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"Let’s Dance" is the title album track on David Bowie's album Let's Dance. It was also released as the first single from that album in 1983, and went on to become one of his biggest-selling tracks.

The single was one of Bowie’s fastest selling to date, entering the UK singles chart at number five on its first week of release, and deposing Duran Duran’s “Is There Something I Should Know?” two weeks later, staying at the top of the charts for three weeks. Soon afterwards, the single would top the Billboard Hot 100, Bowie’s first single to reach number one on both sides of the Atlantic. It narrowly missed topping the Australian charts, peaking at number two.

“Let’s Dance” would introduce Bowie to a new younger audience oblivious to his former career in the '70s. The track was a regular on the Serious Moonlight Tour (the name derived from a lyric in “Let’s Dance”), the 1987 Glass Spider Tour and the 1990 Sound + Vision Tour, and was then reworked for the 2000 tour.

Composition

Heavily influenced by producer Nile Rodgers’ work with his band Chic, “Let’s Dance" features a thumping bassline, and was arguably Bowie’s most commercial record up to that point. While the lyrics are ostensibly just those of a dance song, there is some discord struck by lines such as “Let’s dance, for fear tonight is all”. The 7:38 album version was heavily edited for single release, though the 12” single retained the full length.

This loneliness and desperation seeps into the music video, made with David Mallet on location in Australia including Sydney Harbourmarker, which features Bowie watching an Aboriginal couple’s struggles against metaphors of Western cultural imperialism impassively while playing with his band.

Bowie featured blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan on the track. Vaughan was asked to go on tour with Bowie, but declined so he could continue to play with his band Double Trouble. Reportedly, Vaughan, who was still driving a delivery truck to support himself, was furious when he saw Bowie pantomiming over Vaughan's guitar solo in the video.

Charts

Chart (1983) Peak

position
Australian Singles Chart 2
Austrian Singles Chart 2
Canadian Singles Chart 1
Dutch Singles Chart 1
Irish Singles Chart 1
New Zealand Singles Chart 1
Norwegian Singles Chart 1
Swedish Singles Chart 1
Swiss Singles Chart 1
German Singles Chart 2
U.K. Singles Chart 1
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 1
U.S. Billboard Hot Dance Club Play 1
U.S. Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks 8
U.S. Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs 14


Track listing

7": EMI America / EA 152 (UK)

  1. "Let's Dance" (Single Version) (Bowie) – 4:07
  2. "Cat People " (Bowie, Moroder) – 5:09


12": EMI America / 12EA 152 (UK)

  1. "Let's Dance" (Bowie) – 7:38
  2. "Cat People (Putting Out Fire)" (Bowie, Moroder) – 5:09


Production credits





Other releases



Covers



Samples



Cultural references to the song

  • The song is referenced in the Bret Easton Ellis novel The Informers when a character is said to have looked like Bowie himself by a girl, and whispers as she walks away, "I should have hummed a few notes to 'Let's Dance'".
  • Bowie himself appears in the film Zoolander to the accompaniment of this song.
  • The original song and music video appear on the PlayStation 2 game, Dance Dance Revolution SuperNOVA.
  • This song is featured in some promotional spots for the 2007 version of Hairspray.
  • Gnarls Barkley "appears" in the Let's Dance video in their music video for "Smiley Faces".
  • In the indie film Eagle vs Shark, the character Lily sings part of the song incorrectly to herself and is corrected by her lover Jarrod.
  • In the movie, Charlie Wilson's War, the original song is heard on the jukebox in the bar scene where Charlie Wilson finds out his charges for cocaine use have been dropped.
  • Appears as a playable song for the Nintendo DS game "Elite Beat Agents".
  • In the film Private Parts , the song is played as Howard Stern drives into New York after being hired by WNNNNNBC.
  • In the film The Boat That Rocked, the track is played at the end of the film as various album covers are displayed to celebrate 40 years of radio Rock and Pop broadcasting.
  • Appear in the skateboarding film Yeah Right! as the song for the Chocolate Montage.
  • This song was nicely fused with Indian Punjabi beat in a bollywood movie called Page3.
  • The song is set to appear in both Band Hero and Lego Rock Band, two music video games.


References

  • Pegg, Nicholas, The Complete David Bowie, Reynolds & Hearn Ltd, 2000, ISBN 1-903111-14-5
  • Mojo Bowie, EMAP Performance Network ltd, 2004



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