however, a good album, and perhaps more importantly, it’s a much better album than you think it is, or may have been led to believe. Bowie’s made some subpar records, but this isn't one of them—and frankly, even its failures are boring, because, well, it’s an '80s Bowie album, from a decade in which he was wildly inconsistent, but also never dull." In 2016, Yo Zushi of the New Statesman also defended the album, writing "no album that begins with the seven-minute masterpiece 'Loving the Alien' and contains the rocking 'Blue Jean' should have received the drubbing it got". He also considered "the TV-special-style cover of the Beach Boys' 'God Only Knows' is as stirring, in its cold, almost Brechtian way, as Station to Station's 'Wild Is the Wind' – it’s like watching Elvis in Vegas through a sheet of ice."
LP: EMI DB 1 (UK)
|1.||"Loving the Alien"||David Bowie||7:11|
|2.||"Don't Look Down" (Originally by Iggy Pop from New Values, 1979)||Iggy Pop, James Williamson||4:11|
|3.||"God Only Knows" (Originally by The Beach Boys from Pet Sounds, 1966)||Brian Wilson, Tony Asher||3:08|
|4.||"Tonight" (Performed by Bowie and Tina Turner; originally by Iggy Pop from Lust for Life, 1977)||Bowie, Pop||3:46|
|5.||"Neighborhood Threat" (Originally by Iggy Pop from Lust for Life, 1977)||Bowie, Pop, Ricky Gardiner||3:12|
|7.||"Tumble and Twirl"||Bowie, Pop||5:00|
|8.||"I Keep Forgettin'" (Originally by Chuck Jackson)||Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller||2:34|
|9.||"Dancing with the Big Boys" (Performed by Bowie and Pop)||Bowie, Pop, Carlos Alomar||3:34|
CD: Virgin CDVUS97 (UK)
|10.||"This Is Not America" (1985 single release, by David Bowie/Pat Metheny Group)||Bowie, Pat Metheny, Lyle Mays||3:51|
|11.||"As the World Falls Down" (from the Labyrinth soundtrack, 1986)||Bowie||4:46|
|12.||"Absolute Beginners" (from the Absolute Beginners soundtrack, 1986)||Bowie||8:00|
- Carlos Alomar: guitars
- Derek Bramble: bass guitar, guitar, synthesiser, backing vocals
- Carmine Rojas: bass guitar
- Mark King: bass guitar on "Tumble and Twirl" (uncredited)
- Sammy Figueroa: percussion
- Omar Hakim: drums
- Guy St. Onge: marimba
- Robin Clark, George Simms, Curtis King: vocals
- Tina Turner: vocals on "Tonight"
- Iggy Pop: vocals on "Dancing with the Big Boys"
- The Borneo Horns:
Carlos Alomar used the following guitars in the recording and production of the album: an Alembic stereo, a Stratocaster, a Kramer, a prototype Steinberger, a Martin 12-string acoustic, "an old Guild" six-string acoustic, and a gut-string cuatro guitar. Derek Bramble played the following synthesizers: an Oberheim OB-Xa, a Jupiter 8, a Yamaha DX7, a PPG a Fairlight and a Roland 6-707 guitar synthesizer. He also played a Steinway piano and a Music Man Cutlass bass. Carmine Rojas played a Fender Precision bass and two ESP custom basses. Omar Hakim played a Gretsch drum set and a Simmons SDS-5 electronic drum kit.
Sales and certifications
Now That's What I Call Music 3 by Various artists
|UK number one album
6–12 October 1984
The Unforgettable Fire by U2
Diamond Life by Sade
|Dutch Mega Chart number-one album
13 October 1984
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- Nathan Brackett; Christian Hoard, eds. (2004). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide. Simon & Schuster Ltd. p. 99. ISBN 978-0743201698.
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- "British album certifications – David Bowie – Tonight". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 25 May 2013. Enter Tonight in the field Keywords. Select Title in the field Search by. Select album in the field By Format. Select Gold in the field By Award. Click Search
- "American album certifications – David Bowie – Tonight". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 25 May 2013. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH