BOWIE REMEMBERS — (Via Ultimate Classic Rock) David Bowie was in the mood to try something different as the early 80’s unfolded. He’d been listening to R&B and blues records while on vacation in the South Pacific from the likes of James Brown and Albert King, and that ended up forging his next musical path.
“I asked myself, ‘Why have I chosen this music?’” Bowie later mused. “It was very non-uptight music, and it comes from a sense of pleasure and happiness. There is enthusiasm and optimism on those recordings.”
In other words, something a world away from the Berlin Trilogy. Then he met Chic legend Nile Rodgers at a New York nightclub. They hit it off, and Bowie shared a few of his demos, including a folky number that would become the title track for his next LP.
Unfortunately, Rodgers was unimpressed. “I come from dance music,” he remembered telling Bowie. “You can’t call that thing you just played ‘Let’s Dance.’”
Engineer Bob Clearmountain and Rodgers went to work, basically making everything bigger: bigger drums, a bigger vocal, bigger chords, more delay. Bowie was with them, step for step. “I really wanted that same positive optimistic rock ‘n’ roll, big-band sound that was very impressionistic for me back when,” Bowie told Rolling Stone. “It’s got a hard cut – it sears through.”
Rodgers also shared an insider’s trick from his hit-making era with Chic. “For me, as a Black artist, it was very difficult for me to get hits because we had fewer radio stations to expose our music,” Rodgers told Yahoo. “So to get attention, a technique of mine was I always started my songs with the chorus: ‘Ahhh, freak out!’ and ‘We are family!’ – and then, of course, there’s ‘Let’s Dance.’”
So much of this was old hat for Rodgers but entirely new for Bowie. “When David gave me this award – for the ARChive of Contemporary Music – he said, ‘To my friend, Nile Rodgers: the only man who could make me start a song with a chorus,’” Rodgers added.
At the same time, however, Rodgers described himself as “persona non grata, when no one would work with me because of ‘disco sucks’” – so, in a way, “Let’s Dance” was a new start for both of them. “This guy, who was considered one of the great, innovative rockers, picked a disco guy who nobody wanted to work with to collaborate with,” Rodgers told Yahoo. “And we wound up making the biggest record of his career.”
It was Bowie’s idea to bring in a then-unknown named Stevie Ray Vaughan whom he’d tripped over at a recent Montreux Jazz Festival. He felt the Texas guitarist could “become midwife” to a new sound that kept a “European sensibility but owed its impact to the blues.”
The result was Bowie’s biggest hit, as “Let’s Dance” topped the singles charts in the U.S. and U.K. Bowie and Rodgers completed the album in just 17 days, and it went on to become Bowie’s first platinum seller.
Vaughan leveraged Let’s Dance to find a much wider audience. “Prior to that, when we made Let’s Dance, he was still working as a delivery guy or something,” Rodgers said in 2012. “He wasn’t even a full-time musician yet.” For Bowie, however, “Let’s Dance” and its parent album became handcuffs.
I’ve listened to him talk about it, and it really was uncomfortable for him – because it put him in a world that even he had never experienced before,” Rodgers told Yahoo. “And I get it: You go from being a very eclectic, avant-garde artist that people had tons of respect for, where you’re speaking to people on a higher level and – I don’t mean to sound elitist, but the appreciation of David Bowie’s music prior to Let’s Dance presupposes a certain amount of sophistication on behalf of the listener. He was very, very on the cutting edge.”
“Let’s Dance” was many things – new wave, post-disco, rock, dance, funk – but it was most certainly not cutting edge. “I tried passionately hard in the first part of the 80’s to fit in, and I had my first overground success,” Bowie later told Interview magazine. “I was suddenly no longer ‘the world’s biggest cult artist’ in popular music.”
His new label wanted another hit, and Bowie dutifully tried. But 1984’s Tonight and 1987’s Never Let Me Down didn’t have the same energy or sense of discovery.
“I went mainstream in a major way with the song ‘Let’s Dance,’” Bowie noted. “I pandered to that in my next few albums, and what I found I had done was put a box around myself. It was very hard for people to see me as anything other than the person in the suit who did ‘Let’s Dance’ – and it was driving me mad because it took all my passion for experimenting away.”
He discarded it all, starting over with a new band of collaborators Bowie called Tin Machine. “He said to me at one session in the early ’90s that he needed to get back to his essence,” late-era collaborator Mike Garson later remembered. “‘Let’s Dance’ was such a big hit, it threw him and he lost his center. For an artist like David, that was very disturbing.”
Bowie had become “something I never wanted to be,” he admitted in Bowie on Bowie. “I had started appealing to people who bought Phil Collins albums.”
Personally, I loved the Let’s Dance album. Having gotten to know Rodgers, I thought it was a really interesting pairing and the fact that Bowie returned to work with him down the road, showed he did too.
Let’s Dance was released in 1983 and Rodger’s work with Madonna (Like A Virgin) was in 1984. Face it, the Chic-man was on a roll. Rodgers to this day remains one of music’s prime innovators. No question.
