"Let's Dance": avant-garde in a pop wrap by David Bowie

Quality work from David Bowie, written in just over two weeks. What does she hide in herself? More details in our article.

The history of the creation of the album "Let's Dance» (1983)

"The Musical Chameleon of Rock Music" David Bowie built a unique career and left a huge legacy. The commercial success of the album, which will be discussed in our article, made David something more than a superstar.

Cover of "Let's Dance" single by David Bowie

Eighties and Bowie

Experiments with musical styles and genres, imagery and imagery have been Bowie's calling card throughout his career. Ziggy Stardust and "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars", "plastic soul" on the album "Young Americans", "Berlin Trilogy" - all these innovative things Bowie wrote with the stars of the seventies. The musician burst into a new decade with global ideas. Album with an uncomplicated title "Let's Dance" became one of those records that generally made a name for David Bowie.

David Bowie in the 1980s
David Bowie in the 1980s

Album development

Before recording this album, the musician signed a contract with a major label EMI, which finally moved away from the release of underground music and completely shifted the musical focus to the creation of a product of mass culture. Bowie decided to do the same, but the artist retained the avant-garde component in his music.

To fill the blank slate, David needed a new producer who would be responsible for the production of musical compositions. The choice fell on Nile Rogers - American arranger and guitarist who co-founded the band Chic, who worked in the genres of disco, funk and soul. The successful production activity of this musician was expressed in the fact that he made albums dance classics "We Are Family" vocal group "Sister Sledge" and album "Upside Down" R&B divas Diana Ross. Rodgers was amazed that David had chosen him to produce, as Bowie had done all of his previous quality recordings with Tony Visconti. This time, David unexpectedly removed Tony from his position:

“David could have chosen any producer, he could have started with Quincy Jones and more likely to make a hit. But he turned to me, and I am very flattered, ”Rogers said in an interview.

David Bowie performs let's dance
David Bowie performing "Let's dance"

Preparatory work began in Switzerland, where Bowie surprised Nile Rodgers by saying that he wanted a good groove-playing record. It is noteworthy that while working at the studio in Montreux, David played new songs on 12 string guitar, which gave a full and unique sound to new compositions.

David Bowie in 1983
David Bowie in 1983

The main recording process continued in the recording studio Power station in New York and ended in 17 days, which is a pretty fast result.

“This is the fastest job I have ever done in my life. Bowie said he likes to work fast and I plan to do the same for the rest of my career. It's simply the most energetic way to record. We got some great performances as a result of the fact that the musicians were on an emotional high due to the fast pace of work,” said producer Nile Rodgers.

Also unusual is the fact that Bowie, unlike his previous albums, performs exclusively as a singer and does not play any musical instrument. To create a masterpiece, he invited a then unknown blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan, who greatly impressed David with his virtuoso playing. Rhythm guitarist was Nile Rodgers, who brought in several members of the Chic band to help, and took over on drums. Omar Hakim, then Tony Thompsonand played bass Carmine Rojas. Other instrumentalists were also discharged. All this rather large team did a perfect job in a short time, and a "Let's Dance".


The first three songs on the album are "Modern Love», China Girl and "Let's Dance" - made a splash and became a classic of Bowie, who worked in the 80s. Let's dwell on them in more detail.

introductory "Modern Love" - a modern for its time pop song at an increased pace. She was inspired by music Little Richard - an American singer who became one of the first performers who mixed rock and roll and funk.

“Nile, honey, I want my album to sound like this…” Bowie shared his thoughts on “Let's Dance” with Rodgers, showing the producer a photo of Little Richard in a red suit getting into a bright red Cadillac.

China Girl, song number two, was co-written by Bowie with Iggy Popom back in 1976. It is interesting because it originally appeared on the album "The Idiot" - the debut album of a punk singer - and was included in the album «Let's Dance"when Iggy was on the verge of bankruptcy and was struggling with addictions. The situation was unsatisfactory. Bowie like true friend, covered the song on his album to give half of the fee to a friend and help him get back on his feet. One music critic called David's performance "an extremely effective piece of hardcore pop".

Iggy Pop and David Bowie
Iggy Pop and David Bowie

The title track was originally performed by David in a soft vocal arrangement and did not sound like a dance song at all. Bowie and Rogers decided to use old records 50s and 60s to turn this track into a real hit. Demos of new tracks were recorded with the assistance of a Turkish multi-instrumentalist Erdal Kyzylchay, who later became Bowie's frequent collaborator. Despite the bright motive funk rock and blues guitar solo Vaughan, "Let's Dance" is recognized as one of the greatest pop songs in music, and for Bowie - a very bold decision.

Commercial success and future

This dance album has become a real commercial blockbuster. Sales "Let's Dance" reached 14 million copies, which allowed it to become one of the biggest bestsellers of 1983. The musical sensation, expressed in the fact that he took the first lines in the main US and UK charts, Bowie on the covers of many influential music publications and diverse critical reviews. In particular, many critics noted the melodic and lyrical component of the disc, as well as the professionalism of the musician. Also, reviewers said that Bowie managed to turn avant-garde music into a pop product. Journalist Robert Christgau called the album "pleasantly nonsensical".

The optimistic mood of the disc was not appreciated by the fans of the old Bowie, however, the general public accepted the album with a bang, and this dance rock, new wave and post-discoThe release left a deep mark on David's career and in the history of pop music.

David in 1983
David in 1983

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