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Saturday, June 23, 2012

"Let's Dance"

David Bowie - "Let's Dance" (1983)

One of the few albums that did not feature long time Bowie collaborator Carlos Alomar on guitar. He says he was busy, rumor has it the pay was too low; regardless he returned for five more albums after this break.

The song is one of Bowie's most popular, and is seen by purists as the beginning of his commercial stage. Bowie became a household name, stopped dressing up funny, and recorded duets with Queen, Mick Jagger, and Bing Crosby. Older fans cried sellout but the new fans embraced him and made his post disco dance music an international success.

There is a big collection of early 80s talent here on this cut. Niles Rodgers and Tony Thompson from Chic played guitar and drums on the track respectively. You've most likely never heard of keyboardist Robert Sabino, or saxophone player Stan Harrison,but I promise you, they've both played with dozens of popular 80s bands. Niles Rodgers also produced not only this song, but with Bowie, produced the entire album. His Dance and R&B influence can be heard all over the record. The guitar solo at the end of the song is played by Stevie Ray Vaughn, recorded right before he broke huge into the American mainstream.

The song's video is anti-capitalist, and considered by Bowie to be anti racist, but to the modern eye seems to lean a little hard on the 'Noble Savage' archetype. The lyrics are mostly just a hopeless romantic asking his partner to dance, but there lies just underneath the hint of something darker, as if the love affair might be ending. The music is funked along by the bass, while the echo-y guitar and saxophones give it a dreamy cushion on either side of the bouncing/walking/grooving protagonist of the bass. I can't forget to mention two things vocally. The first is the rising do-wop backing singers heard at the beginning and elsewhere, giving the song an odd homage/throwback feel that has enthused listeners since then. The second is Bowie's shaking vocals as the song grows and he honestly makes us sound like it's not just the love affair we have to worry about ending; maybe we're dancing at the end of the world!

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