Tonight (Pop and Bowie, live, 1977).
Tonight (Pop, 1977).
Tonight (Bowie with Tina Turner, 1984).
Tonight (Tina Turner with Bowie, live, 1985).

This is a song about my girlfriend who’s dead! (audience cheers)

Iggy Pop, Detroit, 25 March 1977.

This entry and the next will require some time-skipping, as the songs are both Lust For Life tracks and cover versions on Bowie’s Tonight (1984), a minor record in a meager decade for him. If anything demonstrates the decline in Bowie’s judgment and taste in the mid-1980s, it’s his reworking of “Tonight,” where he turned a junkie lament into a light reggae cocktail-lounge duet with Tina Turner.

Iggy Pop’s “Tonight” seems to have come out of a stray line in “Turn Blue,” though where the latter was a rambling stream of extravagant consciousness, “Tonight” is a set of simple, common words, a eulogy in a diminished language. In the 16-bar prelude, Iggy comes home, finds his girlfriend dead, falls to his knees and cries out a song. “Tonight,” developed on stage as a climactic number during the Idiot tour, was a performance piece with a taste of the ridiculous—Pop’s opening dramatics, Bowie and the Sales brothers’ wailing wall of backing vocals. But it wasn’t camp, either: in the Detroit ’77 performance, as Pop sings the opening, Hunt or Tony Sales is caught up in the story and yells out “hey!” as if he can’t quite believe what’s happening.

The chorus, which builds from E flat to A flat via the relative minor (Cm), has the loveliest melody on Lust For Life: a repeated phrase and then a four-bar, slowly descending vocal line (“no one moves/no one talks…”) that ends on a B-flat (the last “night”). The lyric begins in shock, becomes an ode to death. There’s even the hint of a dark joke: Pop sings that he’ll love the girl to the end, which is right now, so “Tonight,” perversely, is a breakup song too.

Bowie’s primary roles on Lust For Life were as keyboardist (proud of his work on Pop’s tour, Bowie played all the piano/synthesizers himself, and there’s some charmingly shaky synth work here) and backing singer, often appearing as a distantly-mixed, octave-higher echo of Pop’s baritone. On songs like “Some Weird Sin” and “The Passenger” and here, Bowie shadowed Pop’s voice, keeping his bad dreams company, sometimes sounding like a battered conscience. On “Tonight” he (and the Sales brothers) sing the second verse along with Pop, but at a vast distance away from him, offering no consolation, just witnessing.

Bowie remade “Tonight” seven years later. He cut out the prelude and bled the song of all its nuance and desperation. The symbolism is ridiculous: Bowie, cleaned up at the height of Thatcher and Reagan, remade a song about dead junkies by quietly disposing of the body and turning the song into a dessicated reggae come-on, suitable to be piped over the PA system at a Club Med resort.

Bowie’s Tonight is essentially Pin Ups II: a record rushed out to capitalize on an uptick in Bowie’s stock, and it’s filled with uninspired cover songs (three Iggy Pop songs, Chuck Jackson’s “I Keep Forgettin'” and the Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows,” along with a handful of new originals).

He named the record after his reworking of “Tonight,” but even at the time, interviewed by Charles Shaar Murray, Bowie all but admitted that his remake was a travesty, a concession to common tastes. Calling the original “Tonight” “such an idiosyncratic thing of Jimmy’s that it seemed not part of my vocabulary,” Bowie said he had decided to “change[ ] the whole sentiment around,” he said, adding that he’d managed to preserve a “barren feeling” in his new version.

Bowie said he ditched the dead girl in the opening because he had wanted Tina Turner to sing it with him, and suggested to Murray that Turner might have balked on singing the full lyric (which was a bit insulting to Turner, who was of built of sterner stuff: she had just covered Paul Brady’s“Steel Claw”, which has lines like “sometimes I’m contemplating suicide” and opens with a “rich bitch lying by the swimming pool”).

Worse, the new “Tonight” manages to make Tina Turner superfluous. In the Pop original, Bowie and the Sales brothers flit in and out of the song like ghosts, howling over Pop’s baritone. But Bowie sings the remake with a soft, easy croon, leaving Turner no natural entry point, so she just winds up singing over him.

The rest of the remake is just dross. The original Pop recording is fervid and tense, the band holding it together seemingly by luck and sheer force of will, with Ricky Gardiner’s guitar runs appearing like small moments of grace. In the Bowie version, Gardiner’s guitar solo is replaced by a marimba reverie, a wretched brass section, known as the “Borneo Horns,” do what they can to worsen things and even Carlos Alomar, the sole holdover from the original record besides Bowie, is a whisper of his former self.

