The Recording of Lets Dance By David Bowie Essay

Modified: 17th Aug 2022
Wordcount: 2426 words
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He produced it and plays all rhythm guitar sections. Stevie Ray Vaughn recorded the guitar solo. He said in an interview that he sat in a corner and waited for his cue then added an improvised Albert King style solo. All in one take. This song’s lyrical message is simple but David usually has a more complex character and this song seems to be a bit out of his style. That is why the song is not appreciated by a lot of Bowie’s fans. I see it as Bowie’s way of getting out of his skin,»¿ letting his spirit run free forgetting all that holds up back to thinking with clarity. Bowie said that it was one of his lowest periods as an artist, although Stevie Ray Vaughn was credited on the album he wasn’t still that famous and after that he became internationally famous with his own album. Bowie admits that this wasn’t his best period creative wise but great at the time. Reinventing himself as an 80’s pop icon was the kiss of death on his imitators such as David Sylvian, yet in truth the 2 became even more alike. It was almost like Bowie was playing him at his own game.

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Dance was released as the first single from the album with the same title in 1983, and become one of his most successful records during that underrated part of his creative work. Bowie’s approach to the song and lyrics seems different compared to previous albums. The song is simple, but polished not neccesarily following the true image of Bowie in the seventies.

“The single was the fastest selling in Bowie’s career. It entered the UK single charts at number five and two weeks later the song stayed in top of the charts for a period of three weeks. That was Bowie’s only song to reach number one on the two sides of the Atlantic Ocean. It narrowly missed topping the australian charts, peaking at number two. Let’s dance was the fourth best selling single in 1983.

“Let’s Dance” helped Bowie to find a new younger audiences, unaware of his past career in the 1970s. The piece was one of the most played on the “Serious Moonlight Tour” (the name came in from the lyrics in “let’s dance”

I have been using the studio version for the analysis which is approximately seven minutes and thirty eight seconds. There is an edit of that version for the single release of the track, which is shorter in length 4:10.

The song was recorded and produced by Nile Rodgers. He had a strong influence on the song and was working with his band Chic at that time.

“Let’s Dance” was the most commercial product in the album according to Bowie. That’s why it was also chosen for title of the album. It represents his best work from that time. Almost like it was written to remind the public that he’s still writing quality, in fashion music. He wanted to be famous and he achieved it once again. The song was designed to appeal to young generations at the time, but still he managed to combine the disco with his own style and that makes it harder. Nowadays the typical mainstream artists such as Lady GaGa appear to be a bit monotonous compared to Bowie’s work. All of her songs that are mostly played by drum machine and a single DJ. The usage of a DJ limits the improvisation in a piece, because that way you have everything controlled by a single person that has to do all the work. There’s a strong element of electronic instruments and sequencers involved in the production. Even on her live performances she’s doesn’t use real musicians and the music is played by a single DJ usually. It feels like it’s missing the human feel compared to Bowie’s art. Lady gaga’s music seems a bit narrow in terms of improvisations and experimenting with harmonies and melodies. She also tried to use the same dance cliché with a song with the title “Just Dance.” In an interview she admits that she was influenced by Bowie who spent the majority of his early career pretending that he came to this planet from outer space. Gaga has been sporting a collection of shiny suits made popular by Bowie’s alter-ego Ziggy Stardust. Gaga once said ‘Fashion is everything to me’ in contrast with her Bowie oversaw the downsides and benefits of using digital instruments, but he remained true in his nature. He changed, but while listening is easy to distinguish his version of Let’s Dance to the one by Lady Gaga which is not that unique. They are both similar in the whole dance approach to the piece, but musically Bowie’s delivers a lot more musical content with regards to the solo of Steve Ray Voughn who’s still a legend today. Bowie’s art is evergreen it should last for a long time and it’s not just the music that makes it. It’s the whole approach to it, the makeup and the drama he makes. Twenty years later his music is still relevant to what’s going on nowadays. As in the music video there are still many third world poor people. And the dance music still dictates the commercial industries. The Disco became mainstream or popular in 1978-80 It’s roots are coming from the jazz, classical and soul music. At first the music was in support of the rights movements and homosexual people. There was major revolution in a musical cultural and ethical form in that pre nineteen eighties pop. One of the first underground dance genres was strongly influenced by chic. Similar to the way that Blues, Jazz and Soul were used as a platform for a cultural revolution the disco was mainly exploited by black people in the beginning until it became popular. Chic dominated the charts for several years with a series of carefully crafted songs, including “Le Freak” and “Good Times.” Before long, other artists were turning to Rodgers and Edwards for their production, arranging, and songwriting skills, resulting in massive hits like Sister Sledge’s “We are Family.” In 1979, Rodgers brought his magic touch to David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” and a few years later he hit solid gold, producing Madonna’s landmark singles “Like a Virgin” and “Material Girl.” He later continued to work with a diverse crop of famous artists, including Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Mick Jagger, Duran Duran, David Lee Roth, INXS, Grace Jones, and even jazz legend Al Jarreau. Nowadays Rodgers heads up his own label and production company, as well as “Sumthing Distribution”, a national record distribution company.

