Saturday, May 21, 1983

David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” hit #1

Let’s Dance

David Bowie

Writer(s): David Bowie (see lyrics here)


Released: March 17, 1983


First Charted: March 25, 1983


Peak: 11 US, 11 CB, 2 RR, 14 RB, 8 AR, 1 CO, 13 UK, 11 CN, 2 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, 1.06 UK, 3.16 world (includes US + UK)


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 23.27 video, 272.86 streaming

Awards:

Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

As iconic as David Bowie was, he hadn’t been a significant chart presence over the years in the United States. “Ashes to Ashes” was a #1 in the UK but didn’t even chart in the U.S. “Fame” hit the top stateside in 1975 and was followed by the ttop-10 hit “Golden Years,” but Bowie was then absent from the upper eschelons of the charts until “Let’s Dance” became his second U.S. chart-topper. Three more top 10 hits followed in the ‘80s making it his most successful period commercially, even if it wasn’t up to the level of his chameleonic creativity in the 1970s.

“Let’s Dance” seemed designed to give Bowie mainstream success. He “shook off the zonked-out ambient art-rock trappings of his immediate past and dove into American soul and club music” SG after signing with EMI for a reported $10 million. FB Bowie invited Nile Rodgers to produce his new album after meeting him in a nightclub in New York in 1982. They “were an odd-couple combination in the best way, and they came together to make a slick, unlikely little epic” SG that married the chameleonic David Bowie with the “distinctive disco sound that was synonymous with Chic.” KL “Let’s Dance” was the first song they worked on together. Rodgers transformed what he called a “folk song” into “high-stepping club music.” SG

“Let’s Dance” was “a witty dance record with…quirky lyrics” KL that painted “a metaphorical picture of people weaving lies together and trying to will away sadness.” SG Nile Rodgers said Bowie “was talking about the dane people do in life, the conceptual dance of not being honest…Like you’re pretending to be happy but you’re sad.” SF Stereogum’s Tom Breihan comically points out how Bowie asks the listener to “dance the blues” but even with “then-rising Texas guitar star Stevie Ray Vaughan” AMG “soloing all over it” it “sounds absolutely nothing like any conventional notion of ‘the blues.’ But then, willful perversity was the David Bowie brand.” SG

“The sociological content with which the song has historically been credited derives entirely from the accompanying video, as opposed to a lyric which does little more than repeat the title around scattered invocations of ‘serious moonlight’ and scarlet footwear.” AMG The video was shot in Australia and follows a young Aboriginal couple who find a pair of red shoes that give them the instant ability to dance. The couple are mocked by the white locals and thrown into a world of “visiting museums, enjoying candlelit dinners and casually dropping credit cards, drunk on modernity and consumerism.” WK It recalls the Hans Christian Andersen story “The Red Shoes.” WK Bowie said the video was intended as a message against racism and capitalism.


Resources:

  • DMDB encyclopedia entry for David Bowie
  • AMG All Music Guide review by Dave Thompson
  • FB Fred Bronson (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th edition). Billboard Books: New York, NY. Page 572.
  • KL Jon Kutner and Spencer Leigh (2005). 1000 UK Number One Hits: The Stories Behind Every Number One Single Since 1952. London, Great Britain: Omnibus Press. Page 290.
  • SF Songfacts
  • ST StereogumThe Number Ones” by Tom Breihan
  • WK Wikipedia


Related Links:


First posted 8/3/2021; last updated 11/28/2021.

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