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Flashback Video: 'Let's Dance' by David Bowie

Ever since the dawn of MTV and Friday Night Videos, the music video has significantly impacted musical tastes and pop culture. It might not be as extreme as when the Buggles declared that "Video Killed the Radio Star", but there is no arguing that the music video certainly could make or break a song's popularity. So this regular Flashback Video feature will serve to remember some of the music videos from the great '80s decade that made an impact on me in one way or another.


This issue we will cover "Let's Dance" by David Bowie. Now Bowie produced quite a bit of music in the late '60s and throughout the '70s finding his first American success with 1975’s “Fame” (which was actually co-written by none other than John Lennon). As a youngster, I had no idea who David Bowie was until he joined Queen to release the amazing song “Under Pressure” in 1981, but would really take notice in 1983 when his album Let’s Dance dropped which was co-produced by Chic’s Nile Rodgers. That album features the late, great Stevie Ray Vaughan’s guitar on most songs and yielded several hits including “Modern Love,” “China Girl” and the album’s namesake, "Let's Dance", which would top the Billboard Hot 100 in May of 1983.

The music video for "Let's Dance" was made in March 1983 by David Mallet who is another one of the most prolific video directors of the '80s. He co-founded MGMM along with Brian Grant, Russell Mulcahy and Scott Millaney. Mallet directed Joan Jett "Bad Reputation", Iron Maiden "Run to the Hills", Def Leppard "Photograph", Def Leppard "Rock of Ages", Def Leppard"Foolin'" and Billy Idol "White Wedding" among several others before working on "Let's Dance". Then he also directed Bowie's video for "China Girl" and also went on to later direct Queen "Radio Ga Ga", Scorpions "Rock You Like a Hurricane", Queen "I Wanna Break Free", Billy Idol "Eyes Without a Face", Kool & the Gang "Fresh", David Bowie & Mick Jagger "Dancing in the Street", AC/DC "You Shook Me All Night Long", AC/DC "Who Made Who", Queen "I Want it All" among many others and continued to work into the '90s (mostly with AC/DC). The video was shot on location in New South Wales, Australia (including a bar in Carinda and the Warrumbungle National Park near Coonabarabran) and in Sydney, Australia (including The Strand Arcade, Broadway street in front of the University of Notre Dame Australia and on the Sydney Heads overlooking Sydney Harbour). In addition to Bowie, the video features an Aboriginal couple played by Terry Roberts and Joelene King, two students from Sydney's Aboriginal Islander Dance Theatre. The other residents shown throughout the video did not know a music video was being filmed and didn't even know who David Bowie was in order to capture genuine reactions. Some of the locals actually mocked the couple with their own dance moves and Mallet has confirmed that the white people shown dancing in the bar were actually making fun of the Aboriginal couple. Mallet used the red shoes mentioned in the song's lyrics in several contexts but mostly as a symbol of capitalism and consumerism. Bowie himself has described the video as a "very simple, very direct" statement against racism. You can make your own impression as here is the music video for "Let's Dance" by David Bowie...


That song transports me back to 1983 in an instant. That is one of my favorite parts about this song and this video. One of my favorite things about about music in general is how it can take you back to a certain moment in time and allow nostalgia to flow over you as quickly as anything. Now put on your red shoes and dance the blues!


Hope you enjoyed another trip back to the '80s thanks to Flashback Video!

2 comments

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Photog Smurf
Photog Smurf
09 apr. 2022

This is the song I came to associate with Bowie the most. Something about it just encapsulates everything about his music really well.

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I also didn't really listen to Bowie as a kid, though of course I would have been aware of a lot of his songs anyway. I think more than any others "Golden Years" because of the Stephen King show.

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