Bowie – Tonight


The sleeve design for Bowie’s pop detour 1984’s Tonight was by Mick Haggerty, who had previously worked on Let’s Dance. Bowie commissioned Haggerty to create a design for Tonight that owed a clear debt to Gilbert and George (specifically the stained glass locusts of Faith Curse).


It depicted a blue-tinted Bowie before a stained-glass effect oil painting, with roses and lilies amid the bold brush strokes. Tonight’s artwork is striking even if the album was widely regarded as a stopover album for Bowie.


One of my favourite Bowie albums! There I said it. Obviously this is where Bowie lost interest somewhat in his own musical output and it seems he started to second-guess the musical tastes of his global following and rushed out Tonight to capitalise on the massive success of Let’s Dance and the subsequent mega-selling Serious Moonlight tour.

It worked. Tonight went to Number 1 on the UK charts. Recorded in May 1984, at Le Studio, Morin-Heights, Quebec Bowie went into the sessions without a plethora of original material, the only two original and solely-Bowie composed tracks were the very good Blue Jean and Loving the Alien. Tonight took five weeks to record, two weeks longer than his previous album.


Bowie with Arif Marden, string arranger, at Le Studio 1984.

The remainder of the tracks were cooked up in the studio with 80s producer Hugh Padgham (Genesis, Phil Collins, The Police) and later Derek Bramble and, like this article, it was slapped together; generic horns and marimbas, and um, reggae unbelievably the key feel, while Bowie sat on the couch waiting to do his vocal take. Iggy Pop was in on the sessions too. A number of his songs (eg: Neighbourhood Threat, Don’t Look Down) were covered, and a Beach Boys classic was put to the sword (the gloriously grotesque God Only Knows), making Tonight something of (in Bowie’s exact words) a violent take on a Pin Ups 2.

David Bowie tonight back cover - Vinyl Philosophy -

Having said that, the album is an enjoyable listen. Bowie is in superb voice, and unlike Let’s Dance (where most of the same musicians were used), the stylized pop of Tonight is actually varied and interesting as a whole, never dull, even if the songwriting is virtually non-existent. It’s Bowie-lite.

Clearly a less-inspired album in the Bowie canon (it was essentially disowned by Bowie upon its release), it is an enjoyable experience when listened to in the right context. Ok I do have a soft spot for it. Sue me. Never Let Me Down too, if only for sentimental reasons.

The single Blue Jean came with the excellent Jazzin’ for Blue Jean, a 20-minute short film featuring Bowie in two roles and directed by Julien Temple. It was created to promote the single and released as a video single (something a lot of artists were doing in the mid-80s). The film won the 1985 Grammy Award for Best Music Video, which proved to be Bowie’s only competitive Grammy Award during his lifetime. Whatevs.


Goodman. Good. Man.

This entry was posted in Album Covers, David Bowie, Images. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Bowie – Tonight

  1. Pingback: More Album Cover Outtakes | THE PRESS | Music Reviews

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