Why David Bowie Regretted ‘Let’s Dance’ So Much


David Bowie was within the temper to attempt one thing completely different because the early ’80s unfolded.

He’d been listening to R&B and blues data whereas on trip within the South Pacific from the likes of James Brown and Albert King, and that ended up forging his subsequent musical path.

“I requested myself, ‘Why have I chosen this music?'” Bowie later mused. “It was very non-uptight music, and it comes from a way of delight and happiness. There may be enthusiasm and optimism on these recordings.”

In different phrases, one thing a world away from the Berlin Trilogy. Then he met Stylish legend Nile Rodgers at a New York nightclub. They hit it off, and Bowie shared a number of of his demos, together with a folky quantity that will grow to be the title observe for his subsequent LP.

Sadly, Rodgers was unimpressed. “I come from dance music,” he remembered telling Bowie. “You possibly can’t name that factor you simply performed ‘Let’s Dance.'”

Engineer Bob Clearmountain and Rodgers went to work, principally making the whole lot greater: greater drums, a much bigger vocal, greater chords, extra delay. Bowie was with them, step for step. “I actually wished that very same constructive optimistic rock ‘n’ roll, big-band sound that was very impressionistic for me again when,” Bowie informed Rolling Stone. “It is acquired a tough reduce – it sears by.”

Rodgers additionally shared an insider’s trick from his hit-making period with Stylish. “For me, as a Black artist, it was very troublesome for me to get hits as a result of we had fewer radio stations to reveal our music,” Rodgers informed Yahoo. “So to get consideration, a method of mine was I all the time began my songs with the refrain: ‘Ahhh, freak out!‘ and ‘We’re household!‘ – after which, in fact, there’s ‘Let’s Dance.'”

Watch David Bowie’s ‘Let’s Dance’ Video

A lot of this was previous hat for Rodgers however fully new for Bowie. “When David gave me this award – for the ARChive of Up to date Music – he stated, ‘To my buddy, Nile Rodgers: the one man who might make me begin a tune with a refrain,'” Rodgers added.

On the identical time, nevertheless, Rodgers described himself as “persona non grata, when nobody would work with me due to ‘disco sucks'” – so, in a manner, “Let’s Dance” was a brand new begin for each of them. “This man, who was thought of one of many nice, modern rockers, picked a disco man who no person wished to work with to collaborate with,” Rodgers informed Yahoo. “And we wound up making the most important document of his profession.”

It was Bowie’s thought to usher in a then-unknown named Stevie Ray Vaughan whom he’d tripped over at a latest Montreux Jazz Competition. He felt the Texas guitarist might “grow to be midwife” to a brand new sound that saved a “European sensibility however owed its impression to the blues.”

The consequence was Bowie’s largest hit, as “Let’s Dance” topped the singles charts in the U.S. and U.Ok. Bowie and Rodgers accomplished the album in simply 17 days, and it went on to grow to be Bowie’s first platinum vendor.

Vaughan leveraged Let’s Dance to discover a a lot wider viewers. “Previous to that, once we made Let’s Dance, he was nonetheless working as a supply man or one thing,” Rodgers said in 2012. “He wasn’t even a full-time musician but.” For Bowie, nevertheless, “Let’s Dance” and its guardian album turned handcuffs.

Hearken to David Bowie Carry out ‘Let’s Dance’ in Live performance

“I’ve listened to him discuss it, and it actually was uncomfortable for him – as a result of it put him in a world that even he had by no means skilled earlier than,” Rodgers informed Yahoo. “And I get it: You go from being a really eclectic, avant-garde artist that individuals had tons of respect for, the place you’re chatting with individuals on the next stage and – I don’t imply to sound elitist, however the appreciation of David Bowie’s music previous to Let’s Dance presupposes a certain quantity of sophistication on behalf of the listener. He was very, very on the innovative.”

“Let’s Dance” was many issues – new wave, post-disco, rock, dance, funk – however it was most actually not innovative. “I attempted passionately arduous within the first a part of the ’80s to slot in, and I had my first overground success,” Bowie later informed Interview journal. “I used to be abruptly now not ‘the world’s largest cult artist’ in widespread music.”

His new label wished one other hit, and Bowie dutifully tried. However 1984’s Tonight and 1987’s By no means Let Me Down did not have the identical vitality or sense of discovery.

“I went mainstream in a serious manner with the tune ‘Let’s Dance,'” Bowie famous. “I pandered to that in my subsequent few albums, and what I discovered I had executed was put a field round myself. It was very arduous for individuals to see me as something aside from the particular person within the swimsuit who did ‘Let’s Dance’ – and it was driving me mad as a result of it took all my ardour for experimenting away.”

He discarded all of it, beginning over with a brand new band of collaborators Bowie referred to as Tin Machine. “He stated to me at one session within the early ’90s that he wanted to get again to his essence,” late-era collaborator Mike Garson later remembered. “‘Let’s Dance’ was such an enormous hit, it threw him and he misplaced his heart. For an artist like David, that was very disturbing.”

Bowie had grow to be “one thing I by no means wished to be,” he admitted in Bowie on Bowie. “I had began interesting to individuals who purchased Phil Collins albums.”

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