Around the time Pop and Bowie recorded the original “Tonight,” the Kinks put out a record called “Juke Box Music.” It seems like the last Kinks song, where Ray Davies dismisses his life’s work in a few minutes. A girl sits alone listening to pop records, ignoring the boors that hit on her in a bar, and Davies calls her out as a dreamer and fool. “It’s only music,” he says incredulously, over and over again. It’s only there to dance to. The words mean nothing. It’s not real. Introducing the song on The Old Grey Whistle Test, Davies said of the song’s subject that “people like me write a lot of lyrics, and she believes it.” Sure, the scenario called back to some of Davies’ earlier dreamers, like the girl in “Oklahoma U.S.A” or the old man in “Waterloo Sunset,” but in “Juke Box Music” there’s no sympathy given to the dreamer: she’s just a figure of ridicule, as are the songs that give her her only comfort in life. The song is as bitter as it’s compelling, and heralds the Kinks’ move into boorish hard rock.

Bowie’s remake of “Tonight” has a similar combination of exhaustion and cynicism, but unlike “Juke Box Music,” it’s also flaccid. Bowie baldly had repeated the “China Girl” formula of shining up an old, weird Iggy song and trying to make it a pop hit, but “Tonight” didn’t crack the Top 40: it arguably killed off Bowie’s commercial resurgence in the US and didn’t do him any favors in the UK. (In the summer of “When Doves Cry” or Turner’s far sharper “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” it sounded old and lame.) Bowie once had played regularly for stakes. With “Tonight” he tried to scrape out a cheap score, and he failed.

Debuted ca. 1 March 1977, recorded 4-20 June 1977,  Hansa, Berlin; on Lust For Life. Bowie’s remake was recorded ca. May-June 1984, Le Studio, Morin Heights, Canada. Issued as a single in November 1984 c/w “Tumble and Twirl” (EMI EA 187, #53 US, UK, though a #1 hit in Poland). Bowie sang it with Turner on 23 March 1985, in Birmingham, UK (a performance later included on Turner’s Live In Europe).

Top: Jean Penders, “East End, London, 1977.”

70 Responses to Tonight

  1. ian says:

    People will shout that it’s “Never Let Me Down” until the end of time, but make no mistake, “Tonight” is certainly his worst-ever album. At least on NLMD he sort of tried, at least composing songs and not leaning too heavily on Iggy covers. The songs themselves on that album aren’t atrocious either, they’re fairly exciting, I’d argue, they’re just coated wayyy too heavily in 80s sheen.

    Tonight, though, has nothing. The songs are boring, Bowie sounds like he’s not even trying, and it’s covered in 80s sheen. It’s definitely the only album of his I can’t listen through the whole thing. (Loving the Alien and Blue Jean aside, yeah yeah).

    He’s right about the “barren feeling,” though— it’s just that it’s not barren in what he’s singing, but how (and why, really.)

  2. Jeremy Earl says:

    “I everybody, listen, want you to sway with me and we’re gonna sing it together tonight…” It deeply saddens me, it really does. It made me turn blue!!!

    The Lust version, however, is high end art in comparison. Had a listen to the Tonight LP version and I’d truly forgotten just how bad it was/is…

  3. diamond dog says:

    Bowie’s version is in my opinion the very worst recording he has ever done, i dug the vinyl out recently and the production is as sharp as a crisply ironed white shirt , but bland as bland can be. Tonight killed Bowie for me it was a very lazy set and backed by a dreadful long form video jazzin for blue jean ,i despaired that the man who made station to station produced this heap of shite.
    Pop’s original is just ok hardly a great song did Bowie come to the assumption that it would be a good one to cover is beyond me?? I think we lost a genius in the 80’s..we have seen flashes since but nothing concrete. Its like he woke up and got lost in mediocre middle of the rock music.

  4. Brendan O'Lear says:

    Sadly, it’s impossible not to echo everybody else’s comments. In addition to ian’s point about him not trying, I would say that the apathy was not just one way. Until the release of Let’s Dance, I would have organised my life around something as trivial as the prospect of Bowie being played on the radio. By the time Tonight came around, I just wasn’t interested. None of my ‘Bowie-freak’ friends were interested either. I remember that hideous Blue Jean video being shown in a club(?) and none of us having the enthusiasm (stomach?) to watch. I suppose it’s called growing up – it wasn’t just the music, for the first time in my life, since the age of around 9, I no longer wanted to look like David Bowie.

  5. diamond dog says:

    God that is so right Brendan it no longer interested me to copy Bowie’s ,I know it sounds sad but most of us must have deep down wanted to look like him. Fraid he just looked like an employee from the bank. All this cockney blokey shite appeared and he became ‘normal’.

