David Bowie By the Threes: A 50-Year Retrospective, Part 1
1983: Bowie's Return to Pop
After the magnanimous success of the early '70s, Bowie had cracked up. He couldn't handle the pressures of fame and the intense drug addiction he had developed. By the late '70s, he had retreated to decidedly experimental records which had little in the way of pop hits on them and had gone to live in Berlin in an attempt to maintain a low profile and kick his drug habits.
But by 1983, Bowie was ready to make a comeback. Having reinvented himself before as a tortured artists lost in the pursuit of a higher sound, Bowie now reinvented himself again as a slick, renewed pop star of the 1980s.
For his next work, Bowie recruited an incredible band, including producer Nile Rodgers, guitarist Earl Slick (who plays with him to this day), and an unknown master blues guitarist from Texas named Stevie Ray Vaughan. With his new band in tow, Bowie integrated synthesizers, disco beats, and a distinct flavor of 1950s bubblegum pop to create a mix of the pop and rock of his youth with new wave and disco sensibilities.
Of course, the album, Let's Dance, blew up and contained three of Bowie's biggest hits: "Modern Love," a re-recording of "China Girl" which Bowie had previously done with Iggy Pop in a much different style, and the title track.
With that, Bowie was off into the stars again as a major force to be reckoned with in the pop world. The album and its subsequent high grossing, massive production Serious Moonlight tour, set the tone for Bowie's 1980s, moving away from his experimental tendencies into pure pop and embracing stardom.
For the first time, Bowie even seemed to be enjoying his fame. Freed from the more intense throes of his addictions, Bowie was able to act in films, record pop music, get chased by the paparazzi, and record silly songs with Mick Jagger without the feeling of hollowness he had once had. Bowie was on top and loving it.
While few would argue the '80s were Bowie's best period musically, there's plenty to love about Let's Dance and his live performances were absolutely magnificent.
Let's Dance also contained re-releases of two other Bowie hits: "Under Pressure" with Queen (in the CD reissue) and his minor soundtrack hit "Cat People (Putting Out Fire)," which managed to garner a lot of new fans after it appeared in Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds in 2009.
Tomorrow: 1993, 2003... and future Bowie?