Contracts and agreements were ending. Bowie’s deal with RCA was at an end. Most importantly the agreement Bowie had signed in 1975 to free himself from the management deal with Tony De Fries and Mainman was at an end. That deal had given De Fries 50% of Bowie’s earnings for 7 years, until 1982 ! Bear in mind all Bowie’s expenses were coming out of his 50% and you realise he hadn’t been making much money for the past 7 years. I’ve often wondered if that’s the reason the records he made in that period were some of his most challenging, he wasn’t really bothered if they sold millions as he wasn’t making any money anyway so why not make records that he really wanted to rather than ones that would appease the record company and shift units (“Young Americans II” anyone ?).
It’s probably no surprise then that almost as soon as the Mainman agreement and the RCA contract ended Bowie signed a multi-million $$$ recording deal with EMI America and announced his most overtly commercial album and his biggest ever world tour. The opportunity now existed for him to make some Dollar.
Chic’s Nile Rodgers was hired as producer. Nile Rodgers made multi-million selling records and had done for Chic, Sister Sledge and Diana Ross. He had the touch. A band was assembled including the Chic rhythm section of Bernard Edwards and Tony Thompson alongside Rodgers. Bowie found himself a new guitar slinging sidekick in Blues wonderkid Stevie Ray Vaughn. The record was mastered by Bob Ludwig (Queen, McCartney, Springsteen) and mixed by Bob Clearmountain (Talking Heads, Rolling Stones, Bryan Adams). Bowie was going for it, recruiting the heavyweights to make sure this one SOLD.
I still vividly remember the press conference at Claridge’s in March 1983 to announce the album and tour. Bowie swept into the room in a fabulous suit, all blonde hair and tan, perching himself on the edge of a table as the seat supplied was too low for him to reach the microphones. He exuded cool. The lead single and title track of the album was out, the album was to be released a month later, the “Serious Moonlight” tour was set to begin in Brussels on 18th May running until December, eventually taking in 96 shows, visiting 15 countries and selling over 2.5 million tickets.
As for the album, well I can take it or leave it. The title track is something of a classic, “Modern Love”, the take on Iggy’s “China Girl” and “Without You” are nice pop songs, “Ricochet” is OK, the cover of Metro’s “Criminal World” is utterly forgettable (here we go again), the re-recording of “Cat People (Putting Out Fire)” isn’t a patch on the original recorded for the “Cat People” movie soundtrack and “Shake It” is a nice dance tune.
It’s not an album I return to often BUT, it served its purpose. “Let’s Dance” is, to this day, Bowie’s biggest selling album, the four singles taken from the album were hits, the album and “Serious Moonlight” tour were critical and financial successes. Bowie made his money.
I only saw Bowie live 3 times, 2 of those occasions on the Serious Moonlight tour. I almost left before he came on the first night. Couldn’t believe I was going to be in the same room as this guy I’d obsessed about for the past 3 or so years, I was actually shaking. He, again, swept onto the stage and looked fantastic, he looked happy. The shows were great at the time, in hindsight maybe not the greatest tour to have seen him on but it’s a gig that I still vividly remember.
Let’s Dance - https://youtu.be/VbD_kBJc_gI