Here’s the official “Let’s Dance” video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VbD_kBJc_gI
LISTING THE BEATLES — Most people have a favorite Beatles song. In fact, most people grew up having a favorite Beatle.
Favorites are a big part of the just-released book, The Book of Top 10 Beatles Lists, which is very different from the hundreds of Beatles titles that have come out before. It contains 64 Top 10 Lists of favorite songs, albums, films, appearances, and a whole lot of memories and insights from music legends, actors, athletes, authors, disc jockeys, and many friends and relatives of The Beatles…including two former Beatles.
The book’s author, Charles F. Rosenay is best known to Beatles fans for all his promotional efforts and productions over the past four decades. Since 1978, he has presented Beatles conventions and festivals across the U.S., including events in his home state of Connecticut and as far away as Tokyo, Japan. Along with musical productions, for almost 20 years he was the editor and publisher of the world-famous magazine on The Beatles called Good Day Sunshine.
Since 1983, he has organized and hosted the “Magical Mystery Tour,” an annual Beatles Fans Tour in association with Cavern City Tours, that brings travelers to Liverpool and London during Beatleweek on the ultimate fan experience. Charles has the honor of being one of the few non-musicians in the Cavern Hall of Fame, and he has been recognized and cited by the Mayor of Liverpool on numerous occasions.
For as long as he can remember, Charles has been asked to write a book on The Beatles, or on his adventures through the years as a Beatles aficionado, expert, collector, archivist, and promoter. Having edited or contributed to countless Beatles books in the past, and after issuing two non-Beatles volumes, Charles has finally released his own Beatles book that is unlike any other out there.
After years of contacting celebrities, as well as notables who were closely connected to The Beatles’ history, here is a treasury for pop-culture enthusiasts, music lovers, collectors, and fans of the greatest rock and roll band in history. Officially titled Celebrities, Actors, Authors, Mods & Rockers: The Book of Top 10 Beatles Lists, the long-awaited book has been released by Kiwi Publishing in softcover.
Charles called on many of his long-time friends in The Beatles universe to be part of this special book. Included in this unique collection are such people as original Beatles drummer Pete Best; John Lennon’s sister Julia Baird, who contributed the Foreword; Beatles friend and author Tony Bramwell; radio personality “Cousin” Brucie; Angie McCartney, who was married to Paul’s Dad; Paul’s half-sister Ruth McCartney; two members of The Quarrymen, the band that later became The Beatles; four members of Badfinger/The Iveys; journalists-turned-authors Larry Kane and Ivor Davis, each of whom accompanied The Beatles on their U.S. tours; Mark Hudson; who was Ringo’s producer; R&B singer Clarence “Frogman” Henry, who opened for The Beatles on tour; Paul McCartney & Wings’ guitarist Laurence Juber: Ringo’s touring drummer Gregg Bissonette; Brute Force, who recorded on The Beatles’ Apple label; singer Frank Ifield, who was a label-mate of The Beatles on Vee-Jay Records; Chas Newby, who was actually The Beatles first left-handed bassist; and Mersey Beat editor Bill Harry, a friend and supporter of The Beatles from the beginning, who wrote the book’s Afterword.
According to Showbiz 411’s Roger Friedman; billionaire David Geffen got married . Congrats David! …
On a promo-visit for Apple TV’s Ted Lasso, Jason Sudeikis was asked what his go-to music was and he replied “Poison” by Bell Biv DeVoe and “Into The Mystic” from Van Morrison. Great choices … We just watched the third-season debut of the show entitled Smells Like Mean Spirit and it was great as it opened with a scene of Lasso and his son (Henry) saying goodbye. They covered a lot of material from the first two seasons and set up what should be a thrilling -and possibly last- season … RIP Manhattan-born Bobby Caldwell at 71 (https://variety.com/2023/music/news/bobby-caldwell-dead-what-you-wont-do-for-love-1235555106/
and, via the BBC: Vinyl record sales outperformed CDs in the US for the first time since 1987, according to a new report. Just over 41 million vinyl records were sold in 2022. Only 33 million CDs were sold, amounting to $483m. It was the 16th consecutive year of growth for record sales, about 71% of physical format revenues. Recorded music revenue in the US grew for the seventh consecutive year. So much for people saying that CDs and vinyl don’t sell anymore. Wake up people! … Happy BDay Tony King, Phil Lesh and Billy Crystal!
NAMES IN THE NEWS — Tate Donovan; Greg Geller; Jane Berk; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Wayne Avers; Dan Mapp; Plastic EP; Julie Gurivitsch; Vinny Napolitano; Emily Bitt; Melissa Davis; Andy Fuhrman; Bruce Haring; Divaland; Jane Blunkell; Jacqueline Boyd; William Schill; Keith Girard; Mark Alpert; Chris Norris; A.D. Amorosi; Peter Bart; Jeff Smith; Kevin Mazur; Pablo Guzman; and BELLA!
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