The song was produced mimic early dance production in the eighties, although recorded with acoustic instruments the gated drums and the delay effect on almost everything suggest that song was intended to recreate the atmosphere of the new decade. Nile Rodgers is known to use drum machines in most of his productions, even though the groove of the band is more important to him as a producer. The groove has to be right before the start of overdubbing. He never used a metronome in Chic’s records even thou they were supposed to be a dance band. Years later he developed that technique.

There’s a melody in the bass that was performed by Carmine Rojas who is known for working for Rod Stewart as a bass player and also a music director. During his time with David Bowie he was one of the most respected bass players in the industry. He was introduced to Bowie by drummer Tony Thompson. Carmine and Tony knew met when they were playing together in Labelle.

In 1986 Carmine worked as a studio musician on a song recording for Alphaville’s album Afternoons in Utopia.

The bass seems to be a bit artificial like it was double tracked with a synthesizer. Thumping the bass in that way gives it more character to sustain the beats typical for many records in that era.

There’s also a guitar in these first eight bars that was performed by the producer Nile Rodgers. He was a producer and a guitar player at the same time. He first began his career as a session musician living in New York he had the opportunity to play at the famous Apollo theater on one stage with the likes of “Screaming Jay Hawkins, Maxine Brown, Aretha Franklin, Ben E. King, Betty Wright, Earl Lewis and the Channels, Parliament Funkadelic”. Later in the seventies he met bassist Bernard Edwards. Together they formed a band called the big apple band. They made a huge success with a single hit, which allowed them to tour and even an opening for the Jackson five on their first tour in 1973. The band was disbanded after the second album failed to reach enough popularity to provoke enough sales, but Rodgers and Edward didn’t give up and joined the drummer Tony Thompson. With his influence in the band they recorded as a Funk-Rock band called “The Boys”, which played many gigs on the East Coast. Despite the huge interest from the labels to sign them they didn’t have any luck just because they were black. There was a concern that the black artists were too hard to promote. The band was playing at the local pubs at that time. Another New York artist, Walter Murphy, had a band also called “The Big Apple Band” and Rodgers and Edwards were decided to change the band name to avoid confusion in the public. In 1977 the band changed their name to Chic. They begun recording material with back vocalist Luther Vandross mainly disco tracks. Their success later helped the disco become popular, two of their most popular songs were called “Everybody Dance” and “Dance, Dance, Dance” I think David Bowie thought of the song as a cliché to what became popular since his last album. Compared to his old songs such as “Space oddity”