  6. Marion Brent says:

    Yes, this is really the cut-off point for Bowie. Let’s Dance was just about acceptable, if he’d done something decent afterwards. It might have been seen as his 80s Young Americans, if an 80s Station to Station had followed. But Tonight is just so mind-wrenchingly awful that I, for one, didn’t really listen to Bowie again until Earthling. And although he’s certainly had his moments in his latter years, somehow Tonight killed all the magic.

    • Carl H says:

      What’s wrong with Young Americans? I think that’s one of his best albums. But maybe I’m coming from a different background. I’m actually kind of a newcomer to Bowie and to rock and pop overall. I probably appreciate the soul and dance-elements, as that is my musical background.

      That’s why I don’t think Let’s Dance is that bad either, only very different from the classic records, still it’s pretty good as that kind of commercial pop goes. Bowie does give it kind of an edge that is lost in much other similar pop/dance music.

      As for “tonight”, I haven’t really listened that much to it. But from what I’ve heard it’s not that extremely bad, only mediocre but that’s the tragedy, because we’ve heard Bowie doing Hunky Dory, Diamond Dogs, Aladdin Sane, Station to Station, Low, Heroes, Scary Monsters and we know he can do so much better.

      But on it’s own, compared to other pop music of it’s era it isn’t really that horrible.

    • rob thomas says:

      hi- listen again to YA: it’s dark and complex, despite the grooves. The delivery, the lyrics, etc, etc. It’s not the LD of the 70s!

      • rob thomas says:

        sorry for the short post- was listening, for the first ever time, to Tonight (single version) and had to stop to throw up when the key change coda-thing kicked in. Jesus wept…

  7. Brendan O'Lear says:

    Marion, the Young Americans/Let’s Dance point is a great one. Young Americans seems good now but only because Station to Station followed. The less said about Let’s Dance the better.
    For those of us who grew up with Bowie as an older brother/father/best friend/all-three figure, there had to be a ‘cut off point’ to ‘kill the magic’. (I for one was too old to be walking the streets in my bright yellow version of the ’78 tour t-shirt and baggy trousers.) I wouldn’t be too harsh on Bowie. It had to end somehow; it’s such a pity that it had to end with ‘Tonight’!

  8. diamond dog says:

    There are few artists who escape losing their mojo ,Townshend is another who after 1975 fell into blandness. Tonight I’d just a spectacular failure in many many ways. I still bought stuff but was until the buddha of suburbia always very let down with the purchase. I cropped my T J Newton locks off in despair. The 80’s was his fall from grace and he has struggled ever elevate himself above mediocre even gigs looked like a bloke imitating Bowie. Its still in him to do great work but the odd flash is not good enough. Look at Paul Weller he has managed to make great work past his 50’s and is even pinching the odd sound from Bowie. One can only ask what the hell happened?

  9. diamond dog says:

    David L you could be onto something. Not an advert for keeping clean really was he , give say no and lose your creativity and sense of cool.

  10. ian says:

    Man, I can’t wait for this blog to get to Tin Machine.

  11. diamond dog says:

    Blimey tin machine is it worth writing about ? At the time I was so desperate to hear some of the old magic I considered it a return to some form but in hindsight it was a pile of utter shite. I would suggest the blog bow out after Let’s Dance , which was stretching my acceptance of mainstream music to the limit.

  12. Gnomemansland says:

    Tin Machine had its moments “Now Jesus he came in a vision and offered you redemption from sin,I’m not sayin’ that I don’t believe you, but are you sure that it really was him I’ve been told that it couldn’ve been blue cheese, or the meal that we ate down the road….” etc but yes like many here I carried on buying Bowie albums into the 1990s as an act of faith. Barring the odd song nowt much to repay that faith though he is at least in fine voice now.

  13. diamond dog says:

    The whole Tin Machine mess was Bowie hiding behind others trying to get that old magic back but, Gabrels was no Ronson and Hunt & Sales not woodmansey/davis/alomar etc. It had flashes of some good material but embarrassing really ..the rantings of a pissed up uncle at an arranged marriage. That Get back on the drugs Dave what fun you would have had with Sean Ryder and Bez ..but you chose Hunt And Sales…yuk.

  14. col1234 says:

    Diamond Dog, I’m going to have to use “the rantings of a pissed up uncle at an arranged marriage” at some point during the TM entries, so will credit you then.

    The goal for the blog, insane as it may be, is to go all the way to the end, though I’ll likely be losing readers by the scads once we hit the late ’80s. But, perhaps perversely, I’m looking forward to the later stuff, in part because I haven’t even heard some of it (“Earthling,” “hours” a couple others) while other records I recall as being fascinating failures (“Outside”) & I’m curious about revisiting ’em.

    The writing should be more fun and spontaneous–as I have little preconceived notions about much of the late songs and so will be transcribing my first impressions. Whereas doing “Low” was a constant, grueling battle to find a fresh angle to music I’d been listening to since, essentially, childhood.

