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Never Let Me Down (David Bowie song)

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"Never Let Me Down"
Bowie NeverLetMeDownSingle.jpg
Single by David Bowie
from the album Never Let Me Down
B-side"'87 and Cry"
Released17 August 1987
RecordedEarly 1987
Power Station studios
(New York City)
David Bowie singles chronology
"Time Will Crawl"
"Never Let Me Down"
"Under the God"
Music video
"Never Let Me Down" on YouTube

"Never Let Me Down" is a song recorded by English singer David Bowie, serving as the title track for his 1987 studio album of the same name. It was released as the third and final single from the record in 1987, and served as his last solo single until 1992's "Real Cool World" (although a remix of "Fame" was released in 1990). "Never Let Me Down" was written by the singer himself and Carlos Alomar, while production was handled by Bowie along with David Richards.

Music critics viewed the track as one of the best on Never Let Me Down and listed it among the most underrated of his career. An accompanying music video for the single was shot by French director Jean-Baptiste Mondino and similarly received positive response. Commercially, "Never Let Me Down" reached number 27 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 34 on the UK Singles Chart. It was aided by a CD release, Bowie's first, and remained the singer's last single to chart within the top 40 in the United States until "Lazarus" (2015).

Background and development[edit]

"Never Let Me Down" was the last track written and recorded for the album, but despite this, Bowie said that the song was "completely finished in twenty-four hours from the beginning of the writing to the end of the arranging".[1] The name of the track was originally "Isolation" before Bowie changed it.[2] He had started with his own chord structure for the song but wasn't happy with it, calling it "ponderous and funereal."[3] Long-time collaborator and co-songwriter Carlos Alomar reworked the chords for "Never Let Me Down", using a chord structure from a song he had written on his own called "I'm Tired", and thus received part of the writing credit for the track.[1][3] The singer described the single as a "pivotal" track for himself, calling it the most personal song he had written for an album to that point in his career.[3] The recording is about Bowie's long-time personal assistant, Coco Schwab. Bowie described their relationship, saying:[4]

It's platonic. But there is a romance in it, I guess, inasmuch as it's hard for two people to feel totally at ease in each other's company for that period of time and not expect too much from each other. Always being prepared to be there if the other one needs someone, you know? There's not many people you find in life that you can do that with, or feel that way with.

Release and promotion[edit]

"Never Let Me Down" was released through EMI in 1987 and was the first Bowie single to be made available on CD, including a newly remixed version.[1][5] A digital download version of the tracks was made available online in 2007.[1] Bowie performed the song on BBC's Top of the Pops on 16 September 1987 and it was aired on the first broadcast of the American version of the show.[6] The track was additionally performed live during his 1987 Glass Spider Tour and included as part of the Glass Spider (1988) concert film.[1] The song was added to several compilation albums, including Bowie: The Singles 1969-1993 (1993) and Best of Bowie (2002).[1][7][8] A re-mastered / re-recorded version of the song, as well as several original remixes of the song, appear on the box set Loving the Alien (1983–1988) (2018).[2]

Music video[edit]

French director Jean-Baptiste Mondino was selected by Bowie to direct an accompanying music video. Regarding this, Bowie said, "It's an experiment; I'm really putting myself in his [Jean-Baptiste's] hands. [...] I think if I did it [the video myself], it would be very abrasive, and I'm not quite sure if that's how I want the song to come off visually. In concert it will be abrasive; it won't have the same quality as the video. But I really think Mondino is a fantastic video maker. He just knows that this is his genre. He's like a craftsman and that's what he's trying to perfect, this craft of making his five minutes work."[9] Actor Joe Dallesandro makes appearances throughout the clip, announcing the dance marathon.[10] A shot from the music video was used to commercialize 7" releases of the single.[11]

The video, described as a dream-like portrayal of a 1950s-style dance marathon, was viewed positively by one critic, who called it "creative and engaging."[12] A review in the Los Angeles Times scores the video "excellent (85/100)"[13] and the newspaper later rated the clip as one of the Top 10 of 1987.[14] Bowie encyclopedist Nicholas Pegg called the video "years ahead of its time", saying that it "beautifully captures the song's dreamlike quality."[1]


Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic described the song as a "John Lennon homage" and one of Bowie's "most underrated songs".[15] Pegg called the track "among the strongest" from the album due to its "refreshing spontaneity", compared to the overproduction of the rest of the album.[1] Commercially, "Never Let Me Down" was Bowie's last single to chart inside the top 40 of Billboard's Hot 100 until his "Lazarus" (2015) did so in 2016.[16] Additionally, the track peaked at number 34 on the UK Singles Chart.[17]

Track listing[edit]

"Never Let Me Down" was written by Bowie and Alomar, and "'87 and Cry" solely by Bowie. A limited edition picture disk (EAP 239) was issued in some territories. All songs were made available as digital downloads in 2007.[1]

Credits and personnel[edit]

Credits adapted from the liner notes of Never Let Me Down.[21]


Chart (1987) Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report)[22] 63
Canada (Canadian Hot 100)[23] 37
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[24] 70
Ireland (IRMA)[25] 27
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[17] 34
US Billboard Hot 100[26] 27
US Dance Club Songs (Billboard)[27] 17
US Mainstream Rock (Billboard)[28] 15


  1. ^ a b c Additional musicians on the "single version", "Extended Dance Mix", "Dub" and "A Capella" versions.


  • Pegg, Nicholas, The Complete David Bowie New Edition: Expanded and Updated, Titan Books, 2016, ISBN 978-1-78565-365-0


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Pegg, Nicholas (October 2016). "The Complete David Bowie New Edition: Expanded and Updated". Titan Books.
  2. ^ a b Loving the Alien (1983–1988) (Media notes). Parlophone. 2018.
  3. ^ a b c Isler, Scott (August 1987), "David Bowie Opens Up – A Little", Musician (106): 60–73
  4. ^ Loder, Kurt (23 April 1987), "Stardust Memories", Rolling Stone Magazine (498): 74–77, 80, 82, &nbsp, 168, 171
  5. ^ a b Never Let Me Down (Liner notes). EMI (Barcode: 5099920199678). 1987.
  6. ^ Bowie Wonderworld, retrieved 10 January 2013
  7. ^ Bowie: The Singles 1969–1993 (Liner notes). Rykodisc (Barcode: 014431021824). 1993.
  8. ^ Best of Bowie (Liner notes). EMI (Barcode: 724349010390). 2002.
  9. ^ "Dave In, Dave Out", Music & Sound Output magazine, June 1987
  10. ^ Ferguson, Michael (17 February 2015). Joe Dallesandro: Warhol Superstar, Underground Film Icon, Actor. Open Road Media.
  11. ^ Never Let Me Down (Liner notes). EMI. 1987.
  12. ^ Jacobson, Colin (2002). "David Bowie Best of Bowie 2002 Video Review". Retrieved 2 January 2017.
  13. ^ Atkinson, Terry (16 August 1987), "Where The Surf Meets The Rap", Los Angeles Times, retrieved 29 October 2013
  14. ^ Willman, Chris; Atkinson, Terry (27 December 1987), "The Year of Tawny's Legs", Los Angeles Times, retrieved 29 October 2013
  15. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "David Bowie – Never Let Me Down". AllMusic. Retrieved 10 August 2016.
  16. ^ Gary Trust (19 January 2016). "David Bowie Scores First Top 40 Hot 100 Single Since 1987 With 'Lazarus'". Billboard. Retrieved 19 January 2016.
  17. ^ a b "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 8 January 2017.
  18. ^ Never Let Me Down (Liner notes). EMI (Barcode: 5099920203764). 1987.
  19. ^ Never Let Me Down (Liner notes). EMI (Barcode: 077771925511). 1987.
  20. ^ Never Let Me Down (Liner notes). EMI (Barcode: T4988006617544). 1987.
  21. ^ Never Let Me Down (Liner notes/ CD booklet). EMI. 1987.
  22. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, NSW: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  23. ^ "David Bowie Chart History (Canadian Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved 8 January 2017.
  24. ^ " – David Bowie – Never Let Me Down" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 8 January 2017.
  25. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Never Let Me Down". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved September 24, 2018.
  26. ^ "David Bowie Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved 8 January 2017.
  27. ^ "David Bowie Chart History (Dance Club Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved 8 January 2017.
  28. ^ "David Bowie Chart History (Mainstream Rock)". Billboard. Retrieved 8 January 2017.

External links[edit]