Don’t Look Down On This Album
I don’t make any apologies when I say I enjoy this much-dismissed album more than I do some of David Bowie’s more acclaimed works. Tonight is an actual album, unlike Let’s Dance which was more a collection of songs. In fact, from Bowie’s so-called “sell out” period I honestly think Tonight and Never Let Me Down are much stronger albums than Let’s Dance, half of which is comprised of very disposable tracks.
Loving the Alien is one of my very favourite Bowie songs. I didn’t think much of it when I first heard it in a single edit on The Best of Bowie but that changed when I heard the full-length version with the instrumental orchestral second half make for one hell of an atmospheric seven-minute epic. The lyrics are also among some of the most fascinating on a Bowie song, comparing the Templars (Christians) and the Saracens (Muslims) of the Middle Ages to the current Holy War in Palestine today, in other words, history is doomed to repeat itself – and who is the alien? God himself? The one both sides claim to be on their side.
The one issue with Tonight is that most the songs are not actually Bowie songs, they’re mostly covers of Iggy Pop songs but they’re quality covers. Compare them to Bowie and Mick Jagger’s cover of Dancing In the Street, which for the life of me I can’t figure out why people like that cover so much; the covers on Tonight have far superior arrangement and production values. Don’t Look Down is one of Bowie’s most relaxing songs, I don’t know how anyone could listen to it and say “this is a bad song”. Never being a Beach Boys fan, God Only Knows was never a favourite song of mine and I like Bowie’s version more than the original. The orchestral segments of the cover as well as it’s grander and atmospheric nature really does it for me over the original. Tina Turner’s appearance on the song Tonight doesn’t add anything to the song but doesn’t take anything away either, while Neighbourhood Threat is a terrific rocker, it’s so 80’s I love it. I found the final two songs on the album disappointing, I Keep Forgettin’ is disposable while Dancing With the Big Boys doesn’t do anything for me, although even these weak song I consider to be better than Let’s Dance’s weak songs. Also, that beautiful stained glass album cover alone would make Tonight worth buying on vinyl.
Why does 1980’s Bowie get dismissed as much as it does; because an artist who spent the previous decade working in the avant-garde started to make commercial pop music? If David Bowie was a new artist who first hit the scene with Let’s Dance would this output of music be looked upon with more respect? I like both sides of Bowie, the avant-garde and the mainstream pop star. However, if you’re back catalog is only comprised of music which is serious and there’s nothing which is just simply fun and laid back to counterbalance it, then things get stale.