  15. giospurs says:

    The post-Scary Monsters section of the blog is going to be interesting for me because I’ve hardly heard any Bowie after that. When I got into DB, I worked my way up to Scary Monsters and then thought that would be a good place to stop, based on little more than the title and cover of Let’s Dance! It might be the time when the blog starts becoming more of an ‘education’ than pure enjoyment. Having said that, I know that there must be at least some good stuff in the later years. ‘I’m Deranged’, from David Lynch’s Lost Highway, is one of my favourite songs. Hopefully that wasn’t just Trent Reznor’s inspiration…
    But anyway, I’m up for sticking it out to the bitter end!

  16. diamond dog says:

    Thanks very much col , I’ve loved his work since seeing him doing starman on top of the pops so we go back a long way. I’ve actually come to feel since reding this superb blog that I’m actually in a state of mourning. His early work is so very good in every way that his post “let’s dance ” makes me wonder was his previous material a fluke? I cannot wait for the reviews of the 80,s output it will be hard going I tell you now I found his best being buddha of suburbia especially ian fish uk heir , now that is superb stuff. I have soft spot for Let’s Dance as I got to finally see him. It was like being in a field with GOD. Rose tinted glasses me thinks. Love the blog your writings are much more than I’m able piece together so you won,t lose me , you may even make me enjoy some material.

  17. ian says:

    Now this is where it’s going to get interesting!

    From reading this, I’m starting to realize I’m a bit younger than most of the commenters here (goes to show the enduring allure of DB, also maybe I’m wrong? But also i’m 24?). For one thing, I wasn’t “there” when the 80s happened, and the only Bowie albums I was actively excited to come out were “Heathen” and “Reality.”

    So my experience with the “delving” into the back catalogue is different, because I was coming at it without the phrase “best since Scary Monsters” echoing throughout my conceptions (in fact Scary Monsters was one of the last albums I heard).

    My experience with Earthling, 1. Outside, and the 90s in general, is just ‘more Bowie albums,’ not ‘the latter-day Bowie albums.’ Most of my favorite songs by David are from the 90s, in fact. “Untitled No.1,” “I Have Not Been To Oxford Town,” his cover of “Nite Flights,” even “You Belong In Rock And Roll.”

    It’s going to be really great to be around here when we broach the 90s!

    Y’all can bet I’m going to be right here, defending Tin Machine TO MY GRAVE.

    (slight exaggeration, i’m going to be defending 1.Outside much more than Tin Machine…)

  18. diamond dog says:

    We are jumping the gun but ….why not. Outside was heralded at the time as a return to form …again. Working with Eno , concept , characters etc. My opinion on first hearing was it was it was very laughable …like your dad dressed as a goth. Not all bad but did this man write Hunky Dory? It seemed desparate to me and so out of step with the day , in a bad way. There are many who like the lp but I was spoiled by his 70,s output.

  19. diamond dog says:

    I actually enyy people who like his 90,s material , my whole breadth of musical taste had broadened to areas much stranger and outlandish and with more relavance than the Bowie output.

  20. Brendan O'Lear says:

    I go to bed with 7 or 8 comments on this thread, then the next morning we’ve over 20. What’s going on?
    Some really interesting perspectives on what Bowie means to different people. It’s easy for me to understand the thoughts of diamond dog as someone who grew up in the UK in the seventies. The music was only a small part of what Bowie represented. On my walk to school there was a wall covered in graffiti, the gist of which was ‘MCFC OK’ or ‘MUFC OK’ and the other choice was ‘Led Zep’ or ‘Keep cool Bowie rules’. You had to make choices about who you were and a view on Bowie was a part of that. Bowie dominated the popular culture of that time and place; everybody had something to say, from schoolchildren to grannies. It’s so interesting for me to hear from people, such as ian, who weren’t even born – if my calculations are correct – by the time my generation had left Bowie on bad terms. I hope some of the commenters who came to Bowie post- Let’s Dance are able to squeeze in some thoughts on how you got to know Bowie in some of your posts.

  21. Jeremy Earl says:

    What is going on? Bowie’s decline is taken very personally by many people – he let us down (?) One way to look at it, however, is that it is very difficult as a pop/rock artist to consistently brilliant decade after decade. Most of the greats that emerged in the 60’s had an ok sometimes great 70’s but very few of them had a great 80’s (any of them?). Even fewer of them had any kind of good 90’s. Even Dylan took till the late 90’s into the 2000s to really get back his mojo. I’m thankful that Bowie rediscovered something in the 90’s and some of it is really great.

