I’ve always liked David Bowie, even when I couldn’t stand to look at him at times. The Ziggy Stardust look was interesting, no? But man, Space Oddity is great, and so is Suffragette City, We Could Be Heroes, Jean Genie and lots, lots more. Bowie was looking for a new sound in the early 1980’s and he stumbled upon a blues guitarist who caught his ear at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1982. Stevie Ray, needing to eat, signed on with Bowie and cut the album, though later he opted out of touring to promote it.
|My second SRV album|
The album that resulted was released in 1983 and was called Let’s Dance. When it hit the airwaves, I remember hearing Modern Love on the radio and liking it. I didn’t really get to listen to the whole album, you know, with head phones the size of Mission Control headset, until I was in Cairo in late 1984. When I did, I remember wondering, who the heck is this guitar player? He’s got a great sound!
So Let’s Dance was also my very first Stevie Ray Vaughn album. The first of many. How good was Stevie Ray Vaugh? Six Grammys good. What follows are some of my favorite SRV-heavy tracks from this album and a bonus track from a practice session for the Serious Moonlight Tour that Stevie opted out of. It turned out not to have been a career killing idea. We’ll go in order of each songs appearance on the album.
Modern Love. Whoa, I thought to myself, who is this cat on guitar? And come to think of it, I think “modern love” stinks too. Though I had never met it personally myself, I preferred the idea of “old fashioned” love. So I liked this tune from the very beginning.
China Girl. Co-written with Iggy Pop (who recorded it in 1977), it’s a neat little story song that Stevie Ray’s blues guitar style brings up a notch, or two. The original video is a cool little short film too, complete with From Here to Eternity scenes in the surf, etc. I couldn’t find the longer album version though. It’s gone from YouTube forever, I reckon. This one cuts SRV’s solo to almost nothing. Pity.
Let’s Dance. Now we’re cooking! The original album version with all of its jazziness, percussion filled back beats, and, of course, the unfettered SRV blues guitar, for your listening pleasure. Stevie Ray shows he learned a thing or two from producer Nile Rodgers with his guitar playing style here. By this time, I was searching the cassette tape liner notes for the name of the lead guitarist. For the full MTV effect, go check out the little short film on materialism and its dubious benefits here. Otherwise, stay here and go long!
Criminal World. On this track, Bowie covers a tune with fairly dark lyrics. Guess what else? He really lets Stevie Ray spread his wings here. Go get ’em blues man! He really gets going at the fade into the end. That’s ok, because he picks it up on the next song where this one leaves off.
Cat People (Putting Out Fire). The first hit on the album was actually the first single released in conjunction with a film of the same title in 1982. Remember Nastassja Kinski? I hope she settled down and had a happy marriage and a lot of kids. Don’t ruin the dream with facts, please. Anyway, he re-cut it with Stevie Ray’s take on it. SRV shines here too, and I remember thinking that the drummer is very gifted too.
Jean Genie. Stevie Ray Vaugh never toured with David Bowie, though that was the original plan after the studio album was cut. For an idea of how the Serious Moonlight Tour would have sounded like with SRV on the lead guitar, check this out. It’s from the practice session recordings leading up to the tour. The visuals here are awful, but the music? Raucous!
That’s a print! Say a prayer for Stevie Ray’s soul (he died on August 27, 1990 at the age of 35, and today would have been his 57th birthday) and I’ll see you next time.