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"China Girl" is a song co-written by David Bowie and Iggy Pop during their years in Berlin, first appearing on Pop's album The Idiot (1977). However, it was not popularized until it was rerecorded and released by Bowie on his album Let's Dance (1983). Bowie decided to put the song on his album when Pop, his old friend and musical collaborator, was in financial straits (due to his struggle with drug addiction) and was close to facing bankruptcy. Bowie decided to release the song on Let's Dance so that Pop could collect half the royalties (as co-writer of the track) and get back on his feet financially.

An edit of David Bowie's 1983 version was also released as a single.

Under the auspices of Nile Rodgers, the song was given a much more commercial sheen than Pop's darker, more roughly-produced version.

It continues the theme established in the video for "Let's Dance". The song was again edited for single release, but attracted more attention for its striking video. David Mallet’s clip, shot mainly in the Chinatown district of Melbournemarker, and on a houseboat on Sydney Harbourmarker, Australia, and featured Geeling Ng lying naked in the surf with Bowie (a visual reference to the film From Here to Eternity). The latter’s bared buttocks saw the video generate some lurid tabloid headlines, though the clip went on to win an MTV award. Versions of the clip included on subsequent video and DVD compilations are slightly censored.

The UK single release reached #2 for one week on June 14, 1983, being kept off the top position by "Every Breath You Take" by The Police. The US release reached #10.

The song was a regular for Bowie’s live shows for the rest of the 1980s and was even rehearsed for his appearance at the 1985 Londonmarker Live Aid concert but along with the songs "Fascination" and "Five Years" was eventually dropped due to time constraints. The song later resurfaced as a concert favourite from 1999 onwards.

Track listing

7": EMI America / EA 157 (UK)

  1. "China Girl [Edit]" (Bowie, Pop) – 4:14
  2. "Shake It" (Bowie) – 3:49


12": EMI America / 12EA 157 (UK)

  1. "China Girl" (Bowie, Pop) – 5:32
  2. "Shake It [Remix]" (Bowie) – 5:07


Chart performance

Chart (1983) Peak

position
Australian Singles Chart 15
Austrian Singles Chart 2
Canadian Singles Chart 2
Dutch Singles Chart 5
Irish Singles Chart 2
German Singles Chart 6
Norwegian Singles Chart 7
Swedish Singles Chart 5
Swiss Singles Chart 1
U.K. Singles Chart 2
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 10
U.S. Billboard Hot Dance Club Play
(charted together with "Shake It")
51
U.S. Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks 3


Production credits

Producer



Musicians



Other releases



Cover versions



References

  1. Pegg, Nicholas, The Complete David Bowie, Reynolds & Hearn Ltd, 2000, ISBN 1-903111-14-5



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