Let’s Dance is the 15th studio album by David Bowie. It was originally released in April 1983.
The album contains three of his most successful singles, “Let’s Dance”, which reached No. 1 in the UK, US and various other countries, as well as “Modern Love” and “China Girl”, It also contains a re-recorded version of the song “Cat People (Putting Out Fire)”, which was from the film of the same name and released a year earlier.
Let’s Dance was nominated for the Album of the Year Grammy Award in 1984 but lost to Michael Jackson’s Thriller. It has sold 10.7 million copies worldwide, making it Bowie’s best-selling album. Bowie described the album as “a rediscovery of white-English-ex-art-school-student-meets-black-American-funk, a refocusing of Young Americans”. Let’s Dance was also a stepping stone for the career of the Texas blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan, who played on it.
David Bowie had planned to use producer Tony Visconti on the album, as the two had worked together on Bowie’s previous four studio albums. However, he chose Nile Rodgers of Chic, for the project. Rodgers later recalled that Bowie approached him to produce his album so that Bowie could have ”hit singles”.
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.”Despite this, the album “was recorded, start to finish, including mixing, in 17 days” according to Rodgers.
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, “I probably hadn’t been so gung-ho about a guitar player since seeing Jeff Beck with his band the Tridents.” Vaughan described the recording sessions for the album:
David Bowie is real easy to work with. He knows what he’s doing in the studio and he doesn’t mess around. He comes right in and goes to work. Most of the time, David did the vocals and then I played my parts. A lot of the time, he just wanted me to cut loose. He’d give his opinion on the stuff he liked and the stuff that needed work. Almost everything was cut in one or two takes. I think there was only one thing that needed three takes.
Unusually, Bowie played no instruments on the album. The tour for the album (Serious Moonlight) was Bowie’s most successful tour ever. It was released on Laserdisc, and then later on DVD in 2006.
The album was seen as a commercial and critical success by professional critics, though opinions varied on the artistic content; while one reviewer called it “Bowie at his best”, another felt it “pleasantly pointless”. In 1989, the album was ranked number 83 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “100 Best Albums of the Eighties”. NME added ‘Let’s Dance’ in its list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
Bowie recalled the success of the album caused him to hit a creative low point in his career which lasted the next few years.
“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.”
After his follow-up albums Tonight (1984) and Never Let Me Down (1987) were critically dismissed, Bowie formed the grunge-precursor band Tin Machine in an effort to regain his artistic vision.
Join PodCloud1 during April, the month of its original release, as we revisit a classic in its entirety- Let’s Dance by David Bowie.
(click player to revisit a classic: Let’s Dance)
1. Modern Love
2. China Girl
3. Let’s Dance
4. Without You
6. Criminal World
7. Cat People (Putting Out Fire)
8. Shake It
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 and removed the bonus track.
A different album is featured every month on PodCloud1’s Revisiting The Classics