Another day, another anniversary and this time, we are celebrating 35 years since Let’s Dance was released. The album and proceeding tour was a serious money spinner for Bowie at the time. He was finally selling out and cashing in on his then outstanding back catalogue of albums and introducing a whole new generation to his music and charisma. Unfortunately, it set the tone for a 5 year tumble that was only recovered via Tin Machine in 1989. So let’s see how Bowie became the hottest ticket in town during 1983.
The album itself was recorded and mixed at breakneck speed. 17 days to be precise with Nike Rogers at the helm. Tony Visconti has been pencilled in to produce the record however, he was informed that Bowie had decided to go down a different direction over the telephone after recording had commenced. Visconti would not produce another Bowie album until 2002 when they teamed up to record Heathen.
Let’s Dance was released on April 14 1983, the same week that also saw debut album releases from R.E.M. and The Violent Femmes who would both go onto huge success in the years to come. Only Michael Jackson, Paul Young and Culture Club shifted more units through the year. Let’s Dance would go on to top the charts in England, Australia, The Netherlands, New Zealand, France, Norway & Sweden. It would also go top 10 in a further 7 nations including the United States where it peaked at number 2. So strong was the album in sales, it would regularly return to the charts in Australia and England during 1984.
The lead single, Let’s Dance would hit the number 1 spot in 13 countries and go top 10 in many more. It would go on to become the 4th largest selling single of the year. China Girl was issued in June and that would also reach number 2 in the UK. A third single, Modern Love also reached number 2 in England and spent time nesting inside the top 10 of many other nations. In America, RCA released Without You leading into Christmas as a cash in but the single failed to reach the top 40, stalling at number 73 in January 1984. By now, the Bowie hype of 1983 had passed and Bowie’s new fans had moved onto the next big act, Culture Club. The video clips for Let’s Dance and China Girl were both shot in Australia.
The accompanying Serious Moonlight tour started out in small venues before the demand for tickets outstripped supply, forcing promoters to find stadiums to fill. By the end of the tour, over 2.6 million tickets had been sold for 96 shows in no less than 15 countries. To date, it was Bowie’s largest and most expansive tour and one concert had over 250,000 ticket requests! The problem was, there were only 44,000 tickets available. Blues guitarist, Stevie Ray Vaughn who played on the album left the touring party before opening night and was replaced at the last minutes by Earl Slick.
The first time I heard Let’s Dance was in 1992, some 9 years after its initial release. It sounded as fresh then as much as it does now. We sometimes forget just how massive Bowie was in 1983. A number one album. Multiple number one singles and the largest selling tour of the year. In the summer of ’83, Bowie even had ten of his albums entrenched in the UK top 40 album charts. It surely doesn’t get much better than that does it?