Never Let Me Down

Never Let Me Down
Never Let Me Down
Studio album by David Bowie
Released 27 April 1987
Recorded Mountain Studios, Montreux, Switzerland, autumn of 1986 [1]
Genre Rock, pop rock
Length 53:07
Label EMI America Records
Producer David Bowie and David Richards
David Bowie chronology
Never Let Me Down
Black Tie White Noise
Singles from Never Let Me Down
  1. "Day-In Day-Out"
    Released: January 1987
  2. "Time Will Crawl"
    Released: June 1987
  3. "Never Let Me Down"
    Released: August 1987
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 2/5 stars [2]
Robert Christgau (C+) [3]

Never Let Me Down is an album by David Bowie, released in April 1987. Written over a 3-month period and recorded in Switzerland,[4] Bowie regarded the album at the time as a "move back to rock 'n roll music. Very directly."[5]

Bowie described the tracks from Never Let Me Down as being written for being performed on stage[6] and they formed the backbone of Bowie's highly theatrical Glass Spider world tour in 1987 (the official video album was released from this tour which was also called Glass Spider).

When the album was released, Bowie thought he'd go back into the studio to record more material, stating, "We're all very excited to be going back in the studio. We over-wrote on [this] album and I think there's a lot more new material we want to record."[5] Those plans did not appear to come to pass, as Bowie's next solo album wouldn't arrive until 1993's Black Tie White Noise.


Album and song development

Following the rise in fame and success from his Serious Moonlight Tour, Bowie stated that while he appreciated the "sudden accessibility that my music seemed to have, ... there was a feeling where I wasn't comfortable for a while with all the glossiness and I wanted to come back into a small, tight rock group like I kind of started with."[5] Despite criticism in the press, Bowie stated that this was one of the most enjoyable and energetic albums he'd made in a long time.[7][4]

For the first time since 1980's Scary Monsters album, Bowie played instruments on the record instead of just singing.[8][9] He recorded a few demos with Erdal Kizilcay prior to working on the album with the full band. For the final cut, Bowie described his musical involvement on the album by saying "I do a lot of keyboard things, little synthesizer parts, and some rhythm guitar and I play lead guitar on a couple of tracks: "New York's in Love" and "'87 and Cry"."[10]

The album's lead track, "Day-In Day-Out", was written because Bowie had picked up on what was happening in America through the media about the treatment of the homeless, and he wanted to make a statement about it.[7] The song's video was banned on some networks, which Bowie found "ludicrous".[5] This track was also the lead single for the album.

"Time Will Crawl", which Bowie named as his favorite track from the album, was inspired by events from the Chernobyl disaster, and the idea that it could be someone from your own neighborhood who might be responsible for the end of the world.[11] This track was the second single released from the album.

The title track, "Never Let Me Down", is about Bowie's long-time personal assistant, Coco Schwab. Describing their relationship, Bowie said "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."[12] This track was the third single released from the album.

The song "Zeroes", which Rolling Stone magazine called the most heartening and successful track on the album[13] is, according to Bowie, a nostalgia trip. "I wanted to put in every 60s cliche I could think of! 'Stopping and preaching and letting love in,' all those things. I hope there's a humorous undertone to it. But the subtext is definitely that the trappings of rock are not what they're made out to be."[10]

The track "Glass Spider" is a kind of mythological story based on a documentary Bowie had seen[10] about black widow spiders, which said that the spiders lay the skeletons of their prey out on their webs. Bowie "fantasized from that, made the web more of a housing estate." Bowie also thought that the Glass Spider's web would make a good enclosure for the tour, thus giving the supporting tour its name and stage dressing.[14]

Actor Mickey Rourke asked Bowie to be involved in one of the songs, the two having met in London where Rourke was based while filming the movie A Prayer for the Dying. Bowie had him perform the mid-song rap to the song "Shining Star (Makin' My Love)." Bowie jokingly referred to Rourke's performance as "method rapping".[5]

When asked about his choice of including Iggy Pop's song "Bang Bang" on the album (instead of perhaps co-writing a new song), Bowie stated "Iggy's done so many good songs that people never get to hear ... I think it's one of his best songs, "Bang Bang," and it hasn't been heard, and now it might be."[5]

Overall, Bowie summed up the album after it was released in 1987 as an effort to "reestablish what I used to do, which was a guitar-oriented album. I think the next album will be even more so,"[14] an oddly prescient statement given that his follow-up effort was to be the guitar-oriented rock-band album Tin Machine.

