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Music / Never Let Me Down

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"I saw a black black stream full of white eyed fish and a drowning man with no eyes at all..."
"You've arrived in the land of a thousand different names..."

Never Let Me Down is the 18th studio album by David Bowie, released in 1987.

Bowie, having grown disconnected from his Let's Dance/Tonight fans and reeling from the critical backlash on the latter album, wanted to return to making a more rock-and-roll based album, marking the first time since Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) that he played instruments in addition to singing. He collaborated with Iggy Pop and Erdal Kızılçay with the view of putting the songs into a theatrical tour.

The album was commercially successful, selling more copies than Tonight and spawned three UK Top 40 singles in the title track, "Day-In Day-Out" and "Time Will Crawl". The tour the album spawned, the Glass Spider Tour, the longest and most expensive tour Bowie had embarked upon at the time, the tour's elaborate set was called "the largest touring set ever"


However both the album and the tour were poorly received at the time, which took a toll on the singer. He would go on to form Tin Machine in 1989 as a way to reinvigorate himself.

In 2018, two years after his death, a George Lucas Altered Version of the album using the original vocals and a new backing track was released. Titled Never Let Me Down 2018, the album was released exclusively as part of the Boxed Set Loving the Alien (1983-1988).


1987 Tracklist:

Side One

  1. "Day-In Day-Out" (5:35)
  2. "Time Will Crawl" (4:18)
  3. "Beat of Your Drum" (5:03)
  4. "Never Let Me Down" (4:03)
  5. "Zeroes" (5:46)

Side Two

  1. "Glass Spider" (5:30)
  2. "Shining Star (Makin' My Love)" (5:04)
  3. "New York's in Love" (4:32)
  4. "'87 and Cry" (4:18)
  5. "Too Dizzy" (3:58)note 
  6. "Bang Bang" (4:28)

2018 Tracklist:

Side One

  1. "Day-In Day-Out" (5:26)
  2. "Time Will Crawl" (4:26)
  3. "Beat of Your Drum" (5:27)

Side Two

  1. "Never Let Me Down" (4:26)
  2. "Zeroes" (5:06)
  3. "Glass Spider" (6:53)

Side Three

  1. "Shining Star (Makin' My Love)" (5:32)
  2. "New York's in Love" (4:33)
  3. "'87 and Cry" (4:25)
  4. "Bang Bang" (4:42)

Life is like a broken arrow; memory a swinging trope:

  • A Wild Rapper Appears!: Actor Mickey Rourke on the 1987 version of "Shining Star (Makin' My Love)". The 2018 version replaces Rourke with Laurie Anderson, who instead performs his part as soft-voiced spoken-word.
  • Big Applesauce: "New York's In Love".
  • Cover Song: "Bang Bang", originally by Iggy Pop.
  • Darker and Edgier:
    • The 2018 remix of "Glass Spider", which transforms a fast-paced, synthpop song into a slow, moody industrial rock track that sounds like it jumped right out of 1. Outside.
    • The album itself, in both its 1987 and 2018 iterations, is this compared to Let's Dance and Tonight, at least in regards to its lyrics. Songs on this album aren't afraid to more explicitly discuss dark subject matter, featuring topics such as homelessness, drug addiction, and nuclear holocaust.
  • Epic Rocking: Both the 1987 and 2018 versions feature this quite a bit:
    • On the 1987 version, roughly half of all the songs just barely make it past the five-minute mark on the CD release, those being "Day-In Day-Out", "Beat of Your Drum", "Zeroes", "Glass Spider", and "Shining Star (Makin' My Love)". On the LP version, all but one of these songs are edited down to a point where they avoid qualifying for this trope. "Zeroes", however, remains untouched, standing at a runtime of 5:46 on both the CD and LP releases.
    • On the 2018 version, these same five songs still exceed the five-minute mark; the removal of "Too Dizzy" though means that now exactly half of the album's songs qualify as Epic Rocking. "Glass Spider" particularly sticks out on this version, being just short of 7 minutes long thanks to the new ambient-industrial angle it takes.
  • Face on the Cover: Bowie, in both versions. In the 1987 version, he's shown leaping towards the camera among a small room cluttered with circus-themed knickknacks, while in the 2018 version, he's shown standing triumphantly behind the ring of fire in the same room, peering into the distance and making a monocle gesture with his hand.
  • Genre Roulette: The 2018 version shifts between pop rock, art rock, straight pop, straight rock, and even industrial rock from song to song.
  • George Lucas Altered Version: The 2018 remix.
  • In the Style of...: Mario J. McNulty described the 2018 version of "Glass Spider" as being based on the works of Brian Eno, Scott Walker, and Nine Inch Nails; Eno's style is most prominently displayed during the song's spoken-work introduction, Walker's during the second third of the song, and NIИ's during the last third.
  • Lyrical Cold Open: The 2018 version of "Zeroes", which cuts out the concert-style intro and jumps straight into Bowie's "yeah, yeah!" just before the acoustic guitar comes in.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: A good amount of songs are about as dark from a lyrical standpoint as you'd expect from David Bowie, but they're all written to be quite danceable. "Day-In Day-Out" is a particularly glaring example, being an upbeat, horn-heavy track that brings up subjects such as child abandonment, misguided patriotism, crushing poverty, and (implied) police brutality. The 1987 versions of these songs are even bigger examples on this trope than the 2018 versions, due to the '87 version's more blatantly pop-oriented (think stereotypical Phil Collins song) production.
  • One-Word Title: "Zeroes".
  • Record Producer: David Bowie and David Richards, with the addition of Mario J. McNulty on the 2018 version. Based on Bowie's comments about the making of the 1987 version, he himself seemed to be an example of the invisible variety. He retrospectively described himself in an interview as having been "indifferent" towards the album's production when it was first recorded, allowing Richards and EMI to stuff it with synthesized flourishes on every second of every song. This is nowadays believed to be the main reason why the resultant album's quality was so poorly received, and combined with Bowie's own favorable views towards its songwriting, was the main incentive for the creation of Never Let Me Down 2018.
  • Re-Cut: Most songs on the original LP release of the album were cut down to allow everything to fit on one disc without compressing any of the grooves; these edits were also present on the cassette release. The full songs, however, would be included on all CD releases, and would eventually come to vinyl with the Loving the Alien [1983-1988] Boxed Set and the standalone 2019 reissue of Never Let Me Down in its original form.
  • Remix Album: The 2018 version is this to the 1987 one.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: "Time Will Crawl" was born out of Bowie's learning of the Chernobyl disaster during a stay in Switzerland.
  • Take That!: "'87 and Cry" is one to the Margaret Thatcher administration.
  • Title Track: "Never Let Me Down".

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