Tuesday 1/25/22 1am ET: Feature LP: David Bowie – Let’s Dance (1983)

Let’s Dance is the 15th studio album by English singer-songwriter David Bowie, released on April 14, 1983 by EMI America Records. After the release of Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) (1980), Bowie began a period of numerous musical collaborations and film appearances. During this time, he also left RCA Records due to dissatisfaction. After signing with EMI America in late 1982, Bowie decided he wanted a fresh start, and chose Nile Rodgers of the rock/disco band Chic to co-produce his next record.

The album was recorded in December 1982 at the Power Station in New York City. The sessions featured entirely new personnel, including then-unknown Texas blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan on lead guitar. For the first time ever, Bowie played no instruments, solely contributing vocals. Musically, Let’s Dance has been described as a post-disco record, with elements of dance-rock, dance-pop and new wave. It contains three cover songs: Iggy Pop’s “China Girl”, which Bowie and Pop recorded together for Pop’s The Idiot (1977); Metro’s “Criminal World”; and a reworking of “Cat People (Putting Out Fire)”, originally recorded by Bowie and Giorgio Moroder in 1982 for the film of the same name.

Let’s Dance was released to massive commercial success, reaching number one in numerous countries, and turned Bowie into a major superstar; it remains Bowie’s best-selling album. The record’s four singles, including the title track, were all commercially successful as well. However, the album received mixed reviews from music critics whose opinions on the artistic content varied. The title track and “China Girl” were supported by music videos that received heavy airplay on MTV. It was supported by the Serious Moonlight Tour, which featured the return of guitarists Carlos Alomar and Earl Slick.

Despite the massive success of the album, Let’s Dance began a period of low creativity for Bowie. He felt that he had to pander his music to his new acquired audience, which led to his follow-up albums, Tonight (1984) and Never Let Me Down (1987), being critically dismissed. He would later reflect poorly on the period that began with Let’s Dance, referring to it as his “Phil Collins years”. Bowie’s biographers have also given mixed assessments on the record. The album was remastered in 2018 and included in the box set Loving the Alien (1983–1988).

  1. “Modern Love” 4:46
  2. “China Girl” 5:32
  3. “Let’s Dance” 7:37
  4. “Without You” 3:08
  5. “Ricochet” 5:14
  6. “Criminal World” 4:25
  7. “Cat People (Putting Out Fire)” 5:09
  8. “Shake It” 3:49

David Bowie – lead vocals; producer; engineer; assistant mixing; horn arrangements
Nile Rodgers – guitar; producer; engineer; assistant mixing; horn arrangements
Stevie Ray Vaughan – lead guitar
Carmine Rojas – bass guitar
Bernard Edwards – bass guitar on “Without You”
Omar Hakim, Tony Thompson – drums
Sammy Figueroa – percussion
Robert Sabino – keyboards, piano
Stan Harrison – tenor saxophone; flute
Robert Aaron – tenor saxophone
Steve Elson – baritone saxophone; flute
Mac Gollehon – trumpet
Frank Simms, George Simms, David Spinner – backing vocals