Critical reception

Describing the album, critic Ira Robbins wrote "although this casual loud-rock outing... seems on first blush to be slapdash and slight, the first side is actually quite good, offering provocative pop-culture lyrics delivered with first-take enthusiasm and carefree backing."[15] In 1987, Spin Magazine called the album "an inspired and brilliantly crafted work. It's charged with a positive spirit that makes art soul food; imbued with the contagious energy that gives ideas a leg to dance on"[16], but by 1989 they had changed their mind and called the album "disappointing".[17] Rolling Stone Magazine called the work an "odd, freewheeling pastiche of elements from all the previous Bowies," "unfocused," and possibly "the noisiest, sloppiest Bowie album ever. ... Being noisy and sloppy isn't necessarily a bad thing, but sad to say, Never Let Me Down is also something of a mess."[18] Another critic held a general optimism for the potential of the songs on the album, complaining only that the "oppressive production smashed them."[19]

Public image

Bowie, having just turned 40 the year the album was released, was a common sight on magazine covers during the year. He appeared alongside Tina Turner on the cover of In Fashion[20] magazine (to the tagline 'Forever cool'), Musician magazine[21] and on the cover of Rolling Stone's US 20th Anniversary "Style" issue,[22][23] part of a series of contemporary photographs of Bowie taken by famed photograph Herb Ritts. Additionally, articles about Bowie's album and tour appeared inside such teen-oriented publications such as Mademoiselle[24] and Teen[25] magazines, with the former calling Bowie "a leading candidate for the coolest character in rock."

Album legacy

Although at the time Bowie was quite pleased with the album, even going so far as to say "Do I still feel a commitment to music? I wouldn't even bother going into the studio if I didn't. It wouldn't be worth my while",[5] his view on the album soured as the years passed. A few years later while working with Tin Machine on their second album, a "content" Bowie mused on his previous few albums:

You can tell I was terribly unhappy in the late '80s. ... I was in that netherworld of commercial acceptance. It was an awful trip. 1983, '84, '85, '86, '87 - those five years were simply dreadful. ... Never Let Me Down had good songs that I mistreated. I didn't really apply myself. I wasn't quite sure what I was supposed to be doing. I wish there had been someone around who could have told me.[26]

In 1993, while doing press tours for his album Black Tie White Noise, Bowie said that, while the album sold more than any of his previous albums, he "floundered creatively from 1984 to '88. I virtually lost my interest in music."[27]

Two years later, while talking to the press for his album Outside, he said:

[The great public esteem at that time] meant absolutely nothing to me. It didn't make me feel good. I felt dissatisfied with everything I was doing, and eventually it started showing in my work. Let's Dance was an excellent album in a certain genre, but the next two albums after that [Tonight and Never Let Me Down] showed that my lack of interest in my own work was really becoming transparent. My nadir was Never Let Me Down. It was such an awful album. I've gotten to a place now where I'm not very judgmental about myself. I put out what I do, whether it's in visual arts or in music, because I know that everything I do is really heartfelt. Even if it's a failure artistically, it doesn't bother me in the same way that Never Let Me Down bothers me. I really shouldn't have even bothered going into the studio to record it. [laughs] In fact, when I play it, I wonder if I did sometimes.[28][dead link]

In fact no song from this album has been performed on any of Bowie's tours after 1987. However, in recent years Bowie's take on the album seems to have softened, with him going so far as to re-record the track "Time Will Crawl" in 2008 for his album of self-selected favorite songs, iSelect.[29]

Track listing

All tracks by David Bowie unless otherwise noted. The album was one of the first to feature different length versions on vinyl and CD, with almost all the songs appearing on the latter having a longer running time than the former.