    I’m probably in-between in terms of age compared with some of you- -early 40’s, so I was in my 20’s in the 90’s and although the Bowie I loved that I discovered in the early 80’s wasn’t there I found enough to appreciate – and yes – Tin Machine! Loved it when it came out, but rarely play it these days. For some of the people that might not be interested in the post 83 work – stick around as you might rediscover some great tracks, as it’s often the overlooked work that can be surprisingly rewarding.

  22. Remco says:

    if something as ghastly as the Tina Turner duet can spark so many comments I wouldn’t worry about your readership during the rest of the meager years.
    I am quite surprised however that 1. Outside isn’t universally hailed as a work of genius, which it is. I was born in 1975 so the only Bowie I knew was the cruise ship waiter. Outside was an absolute revelation as you can imagine. In hindsight I can see how a lot of things that appealed to me about Outside had already been done on Low, Scary Monsters and the Aladdin Sane piano solo but to me it doesn’t make the album any less brilliant. So I’ll be standing by Ian on this one (he’s on his own on Tin Machine which is just Bowie trying to sound like The Pixies and not being very good at it)

  23. diamond dog says:

    I think the amount of replys stem from the mention the lp Tonight which was for me a very low point although I bought it and enjoyed some of it. It has 2 good tracks which kept me hoping for more till eventually I gave up hope. I think his singles during the 80,s were still good Absolute beginners is a soaring classic, when the wind blows superb. I’ve just listened to the abandoned TOY and I’m sorry to say the originals were way better ,its a needless exercise a waste. During my youth I kept my love of his music fairly quiet to avoid the accusation of pooftah etc but he became name checked by the new romantics and even outdone by my favs pre Let’s dance Bauhaus who covered Ziggy and reminded all that Bowie was in class of his own. Like Springsteen he became HUGE a phenomena so it was ok to like his mediocre output. I feel Springsteen faired better in the 80’s and took the long road back to finding himself. I guess I’m still loving the alien and feel I’ve lost my little alein friend who glowed in Hollywood as a cracked actor but sunk into mediocraty in the media spotlight.

  24. diamond dog says:

    Anyway I’m shutting my face now I’m depressing myself I’m revisting the 80’s material and I still like Let’s Dance as an album it was great at the time to see him topping the charts and the show he put on was superb and I could sit through Tonight a 1000 times just to hear his voice on loving the alien spinetingling …so shut up .

    • Brendan O'Lear says:

      diamond dog, no need to shut up. I’m sure I’m not the only one who finds your comments fascinating. I hope we’ll get to hear more from you.
      I’m not sure where I came into this blog; it took me a long time before I understood what was going on. At first, I was just stunned by the quality of the analysis and writing from the author, but gradually I have found myself looking forward to reading how regular commenters like yourself feel about certain songs.
      I know exactly why you feel/felt betrayed. The first concert I ever went to was at Wembley in 1976 as a 13-year old. (I’m pretty sure it was still called the Empire Pool then.) Bowie just set the bar so high for himself; it was a very big fall.
      There’s a bit at the end of his 50th birthday concert, where he says something like, “I promise I’ll never bore you.” My gripe with his mid-eighties stuff isn’t so much that it is bad, it’s that it’s boring. For example, and to get back on topic, it’s not that the original of Tonight was that much better than Bowie’s cover, but I have to stop myself there because I promised no more negative comments about Iggy Pop. “I saw my baby, she was turning blue. I knew …: Ridiculous but at least memorable. Now imagine how we’d feel if Bowie had ever tried to pass that off as a lyric.

  25. diamond dog says:

    The album I got was diamond dogs I was 8 at the time and I had just completed a swimming test at school and my mum asked me what I would like and so my collection began. I’d been listening to his albums at my older relative house and sat for hours listening to him. I was aware of him from starman but only little and did not follow his every move. I would have loved to have seen him in 76 your a lucky fella. I was 16 when at last, a tour was announced I begged my mum to write me a cheque anf off it went in the post for a date at Wembley. I got slip back saying it had sold out but did I want to go to Milton keynes , I took it and like I said it was like being with God in a field. I sound down oin Dave but I still have time for him I just feel he went the wrong way he should have gone in a more ambiant direction I feel somewhat like David Sylvian. I still love some of his singles this is not america is class I just love that voice and how he can turn it on at anytime.

    • Jeremy Earl says:

      Yeah man – This is not America, what a great song! I was aware of Bowie from the DJ video and then Ashes to Ashes but my real introduction was when my sister took me to see an 83 show ( I was 14), so I too have found memories of the Lets Dance era. Then, of course, I explored his 70’s albums. Despite what happened in the 80’s we are lucky to have such a long career to explore – it’s fascinating. As evidenced by all these Bowie freaks endlessly discussing it!

