After last week’s Presidential “election” here in America, there’s an effort on the Interweb to “break the internet with love.” So, the best way I can help with that via this blog is to highlight (as “songs of the day”) some gems from 1979 through 1989 that are universally loved, if I haven’t highlighted them already.
One of the songs which instantly came to mind in the universal love department (and which may have been partially inspired by the “serious moonlight” of last night’s “supermoon”) was the title song to David Bowie’s brilliant 1983 album, LET’S DANCE.
I know I said this in an earlier post, but it’s worth repeating here, especially if we’re talking about “Let’s Dance” the song and LET’S DANCE the album. When visiting with my dear friend Shawn this past April in NYC, we saw Chic open up for Duran Duran. It was one of THE BEST shows I’ve ever been to, and not just for the awesome company. Nile Rodgers was quite the showman, and at 63 (now 64), he had the charismatic energy of someone less than half his age on that stage.
On the night of the show in Brooklyn – April 12, 2016, just three months after the sad passing of David Bowie – one of the amazing stories to come out of that show was the story of how, after the early 80s disco backlash, no one wanted to work with Nile Rodgers. (I know, the mere thought is unfathomable.) He told everyone in attendance that David Bowie was the first person to want to work with him in the 80s. Not only did Nile Rodgers’ incredible producing efforts give David Bowie one of the biggest albums of his career, it also gave him one of his biggest singles ever, if not the biggest. And Nile Rodgers didn’t have to look for work again – the work came to him. Nile Rodgers and Chic dedicated “Let’s Dance” to David Bowie in a truly sensational performance that I (like the rest of the show) will never forget.
The song “Let’s Dance” had all the makings of a hit from the start – the production by Nile Rodgers with a perfect marriage of rock, pop, dance and funk (and horn arrangements courtesy of Nile and David), a memorable guitar solo by the late, great Stevie Ray Vaughan (who prolly thanked David Bowie for his success too), and incredible lyrics and vocals by David Bowie. Plus, it was mastered by the master of mastering, Maine’s own Bob Ludwig (I believe when he was still in New York).
“Let’s Dance” was released on St. Patrick’s Day 1983, a month in advance of its parent album. The single took just nine days to debut on the BILLBOARD Hot 100, starting at No. 54, which already made it David’s highest-charting American single since “Golden Years” reached No. 10 in April 1976.
In its third week on the Hot 100, “Let’s Dance” moved its way into the Top 30, and took up residence in its fifth week. On May 21, 1983, David Bowie reached No. 1 on the Hot 100 for the second and final time (1975’s “Fame” was the first). And it might have stayed on top longer had it not been for the huge success of Irene Cara’s “Flashdance…What A Feeling,” which replaced “Let’s Dance” at No. 1 the following week. “Let’s Dance” was right behind “Flashdance” at No. 2 for three weeks after relinquishing the No. 1 spot, and left the Hot 100 after 20 weeks. It also spent six weeks at No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart, reached No. 8 on BILLBOARD’s Rock chart and even reached No. 14 on BILLBOARD’s R&B chart.
The reach of “Let’s Dance” around the globe was massive. On the singles chart in David’s homeland of the U.K., “Let’s Dance” debuted at No. 5, and spent three weeks at No. 1. It would also go on to reach No. 1 in Sweden (10 weeks at No. 1); New Zealand and Norway (five weeks); Belgium, Holland, Ireland and Switzerland (two weeks); plus No. 2 peaks in Australia (where the music video was filmed), Austria, Canada, France, Germany and South Africa, and a No. 4 peak in Italy.
After David Bowie’s sad passing in January 2016, “Let’s Dance” returned to the Top 40 in many countries, including a new peak of No. 7 on BILLBOARD’s Rock chart. In 1988, Tina Turner released her TINA LIVE IN EUROPE album, and, with the help of David Bowie, they segued the first two verses of “Let’s Dance,” the 1962 hit by Chris Montez, into Bowie’s “Let’s Dance,” and switched off on vocals. My dear friend Hope introduced this to me not long ago, and it’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever heard.
I am forever grateful that “Let’s Dance” and the album it is named after re-introduced me to the music of David Bowie, a man’s whose image now rests on my right shoulder (as my first-ever tattoo). I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like this song, and I know a lot of people. Maybe one day I’ll do series about No. 1 songs in the 80s that mattered, and I would bet my record collection that “Let’s Dance” will be in there. “Let’s Dance” will always matter to me. In fact, there’s a strong chance the kick-ass seven-and-a-half-minute version will be among the dozen or so songs I choose to play on my last STUCK IN THE 80s radio show (on February 12, 2017; my 50th birthday) on WMPG community radio (in Portland, Maine). Much like David Bowie himself, “Let’s Dance” means that much to me and always will.