LP: EMI AMLS 3117 (UK)

Side one

  1. "Day-In Day-Out" – 4:38
  2. "Time Will Crawl" – 4:18
  3. "Beat of Your Drum" – 4:32
  4. "Never Let Me Down" (Bowie, Carlos Alomar) – 4:03
  5. "Zeroes" – 5:46

Side two

  1. "Glass Spider" – 4:56
  2. "Shining Star (Makin' My Love)" – 4:05
  3. "New York's in Love" – 3:55
  4. "'87 and Cry" – 3:53
  5. "Too Dizzy" (Bowie, Erdal Kizilcay) – 3:58
  6. "Bang Bang" (Iggy Pop, Ivan Kral) – 4:02
  • released digitally for the first time in 2007 on iTunes (minus "Too Dizzy")

CD: EMI CDP 7 46677 2 (UK)

  1. "Day-In Day-Out" – 5:35
  2. "Time Will Crawl" – 4:18
  3. "Beat of Your Drum" – 5:03
  4. "Never Let Me Down" (Bowie, Alomar) – 4:03
  5. "Zeroes" – 5:44
  6. "Glass Spider" – 5:30
  7. "Shining Star (Makin' My Love)" – 5:04
  8. "New York's in Love" – 4:32
  9. "'87 and Cry" – 4:18
  10. "Too Dizzy" (Bowie, Kizilcay) – 3:58
  11. "Bang Bang" (Pop]], Kral) – 4:28

The album's second track, "Time Will Crawl", was also used in the French arthouse movie Les Amants du Pont Neuf (The Lovers on the Pont Neuf).


The track "Too Dizzy" has been deleted from subsequent reissues of the album, reportedly at Bowie's request because it's his least favorite track on the album[30]. In 1995, Virgin Records rereleased the album on CD with three bonus tracks. EMI did the second rerelease in 1999 (featuring 24-bit digitally remastered sound and no bonus tracks, and also without "Too Dizzy").

CD: Virgin CDVUS98 (UK) (1995 Reissue)

  1. "Girls" (extended edit) (Bowie, Kizilcay) (1987 B-side to the "Time Will Crawl" single) – 5:38
  2. "Julie" (1987 B-side to the "Day-In Day-Out" single) – 3:45
  3. "When the Wind Blows" (from the When the Wind Blows soundtrack 1985) – 3:36

Production credits



Year Chart Position
1987 Norway's album chart 3
1987 US Billboard 200 34[31]

David Bowie – The Interview LP: EMI SPRO 79112/3

David Bowie The Interview LP
Studio album by David Bowie
Released 1987
Label EMI America Records
Producer David Bowie

This interview disc was released promotionally-only, to coincide with the release of Never Let Me Down. It contains 5 complete songs from the album, as well as recordings of David Bowie answering 24 questions. The back of the record lists each of the 24 questions, so a DJ could ask the questions in their own voice, and then by playing the corresponding track could pretend to have a personal Q&A with David Bowie. This release contains a unique fade edit of the song "Zeroes".

The questions deal mostly with the lyrical and musical content of the album Never Let Me Down and the upcoming Glass Spider Tour.

