Bowie does Disco. David does Dance. The Thin White Duke transforms once again. Stevie Ray Vaughn on guitar. Nile Rodgers (Chic, Random Access Memories) producing. It always felt too slick. Too much of a cash grab. I was never a huge fan of this album…until I heard it in the right context.
I have an amazing, distinct association with this album. As you may know by now, I have a very strong core of dear friends whom I’ve known most of my life. 4 of us are born within 4 days of each other. In the same hospital, no less. In our late 20’s (around 2006-2010?), our collective Peter Pan Syndrome was ascending. Every few months Joe’s dad hosted Bacchanalian-esque parties that we were wrongfully deemed mature enough to attend. There were always great people, food, party music( Depeche Mode on a great sound system is a true gift)…and Joe’s Uncle Ted. Teddy was about 20 years older than us but a kid at heart. One of the funnest, zaniest, loving humans. A true Bon Vivant, however, a big, unhealthy guy as well. If you asked Ted what he did for a living, you would never get the same response. He once owned one of my favorite French Quarter dive bars, Cosimos, he was a jeweler, a restaurateur, a Bloody Mary researcher. You get it. At one of these parties, we had convinced Joe’s dad that we wanted to have a “Fry Party”...we were going to batter and fry anything we could get our hands on. Just because it was ridiculous. Naturally, Ted loved the idea. After about a thousand beers and frying anything from oreos, snickers, popsicles, pizza, mac n cheese (“More butter!” - Ted), it was time to go out. Ted insisted on driving, which I highly discourage. Stupidly, we climbed into his early 90’s Jaguar; he rolled down the window to continue chain smoking, and popped in Bowie’s Let’s Dance and we were off. I had never been much of a Bowie fan, but when that first lick started on “Modern Love,” I got it. Ted would always preach to us to live in the moment, celebrate life more, worry less about work, money and status. We got through Side A [“China Girl (Iggy Pop cover), “Let’s Dance” (album’s anchor), “Without You”] and arrived at the bar, Monkey Hill. At that point, Teddy decided that instead of parking in the lot, he was going to park the car on the front step of the bar. So he hopped the curb, pulled straight up to the door and we all got out of the car and entered the bar. The bouncer was absolutely astonished and furiously yelling at Ted to move his car. Ted just took his keys and threw them at the poor college kid and told him it was his problem to take care of. It was crazy. It was stupid…but it was absolutely jubilant. We all felt so alive in that moment and with that music. Alive in the moment.
One of the beautiful things about life is we can always change who we are, what we do, and our direction at any point. I seem to do so myself every 5 years. Bowie always re-created himself and challenged the masses to do the same. Uncle Ted was an iconoclast who challenged us to reconsider the road paved ahead of us and look at the other routes that can take us to where we ultimately will be. And if those roads lead to a dead end, then turn around and find another road. Just keep going but be present in the moment. We still talk about that night and car ride with Bowie blasting often.
Favorite Tracks: “Modern World” “Let’s Dance” “Criminal World”
Pressing: EMI America SO-17093. Original Pressing. 1983