Sunday, April 14

An Album A Day #12: David Bowie's LET'S DANCE [1983]



Before Let's Dance came out on this day thirty[!] years ago, HERC liked exactly 5 David Bowie songs:  
  • The original space jam "Space Oddity"; 
  • the Philly disco funk of "Fame" and "Fashion"
  • and the timeless "Changes" and "Young Americans"
He also liked Bowie's 1981 duet with Queen on "Under Pressure" but considers it more of a Queen song than a Bowie song.  In the Hideaway's Digital Archives, HERC has edited the song's artist field to read Queen + David Bowie.



It is rare in this day and age to purchase music simply because of the way the cover looks but when HERC saw the album Let's Dance in the record store one day in the Spring of 1983, he bought it because he liked the way the artist's name was printed on the cover - it reminded him of the Everlast logo (above).  Hand to God, he hadn't heard any of the album's tracks yet.  They didn't play Bowie on the New Rock station HERC listened to exclusively at the time although HERC would later realize there would be no New Rock without David Bowie.


After playing the album a few times over the next week or so, HERC realized two things: 1) it was on the short side, coming in just under 40 minutes and 2) it was really good as he listened to both sides through and through without skipping any of the eight tracks.  The next time he was at the wrecka stow, he saw and purchased the 12" single for the songs "Let's Dance" and "Cat People (Putting Out Fire)" not realizing until he got home that both songs were presented in their regular album versions and not extended or remixed in any way.  In HERC's defense, the single's rear cover lacks any info (below).



It was on an episode of Friday Night Videos in the late Summer of 1983, while spending time with a lady friend at her parents house, that HERC first saw the video for the album's title track.  It was not quite the visual he had expected to see after listening to the album many times.  And the song was edited down from seven and a half minutes on the album to barely four minutes in its single mix.


"Cat People (Putting Out Fire), the single's b-side, quickly became HERC's favorite track from the album.  Bowie had hoped to use the soundtrack version he had recorded with Giorgio Moroder for the 1981 film Cat People but the original record label (MCA) refused to license it to his new label (EMI America).  So he recut the track with Nile Rodgers and Stevie Ray Vaughan on guitar, rocking up the once slow burning track with a big beat drum attack.  The live version (above) does not do the track justice as it sounds a little rushed to HERC's ears -  the album version is below.



The album's second single was also its second track: "China Girl".  First written and recorded with Iggy Pop back in 1977, the song is smoothed out considerably on Let's Dance.  The whole vibe is different, more mellow, hushed and Stevie Ray Vaughan takes the guitar lick to another level entirely.  Album closer "Shake It" was the single's b-side.


"Modern Love" was the third single from Let's Dance and featured a live version of the song as its b-side.  The video captures a live performance but features the album version of the song.  The track is the album opener and establishes the big beat sound prevalent in the rest of the album.  It sounded unlike any music Bowie had released before but like all his best stuff, it changed the course of pop music


Featuring an intricately simple drawing by Keith Haring as it's cover, "Without You"  was the fourth and final single jettisoned from Let's Dance.  It featured the album track "Criminal World" as the b-side meaning seven of the album's eight tracks were released on singles - only "Ricochet" remained an album only track.  "Criminal World" was also a cover version with the song originally recorded by the group METRO in 1976.



After Let's Dance, HERC had a new-found appreciation for the constantly changing artist and his often ahead of it's time music.  Using the compilations (above) as jumping off points, HERC would eventually work his way through Bowie's back-catalog of hugely influential albums and songs, coming to appreciate Ziggy Stardust and the Thin White Duke.  After HERC acquired most of Bowie's RCA catalog, Bowie later licensed his music to Rykodisc and HERC purchased (some of them) them on compact disc again.  In 1995, Let's Dance was reissued with "Under Pressure" as a bonus track and then remastered and reissued again in 1999 with the original track listing.

For another opinion on Let's Dance, check out Martin's View.

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