  26. Anonymous says:

    It’s interesting to hear different generations views on Bowie and how he fit into the culture of their time. As someone who was born at the start of the 90s and has got into most 20th century music via the internet, I feel that I’ve often missed out on the cultural aspects of the music. However, the perception of what’s ‘cool’ can often distort your tastes so, in a way, listening to this stuff without any prejudice can be a more pure experience than if it had actually been a part of my life when it originally came out. I got into Bowie from just listening to my parents’ Hunky Dory CD over and over again when I was 12/13 years old. That, and Ziggy Stardust are quite accessible albums so they were easy to love without any knowledge of musical history, but then exploring all the Berlin-era Eno stuff was amazing. As I said, exploring the post-83 stuff will be likely less amazing but should be just as interesting.

  27. col1234 says:

    mercy, who would’ve predicted “Tonight” of all things would have the most-ever comments to date? This has been really great. thanks to all. (& “Neighborhood Threat” is next, so we’re not done with ’80s ghastliness yet).

    i’ve think given enough bio in various posts to show where i’m coming from, but just in case: i’m nearly 40, and the Bowie I first knew was the creepy “ashes to ashes” Pierrot, then the “let’s dance” MTV icon. Then got into the older records by my late teens. I’ve seen him live once, in 1990 (see the entry on “Changes”).

  28. normball says:

    Yes, this track should be provided as an mp3 sample in the on-line Art Dictionary for ‘artistic nadir.’

  29. diamond dog says:

    Ive only been able to see Bowie twice 83 & 87 i was no longer interested in seeing him again, i did not like the way he was sounding though he did sound superb on the BBC special he did in 2000 , he looked good and again was in superb voice. Glass spider tour was great sounding but the visuals were awful and date the performance terribly. The set list dug up some great stuff rarely played but he looked silly and the album he was promoting was weak.
    Im gonna play some more 80’s material from tonight as they are mentioned as its been a long time since ive dug em out. He is still a special artist but i know he won’t be making another truly great body of work so im grateful we have a blog to comment on his work frpm the past.

  30. Brendan O'Lear says:

    Are we going to get 40 comments on ‘Tonight’? Of all songs, Who would have predicted that?
    A bit depressing, as I’m feeling like the old man around here. My Bowie history is 1976 (Wembley), 1977 with Iggy Pop (Manchester), think I saw him, but not sure, with Marc Bolan in 1977 (Manchester- Post House Hotel), 1978 (Stafford), 1983 (Milton Keynes), 1987(Vienna), 1990 (Edinburgh), late 1990s – 1996? – (Tokyo). I’m in awe of the people who came to Bowie later because that required some initiative on their part. If you’d grown up when and where I did, it was such an obvious choice.
    Thanks everybody, especially dd, who has contributed to this discussion; it has been fascinating/cathartic. I’m actually looking forward to the Tin Machine discussion, as I’ve hardly ever heard any of the music.

  31. diamond dog says:

    Well Brendan im pleased as punch you have enjoyed my ramblings /moaning , I saw iggy in 87 in manchester i thought Bowie would have showed but no…i cannot wait for comments on blah blah blah as that is a decent album far superior to never let me down…Bowie must have been more relaxed hiding behind his old sparring partner i dug out blah on vinyl and its good bar the title track. ive just sat through the dvd of glass spider and what was frampton doing there?? the dancing was awful and he looked out of his depth.Some good songs though.
    i think we should go for 40 comments as it is such a duff track , is it used in the awful promoclip jazzin for blue jean?? with the model from mandate aftershave in?

    • Jeremy Earl says:

      I was at that gig, the two gigs actually, that were used for the Glass Spider film. I was right up the front. I also met the day before one of those gigs, but that’s another story….

  32. diamond dog says:

    Do any Manchester readers remember a shop on tib street it was Bowie heaven with posters of the man on the ceiling of a dark danbk looking shop with some vinyl to sift through. But ask for their vhs lists and cast your eyes over page upon page of Bowie tv and concert performances yopu couls choose from to put on vhs. Heaven !! I visited in my dinner hour and compiled a list and they prepared it for me oh God it was superb seeing the old grey whistle test, dick cavett show , kenny everett and on and on I still have the tape , one of many from them. During 87 they were a great source of tour vids. Bless em where are they now. Are we om 40 yet LOL.

    • rob thomas says:

      hiya dd. Don’t know the shop, but do have a very hazy memory of going to a club (placemates?), composed of different rooms, one of which was peopled by terrifying looking tall Zigg-a-likes, acting out poses to DB tunes, as if being choreographed by Merce Cunningham. All very weird for a Jewish boy from Hazel Grove (which was weird enough). Must have been around 86, when i was 16.
      Thanks for all your posts. Now, off to find a Manchester-clubs-memory-lane site…

  33. ian says:

    If we’re on the “how it happened for us” train, I’ll chip in! It started early on, with my mom making this incredible mixtapes. They were all over the place, musically, and had “Fill Your Heart” and “Can You Hear Me?,” and those were always my favorites, but it didn’t gel until I was bored one day and nabbed Young Americans from my parent’s CD shelf. I was hooked from the drumbeat on. (and also why I was on the defensive side of “Across The Universe.”)
    Lucky enough to see him twice, too, for Heathen and Reality.
    And if I could find a “Fuck You, I’m in Tin Machine” shirt, I’d wear it every day.

