How David Bowie’s Let’s Dance album caused a rift with producer Tony Visconti

14 April 2022, 12:43

David Bowie brings the Serious Moonlight tour to Sweden, June 1983
David Bowie brings the Serious Moonlight tour to Sweden, June 1983. Picture: TT News Agency / Alamy Stock Photo

By Jenny Mensah

Bowie's 1983 album was a huge milestone in the star's career - but it had an impact on his working relationship with long-time collaborator Visconti.

David Bowie released his 15th studio album on 14 April 1983. Let's Dance saw him change up his sound and style once again - proving himself to be the king of reinvention.

David Bowie's Let's Dance album artwork
David Bowie's Let's Dance album artwork. Picture: Press

The album - which include hits such as - Modern Love, China Girl and its title track Let's Dance, is famously produced by Chic legend Nile Rodgers, but did you know that Bowie's decision to go with the musician created a distance with his longtime collaborator Tony Visconti?

Find out why the the album almost cost Bowie one of his most important relationships.

Nile Rodgers and the late David Bowie in 1983
David Bowie ended up choosing Nile Rodgers to produce his Let's Dance album in 1983. Picture: Walter McBride/Corbis via Getty Image

David Bowie had indeed originally booked Tony Visconti to produce the album. It was a natural choice, as the pair had worked together on Bowie's four previous records; Low (1977), Heroes (1977) and Lodger (1979) - which made up the iconic Berlin trilogy - plus Scary Monsters in 1980.

However, Bowie decided to go with Nile Rogers instead. We doubt this change of plan would have been much of an issue if Visconti wasn't already booked and had set time aside for the project... or if he was told the news by Bowie himself.

Tony Visconti and David Bowie making the Man Who Sold The World album at Trident Studios in London, May 1970
Tony Visconti and David Bowie making the Man Who Sold The World album at Trident Studios in London, May 1970. Picture: Rolf Adlercreutz / Alamy Stock Photo

Biography, The Complete David Bowie by Nicholas Pegg details the event and Visconti's reaction to it. "I was hurt," the producer recalled, "because I was booked to do Let's Dance and he blew me out two weeks before... for three months he kept saying, 'Keep December free, we're going to go in and record then'."

He added: "Getting close to that month, I phoned up Coco, [Bowie's assistant] and she said, 'Well you might as well know - he's been in the studio for the past two weeks with someone else. It's working out well and we won't be needing you, he's very sorry.'"

As the story goes, the pair's relationship became somewhat strained and they didn't work together for almost 20 years until Bowie's 2002 Heathen album.

READ MORE - "The Worst Next Day": Tony Visconti recalls the day David Bowie died

Tony Visconti said he was hurt after hearing David Bowie had chosen Nile Rodgers over him
Tony Visconti said he was hurt after hearing David Bowie had chosen Nile Rodgers over him. Picture: Bill Tompkins/Getty Images

Luckily this wasn't to be the last of their great partnership.

After Heathen, Tony Visconti went on to produce Bowie's albums Reality (2003), The Next Day (2013) and Blackstar (2016) - his final studio release before he died just two days later on 10 January that year.

Speaking about the Ziggy Stardust legend, Visconti called Blackstar a "parting gift" from Bowie to his fans.

Very few people knew about Bowie's private battle with cancer, and those who did all signed NDAs like Visconti about working on his final project.

One year on from his death, remembering the day he heard that his old friend and collaborator died one, Visconti recalled: "My band, Holy Holy, hadn’t any idea David was terminally ill. I had signed an NDA a year earlier (which was unnecessary) vowing I wouldn’t reveal any details about the recording of Blackstar. The shock was obviously greater to them."

The producer concluded: "I will try to accept that David has passed. I’ve been through every stage of grief in the past 365 days, including anger. Of course, he never left us in spirit. We are fortunate to have lived in the same time as him. We’ve seen him, we’ve heard him sing and speak, we’ve hugged him, we’ve worshipped him and we are constantly reminded of him daily. He was a legend in his lifetime and he will be a legend until the end of time. But he was my friend too. I miss him dearly."

Read his full heartfelt post here:

10 January 2016 – The Worst Next Day I was sound asleep in a hotel room in Toronto when my phone lit up around 2 am...

Posted by Tony Visconti on Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Even after his death, Visconti is still collaborating with the Ziggy Stardust rocker. He produced the posthumously released live album, Welcome to the Blackout (Live London '78), which was released in 2018.

Let's Dance may have caused the pair to put their working relationship on ice, but thankfully it eventually thawed - allowing us to enjoy the fruits of their labour for many years to come.

READ MORE: David Bowie met Freddie Mercury before they were famous

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