The Interview LP Track Listing

  1. "Never Let Me Down" (Bowie, Alomar) – 4:01
  2. Q1: Never Let Me Down marks your return to the studio to make your own album for the first time since 1984. How is this record different in terms of approach and execution?
  3. Q2: The vocals on this album seem to have different character from track to track. How did this come about?
  4. Q3: How big an influence in your music was Little Richard?
  5. Q4: How would you describe your lyric writing style?
  6. Q5a: Do you have a favourite song on this album?
  7. Q5b: If so, why?
  8. "Time Will Crawl" – 4:15
  9. Q6: There seems to be more to "Time Will Crawl" than its musicality. Would you expand on this?
  10. Q7: What direction are music videos going in today?
  11. Q8: From your perspective, what changes do you see happening in rock and roll now? Where is it going and where do you fit in?
  12. Q9: Can you equate musical proficiency with the energy in rock?
  13. "Bang Bang" (Pop, Kral) – 3:57
  14. Q10: Do anger, energy and enthusiasm characterise you on stage?
  15. Q11: How do you view music in the '80's as a tool to effect social change?
  16. Q12: You're in the midst of a world tour with your new album. What sort of challenge is it?
  17. Q13: Does the tour have at theme and what can we look for on the Glass Spider Tour?
  18. Q14: How do you prepare for a tour?
  19. "Day-In Day-Out" – 4:30
  20. Q15: How do you handle the rigors of life on the road?
  21. Q16: What sort of response do you expect from your audience in general?
  22. Q17: What do you think your audience expects from you?
  23. Q18: Do you have a current favourite band?
  24. Q19: What do you want from your audience on this tour?
  25. Q20: Of all the characters you've portrayed as a musician and actor, do you have a favourite?
  26. Q21: Musicians don't get the chance to change personae without confusing their audience. How have you managed it?
  27. "Zeroes" – 4:15
  28. Q22: Do you think the artistic renaissance in Europe is still flourishing?
  29. Q23: You read science fiction, plays, poetry. What else?
  30. Q24: There's quite a difference between a song like "Blue Jean" and "Time Will Crawl." Can you elaborate?
  31. "Never Let Me Down" (End Fade) – 0:36


  1. ^ Buckley, David. Strange fascination: David Bowie, the definitive story. Virgin Books, 2005. 0753510022, 9780753510025
  2. ^
  3. ^ "CG: david bowie". Robert Christgau. Retrieved 2011-09-13. 
  4. ^ a b New York Glass Spider Press Conference, 18 March 1987
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Amsterdam Glass Spider Press Conference, 30 March 1987
  6. ^ London Glass Spider Press Conference, 20 March 1987
  7. ^ a b Stockholm Glass Spider Press Conference, 28 March 1987
  8. ^ Fricke, David (December 1984), "David Bowie Interview", Musician magazine (74): 46-56 
  9. ^ Timothy, White (May 1983), "David Bowie Interview", Musician magazine (55): 52-66, 122 
  10. ^ a b c Isler, Scott (August 1987), "David Bowie Opens Up - A Little", Musician (106): 60-73 
  11. ^ "David Bowie - The Interview" 1987, EMI America (Album) Track 5
  12. ^ "Stardust Memories" by Kurt Loder for Rolling Stone Magazine, 23 April 1987, p. 171
  13. ^ [1] Rolling Stone magazine
  14. ^ a b Sydney Glass Spider Press Conference, 27 October 1987
  15. ^ Robbins, Ira (1991). The Trouser Press Record Guide (4th ed. ed.). New York: Collier Books. p. 84. ISBN 0-02-036361-3. 
  16. ^ Spin Magazine, issue unknown 1987
  17. ^ Spin Magazine, July 1989, p. 110
  18. ^
  19. ^ "David Bowie Best of Bowie 2002 Video Review" by Colin Jacobson,
  20. ^ In Fashion magazine, July/August 1987
  21. ^ Musician Magazine, August 1987, p.63
  22. ^ Rolling Stone magazine, 23 April 23 1987
  23. ^ "". 1987-04-23. Retrieved 2011-09-13. 
  24. ^ Mademoiselle magazine, July 1987
  25. ^ Teen magazine, October 1987
  26. ^ Cohen, Scott (September 1991), "David Bowie Interview", Details magazine: 86-97 
  27. ^ Mary Campbell for the Associated Press, 6 August 1993
  28. ^ Ingrid Sischy "David Bowie – interview with singer – Interview". Interview. Sept 1995.
  29. ^ The Mail on Sunday, June 29th, 2008 edition
  30. ^ Crankin' Out - The David Bowie Magazine, Issue #5, 1997
  31. ^ All Music

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