  34. diamond dog says:

    Great to hear about mix tapes I forgot about them as for the tin machine tshirt I would put it a in aplastic bag hermetically sealed and save for ebay LOL!!

  35. Gnomemansland says:

    All of this encouraged me to dig out (well download as I long since got rid of the original LP and tape ) Outside and the Buddha of Suburbia – God they are as bad as I remember them – and they were some of the better work from post 1980

  36. Remco says:

    Thanks to this blog I’ve had ‘Tonight’ playing in my head for two days straight now. And of course it isn’t the Iggy version….

  37. diamond dog says:

    Gnomemansland gotta disagree about Buddha I think its his most complete work post Let’s dance

  38. Poor old Dave. I try to blot out all the bad stuff by doing versions of the good. And I would never touch anything on Tonight with a bargepole.
    His last few albums have had some good tracks, though.

  39. diamond dog says:

    Dave was hit machine now ,corporate high flyer and as bad as Tonight is we were in for much worse ….and he would tour it like a giant pantomine. 87 and cry.

    • ian says:

      I am also excited to defend (at least parts) of Never Let Me Down, too. There are good songs on there! They’re just a little covered up with stuff on top. Even DB knows that, what with that remix of “Time Will Crawl.”

      • David L says:

        Day In Day Out is a very good song, under the production sheen. Back when the album first came out, DB did a press conference and his band played a ripping version of this song live for the press … I recorded it on Cassette, and it was quite good, much better than the studio version. Unfortunately I no longer have a cassette player!

  40. Jeremy Earl says:

    I just wanted to get the posts up to 50.

  41. diamond dog says:

    Indeed there is some good material on never let me down but christ there are some bad ones. Cannot say the remix improved time will crawl as for me it was one of the better ones. I remember it dropped in the chart so they did not show his top of the pops uk performance.

  42. Roman says:

    I remember in 1984 when this was released as a single – and being amazed that there was no video for it. I was only 14 at the time but before it even charted I remember being resigned to it not hitting the top 30 as TOTP’s at the time, when it did the count down, would show a clip of each song – therefore EVERY song on the charts had a video of some sort. So it was obvious that Tonight wasn’t going to do any business. Therefore I had been under the impression that Bowie was somehow ok with not scoring a hit single. If he wasn’t then – What was he thinking not making a video?

  43. Was originally just going to make an iconoclastic comment about Tonight and then saw the thread above me and have to say something about that, too. First off, I understand the terrible feeling of…disappointment long time Bowie fans had during the eighties. I agree with the first poster above, frankly, that Tonight was a worse album than Never Let Me Down and I largely agre with the majority that NLMD was also not very good. But I think it’s worth noting that Bowie’s eighties stuff was bad IN CONTEXT of his career. Examined on their own or compared to what else was coming out at the time, were they “bad?” I would argue, no, they were mediocre at times and lightweight mostly.Tonight is a perfect example. Sure, if you KNOW it is about a dying junkie originally, it sounds terribly crass. If you KNOW about Low or Ziggy or Life on Mars? it sounds like pure bullshit. But if you just look at it as a typical 80’s number it’s a silly litle pop song with Tina Turner that has kind of a sweet reggae melody. It is not the apocalypse, people. Is it really worse than, say, half the stuff put out by Huey Lewis or Phill Collins or Kenny Loggins, stuff that still gets airplay today?

    From my personal perspective, I was about seven when I first discovered Bowie via my older sister’s copy of Let’s Dance. A couple years later I knew enough about him to resent that my sister was seeing him (and many others) at Live Aid and I wasn’t. I was about 11 when I first got “into” him via an LP of Ziggy, Labyrinth, Absolute Beginners, and a friend at school who told me about The Laughing Gnome. (I was also a burgeoning bisexual which may have had something to do with my fascination, since I thought and still think that Bowie was at the height of his handsomeness back then). The first Bowie album bought specifically FOR me was…yes, Tonight. In my mid-thirties am I smart enough and discerning enough to know it’s one of Bowie’s worst (sorry, I still think his pre-Space Oddity stuff was by and large worse), but I still don’t think it’s BAD. I still would rather sway to Tonight than bop to Maniac.
    People seem to take the eighties so personally that they lose all perspective. 80’s Bowie was just as much a character as Ziggy or the Duke, and in his way he was as successful. He out eighties’d his contemporaries. And I fear from the tone of the author’s comments that pretty much from Let’s Dance on it’s going to be lamenting the “glory days” despite the fact that there is defensible and even terrific stuff on all his albums, and yes, that includes Let’s Dance and Tin Machine and all those other albums we criticize now despite the fact that many were well reviewed and even well liked on release. I’ve gotten through to this point from the first entry in only a few days. I am not sure I’ll make it through the eighties, not because of Bowie’s work but because of all the usual suspects who act as though Bowie came into their homes circa 1984 and personally kicked them in the testicles.

