Never Let Me Down
Released: April 27, 1987
Peak: 34 US, 6 UK, 6 CN, 19 AU
Sales (in millions): 0.5 US, 0.1 UK, 2.5 world (includes US and UK)
Genre: classic rock
Song Title (Writers) [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.
Songs written by David Bowie unless indicated otherwise.
Total Running Time: 49:12
2.444 out of 5.00 (average of 25 ratings)
About the Album:
David Bowie stayed busy after 1984’s Tonight with soundtrack work, recording music for Absolute Beginners, The Falcon and the Snowman, When the Wind Blows, and Labrynth, in which he starred. His cover of “Dancing in the Street” with Mick Jagger was also a top-10 hit.
Once he was back in the studio, Bowie focused on what he considered a return to rock and roll music WK after two albums of more dance-oriented mainstream pop. To that end, he assembled a small rock group like he’d had early in his career that included guitarist Peter Frampton. Bowie himself said it was an effort to “reestablish what I used to do, which was a guitar-oriented album.” WK
He also played instruments again after focusing exclusively on vocals on the previous two albums. The result was “a jumbled mix of loud guitar rockers and art rock experiments like the failed Glass Spider,” AMG a mythological story Bowie based on a documentary he saw about black widows lay the skeletons of their prey on their webs. WK
Bowie wrote the opening song and first single, Day-In Day-Out, about his concerns about how the homeless were treated in the United States. Time Will Crawl was inspired by the Chernobyl disaster and Bowie said the vocals were inspired by Neil Young. The title track was about Coco Schwab, Bowie’s long-time personal assistant. He attributed his vocal performance to John Lennon. It has been called “one of his most underrated songs.” AMG
Bowie called Beat of Your Drum a Lolita song because it was a “reflection on young girls” being viewed as sexual entities. WK Rolling Stone called Zeroes “the most heartening and successful track on the album.” WK
Bowie described Shining Star (Makin’ My Love) as a song about people “trying to get together in the race of…disasters and catastrophes…never knowing if they’re going to survive it.” WK He sang it in a high voice, which he compared to Smokey Robinson, because it was what the song needed. WK
New York’s in Love was “a sarcastic song about the vanity of big cities.” WK ’87 and Cry was about then-UK Prim Minister Margaret Thatcher and the “distinction between the authoritarian government and the citizens.” WK
Too Dizzy was written as an homage to the 1950s. Bowie called the song a “throwaway” and deleted it from reissues of the album. The final song on the album was a cover of Iggy Pop’s Bang Bang. Bowie said, “Iggy’s done so many good songs that people never get to hear…I think it’s one of his best songs.” WK
The subsequent Glass Spider tour was “the biggest, most theatrical and elaborate tour he had undertaken in his career,” WK but, like the album, it “was commercially successful but critically panned.” WK Bowie himself was critical of the album, even expressing a desire to remake it. After his death, a remixed version of the album was released on the Loving the Alien box set.
“While it’s not as consistent as Tonight, it’s far more interesting.” AMG Spin said it was “an inspired and brilliantly crafted work” WK while Rolling Stone called it “the noisiest, sloppiest Bowie album ever.” WK Creem’s Roy Tarkin said it represented a creative low point for Bowie WK while Billboard stated it was “arguably the year’s most underrated release.” WK
Notes: B-sides “Julie” and “Girls”, along with the title track from the soundtrack of When the Wind Blows, were added to the Virgin Records CD reissue. In 2018, a remixed version of the album was released on the Loving the Alien box set.
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First posted 2/20/2008; last updated 8/2/2021.