(1969) “Life on mars” (1973) that changed people’s lives and influenced revolutions. Althought David Bowie’s frequent changes of image, direction and carrer have been written about and discussed to the point of saturation, his songs are often overlooked. For instance Space Odity, released in 1969 to coincide with the US landing on the moon was his first major hit. Bowie’s fascination with space figures frequently in his early carreer. After abouncing he was gay, he reinvented himself from hippy singer-songwriter into Ziggy Stardust – full on glam rocker from another planet. With the same unusual combinations he used “Let’s Dance” as a cliché for that period of time and how the trends were changed. He wanted that to work with musicians of Chic’s class, because they were the godfathers of the disco that was pretty popular at the time. Most of their records have a similar feel of the bass line being chopped to eights and sixteenths in 4/4 in tempo. Although the line is in short rhythmical durations still there’s a pulsing downbeat every crotchet, just like on modern underground dance music. The music tended to layer soaring, often-reverberated vocals, which are often doubled by synthesizers. The use of wah pedaled effects that sounds like metallic scratches in short durations. Peculiar backing keyboard instruments such string synthesizers and electro acoustic keyboards such as the Fender Rhodes piano, Wurlitzer electric piano, and Hohner Clavinet. Synthesizers are also fairly common in disco, especially in the late 1970s. The rhythm was usually played by spectacular, syncopated basslines (with common use of octaves) played on a bass guitar double tracked with synthesizers. The drum part was played on acoustic drum kit, African/Latin percussion or electronic drum machines such as the Simmons and Roland drum modules. Although some of James Brown’s songs are strongly influenced by black people the disco it still remains heavily improvised on stage, but with the disco there was a new way to improvise live with the recently invented digital and analog pads and samplers implemented in the recent technology development. A shift in the audience from younger generations introduced the disco as a new type of funk mixed with analog synthesizers that could hold a sustained and controlled downbeat and without the need of a real drummer. The fixed beat technology developed enough with the help of drum machines to ease the process of live production holding a fixed tempo without a need of a drummer and at the same time sacrificing the musical content in it. The role of Nile Rodgers was to balance these two aspects.

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The song begins with a voice intro performed by Bowie which reminds of something from the sixties called layered seventh. In the first bar there is only one vocal which is the first tone in Eflat major, then in every new bar there is a new vocal layered, the third and the fifth until reaching the dominant seventh major and resolving to first at the fifth bar (0:09)That’s where the basics of the pre-verse are formed.

After the intro the chord verse structure is changed with a tonal centre of Bflat7sus . Followed by a Eflatseventh in the second bar. Fsharp in a six chord in the third bar and Bflat minor sixth in the fourth.

In instrumental intro which consists of eight bars trumpet solo in the beginning performed by Mac Gollehon. It can be characterized as a jazz improvisation.

Bowie’s voice enters the verse, which consists of sixteen bars. There’s a wooden block played percussion instrument played in sixteenths, a stereo delay is also applied. Splitting the signal into a dry sound, which is panned to the right and the delayed sound is panned to the left.

There’s a short saxophone melody played by Bowie at the end of every eight bars in the first verse.

A big amount of delay was used on the lead voice; it bounces in far left and right. The rhythm guitar and snare seem to use the same technique with using a long delay time.

And then it goes to the chorus section with the lyrical content:

With the harmony change in A flat in the first bar that goes to C sharp major and Eflat major on the phrase “run with you” and it’s repeated again by the guitar and bass. The whole melody line is repeated once again. And then on “my love” it goes from Aflat major through F minor, C sharp and E flat. The end part of the chorus from “and tremble like a flower” Is in Eflat major seventh followed by a Bflat7suspended4, eflat major again Fsharp major six chord and the whole chorus ends on Bflat minor sixth.

ABBA – Dancing Queen (1976)

Andy Gibb – Shadow dancing 1978, (B)Anita Ward – Ring my bell 1979, Barry White»¿ – You’re The First, The Last, My Everything (1974), Hot Chocolate – You Sexy Thing (I Believe in Miracles) (1975), Lipps Inc – Funky Town (1980), Sister Sledge – We are family (1979)


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