    • col1234 says:

      well, if you continue onward you’ll find that you are grievously wrong in your prediction about me lamenting “glory days.” but do what you’d like.

      • Having pushed forward I appreciate the relatively even-handed tone you took. I was frankly addressing the commenters more than I was you, but I can understand how you might take it as a rebuke.

  44. s.t. says:

    I’m wondering if Bowie’s blue face on Tonight’s album cover was a sly reference to the omitted Iggy lyric. I had always associated the face with the Loving the Alien video, but that was released about 8 months later. Any info on that, I wonder?

  45. Out of interest, could anyone with a copy of the actual Tonight single tell me if that’s a Yohji Yamamoto suit Bowie’s wearing. The grey label is distinctive which would lead to me to believe it is YYPH, but I can’t find a picture high-res enough to 100% confirm.

  46. Gilbert & George – esque album cover. Love it

  47. Brian says:

    I’m angry again. What are you doing Bowie?! Tonight is a highlight of Lust for Life! If someone did to Heroes what you did to this song they’d be dead for more than just one day! Utterly dreadful. The one thing NLMD has going for it is that nothing on that album made me mad.

  48. BlaMmO says:

    In a fit of recursive irony, Iggy covers Bowie’s much maligned version of this song to pay tribute to his departed benefactor:

  49. Tyrell says:

    I think this is the right entry to reflect on the Tonight album.
    I haven’t listened to the album since ages and had almost no memory on it so I was completely neutral and without any opinion before listening to it again. (Of course I knew that it is regarded as one of his worst.) Nearing to Tonight – since Bowie’s death I am reading through this blog (and of course the book as well among others) from the first entry on – I read many condemning comments on the album and the songs so I was prepared to a very unpleasant listening experience, with dreadful or just simply uninteresting and unlistenable songs.
    Instead, I was very pleasantly surprised. This album is not so bad at all.
    In hindsight I think that many comments were written with prejudice. I do not think it is fair to except from him to continue what he did in the ’70s and be disappointed when he doesn’t do it.
    This album should be judged in it context. In the 1983 NME interview (Chris Bohn) he said quite clearly that he wants to reach a new audience and he wants to do simplier, danceable song with some social message. And that is exactly what he did on his next albums (commenting on social issues continued to Tin Machine as far as I know).
    The ’80s albums were made for a new audience (mostly teenagers who were listening to Michael Jackson and co.) who did not know anything about what Bowie did earlier, who did not know anything about Iggy Pop, about Beach Boys and Brian Wilson. Of course, an analysis has to compare the covers to the originals, to compare his methods of songwriting to what he did earlier but should not forget to whom it was written and what was the intention of the composer.
    If someone does not know how originally the song Tonight started and listens to it for the first time, then it is a quite pleasant reggae love song, not worse than a UB40 song. I knew God Only Knows only from Bowie for a long time and I still do not have any problem with his cover – being over the top and histrionic is one of the reasons we love him. (On the other side I do not find the original as good as described in the comments.)
    The most pleasant surprise for me was Tumble and Twirl which is in my opinion a quite good pop song, with fine rhythm and melodies – especially the chorus – with some social message. It has been in my head for days. A song which is pleasant to the ear and which should not be taken so seriously at all – it is true for the album as well.
    Nowadays the music TVs are showing quite frequently nostalgic ’80s music clip shows and in most cases I have to switch channel after 10 seconds hearing the crap coming from the speakers. But I do not have that feeling hearing Tonight at all. It is not crap music, even the production is not as bad (but yes, it is very ’80s), I can listen to it without the urge to switch it off. Not art, but pleasant pop music.
    And it is a different experince to listen to songs separately than to listen to the album as a whole. E.g. Don’t Look Down sounds quite different after Loving the Alien, when you already know what to except, than stand-alone.
    One more thought: I guess the reason for including so many Iggy Pop songs is – apart from the obvious reasons discussed in the blog – that mostly are the songs related to Iggy which have social commentaries, except Loving the Alien and Blue Jean if we accept the interpretation of Momus.
    Summarizing: yes, the album fails in comparison to many other Bowie albums, it might be even his worst. But it isn’t as bad as it is regarded, especially when compared to the music of the ’80s.

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