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Music / Tonight

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"Prayers, they hide the saddest view"

Tonight is the seventeenth studio album by David Bowie, released in 1984.

Bowie had finally hit the big time with his predecessor Let's Dance, both commerically and financially. Having gained a new audience of adoring fans, Bowie realised he had no choice but to retain them through releasing new music as soon as possible. However, having just finished touring for Let's Dance a tired Bowie was struggling to overcome writer's block.

What followed was an album that featured just two original compositions for the album by Bowie alone. Five songs involved his longtime friend Iggy Pop (who, unlike Bowie, had fallen on hard times), three of those Pop-involved songs are covers, and two songs are covers of songs by other artists.

Although it was another commercial success, it saw mixed to negative reception from critics. To this day Tonight ranks fairly poorly in terms of Bowie's discography with only the major singles ("Blue Jean" and "Loving the Alien") having a prominent share of fans. Bowie also realized this fairly quickly, and tried to reinvent himself with 1987's Never Let Me Down, to worse results.



Side One

  1. "Loving the Alien" (7:11)
  2. "Don't Look Down" (4:11)
  3. "God Only Knows" (3:08)
  4. "Tonight" (3:46)

Side Two

  1. "Neighborhood Threat" (3:12)
  2. "Blue Jean" (3:11)
  3. "Tumble and Twirl" (5:00)
  4. "I Keep Forgettin'" (2:34)
  5. "Dancing with the Big Boys" (3:34)

Tropin' for Blue Jean.

  • The Cover Changes the Meaning: Bowie's cover of "Tonight" omits the spoken introduction, which establishes that the narrator is singing to his girlfriend, who's dying of a heroin overdose. As a result, the song becomes a bog-standard love song. Bowie stated that the reasons for this alteration were because he felt the introduction was an "idiosyncrasy" of Iggy Pop that didn't fit his own vocabulary, and because he thought the original song's dark context would've made Tina Turner, with whom he sang on the song, uncomfortable.
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  • Cover Version: Roughly half the songs on the album are covers. In order, you hear Bowie perform Iggy Pop's "Don't Look Down" (from New Values), The Beach Boys' "God Only Knows" (from Pet Sounds), the Title Track, originally an Iggy Pop song that Bowie had co-written (from Lust for Life), Iggy Pop's "Neighborhood Threat" (also from Lust for Life), and Chuck Jackson's "I Keep Forgettin'" (an R&B standard written by Leiber and Stoller).
  • Epic Rocking: "Loving the Alien" is just over seven minutes long.
  • Face on the Cover: David Bowie, done as a painting with his head deep blue (though some scans and prints make it closer to purple) and his hair bright yellow.
  • Lighter and Softer: Even more so than Let's Dance.
  • Performance Video: Besides the Jazzin' For Blue Jean mini-movie, David also created this kind of video for "Blue Jean".
  • Real Life Writes the Plot:
    • "Tumble and Twirl" was based on Bowie's exploits vacationing in Bali; he would later have his ashes scattered there after his death in 2016.
    • The lines "this dot marks your location" and "your family is a football team" in "Dancing with the Big Boys" were inspired by Bowie & Pop's "lengthy, irritating stay" in a New York hotel. Specifically, the former line came from the hotel's fire escape map, while the latter came from the cooperation observed among an immigrant family staying at the place.
  • Record Producer: David Bowie, Derek Bramble, and Hugh Padgham.
  • Reggae: "Don't Look Down" and the Title Track utilize elements of this.
  • Title Track: "Tonight"
  • Uncanny Valley Makeup: David Bowie as Screamin' Lord Byron during his performance of "Blue Jean" in the mini-movie Jazzin' For Blue Jean is given such a makeup job that could be described as making him look like a living painting.
  • Yellow/Purple Contrast: Bowie's purple/blue face on the front cover pops out against both his butter-blonde hair and the predominantly yellow background.

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