Never Let Me Down

Never Let Me Down is the 17th studio album by English musician David Bowie, released on 20 April 1987 through EMI America Records. After a series of miscellaneous projects, Bowie hoped to make his next record differently following his disappointment with Tonight (1984). It was recorded at Mountain Studios in Montreux, Switzerland and the Power Station in New York City from September to November 1986. It was co-produced by Bowie and David Richards and featured contributions from Peter Frampton on guitar. Musically, Never Let Me Down has been characterised as pop rock, art rock and hard rock; Bowie himself considered the record a return to rock and roll music. The cover artwork features Bowie surrounded by numerous elements from the songs.

Never Let Me Down
Studio album by
Released20 April 1987 (1987-04-20)
RecordedSeptember–November 1986
  • 53:07 (CD)
  • 48:06 (LP)
LabelEMI America
David Bowie chronology
Never Let Me Down
Tin Machine
Singles from Never Let Me Down
  1. "Day-In Day-Out" / "Julie"
    Released: 23 March 1987
  2. "Time Will Crawl" / "Girls"
    Released: June 1987
  3. "Never Let Me Down" / "'87 and Cry"
    Released: August 1987

Released with different runtimes on vinyl and CD, Never Let Me Down was a commercial success, peaking at No. 6 in the UK. Three singles were released, all of which reached the UK Top 40. Despite this, the album was poorly received by fans and critics, with its production singled out for criticism. Bowie supported it on the Glass Spider Tour, named after one of the tracks, a world tour that was at that point the biggest, most theatrical and elaborate tour he had undertaken in his career. The tour, like the album, was commercially successful but critically panned. The critical failure of the album and tour were factors that led Bowie to look for a new way to motivate himself creatively, leading him to create the rock band Tin Machine in 1989; he did not release another solo album until Black Tie White Noise in 1993.

Retrospectively, Never Let Me Down is generally regarded as one of Bowie's weakest releases, although his biographers consider it superior to Tonight. One track, "Too Dizzy", has been deleted from subsequent reissues due to Bowie's dislike of it. Throughout his lifetime, Bowie was critical of Never Let Me Down, distancing himself from the arrangement and production of the finished album. He expressed a desire to remake it numerous times, eventually remixing "Time Will Crawl" for inclusion on his career retrospective iSelect (2008). Its remixer, Mario J. McNulty, brought Bowie's idea to remake the whole album to fruition in 2018. Released as part of the box set Loving the Alien (1983–1988), Never Let Me Down 2018 features new production and instrumentation over Bowie's original vocals. Reviewers consider the new version an improvement over the original album.

Background and developmentEdit

Following the rise in fame and success from his 1983 album Let's Dance and its subsequent Serious Moonlight Tour, David Bowie felt disconnected from his newfound fanbase.[1] After the poor reception of follow-up Tonight (1984),[2] he worked on a series of miscellaneous projects that included collaborations with the Pat Metheny Group for "This Is Not America" (from the soundtrack to the film The Falcon and the Snowman) and Mick Jagger for "Dancing in the Street".[3][4] He also continued acting and composing for film soundtracks such as Absolute Beginners (1985) and Labyrinth (1986).[3][5]

In 1985, after his successful performance at Live Aid, Bowie's label, EMI, were eager for another record. They compiled a compilation of 12" mixes from Let's Dance and Tonight, titled Dance, that reached the artwork stage before being shelved.[6] In mid-1986, Bowie collaborated with his old friend Iggy Pop for his solo album Blah-Blah-Blah, producing and co-writing multiple tracks.[7][8] He then worked with Turkish musician Erdal Kızılçay for the title song of the 1986 film When the Wind Blows, before returning to the studio to record his next album.[7]

Writing and recordingEdit

A view of Montreux, Switzerland, where Bowie recorded the album

Bowie spent the middle of 1986 in his home in Switzerland writing songs with Iggy Pop.[9] He bought a Foster 16-track and AHB mixing console to record elaborate home demos,[3] which he recorded with Kızılçay before beginning work on the new record with the full band.[10] Having worked together sporadically since 1982, Bowie greatly appreciated Kızılçay's musicianship, stating, "He can switch from violin to trumpet to French horn, vibes, percussion, whatever...His knowledge of rock music begins and ends with the Beatles! His background is really jazz."[11] During the sessions, Kızılçay played keyboards and synthesisers and, according to biographer Chris O'Leary, "provided any sound" Bowie requested.[3] Unlike the sessions for Tonight,[12] Bowie wanted to encourage collaboration for the new album's sessions, stating: "I made demos of everything before we went in, and I played them to everybody and I said, 'I want it to sound exactly like this, but better!'"[11]

Peter Frampton (pictured in 2011) contributed guitar to the album and joined Bowie on the supporting tour.

Never Let Me Down was recorded between September and November 1986.[3] The sessions began at Mountain Studios in Montreux, Switzerland,[7] and completed at the Power Station in New York City.[13][14] The album was co-produced by Bowie and David Richards, who had engineered "Heroes" (1977) and co-produced Blah-Blah-Blah. It was engineered by Let's Dance engineer Bob Clearmountain, who, according to Bowie, was responsible for the album's "great, forceful sound".[13] Returning from the Tonight sessions was regular collaborator Carlos Alomar on guitar, Carmine Rojas on bass and a group of saxophonists called the Borneo Horns. Along with Kızılçay, they were joined by Peter Frampton, a former classmate of Bowie's, on lead guitar.[7] Bowie phoned Frampton after listening to his latest record Premonition (1986), stating at the time, "I always thought it'd be good to work with him 'cause I was so impressed with him as a guitarist at school."[15] Frampton played on all but three of the album's tracks.[16] Sid McGinnis, a some-time member of David Letterman's band, played lead guitar on three tracks: "Day-In Day-Out", "Time Will Crawl" and a cover of Iggy Pop's "Bang Bang".[13] For the first time since Scary Monsters, Bowie played instruments in addition to singing.[12][17] He played keyboards, synthesiser and rhythm guitar on some tracks, and played lead guitar on two: "New York's in Love" and "'87 and Cry".[9][13] According to Kızılçay, they "used to start at about 10 in the morning an finish in the evening about 8 o'clock" while recording the album, adding that Bowie "was very disciplined" during recording and "was always trying something new".[18]

Bowie, Richards and Kızılçay recorded backing tracks at Mountain for the first two weeks, after which Alomar and Frampton were flown in for guitar overdubs.[11] Sessions then moved to the Power Station, where horns and backing vocalists were added, along with additional percussion from Errol "Crusher" Bennett.[3] According to Richards, these were elements that Bowie said: "you can only get in New York". Regarding Bennett's contributions, Richards recalled: "[He]set all his 'bangers' and 'scrapers' on a table, which I miked at each end. So whenever he moved around, the sounds would pan with him, creating some strange spatial effects."[11] The majority of Bowie's vocals were taken from guide vocals recorded at Mountain, although some were later re-recorded at the Power Station. Richards explained: "David always sang a guide vocal very early on in the recording process...Most of these vocals were so good and had such great spontaneity that they ended up on the record."[11] "Never Let Me Down" was a last-minute addition to the album, written and recorded in one day during the last week of mixing at the Power Station.[11] 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 A Prayer for the Dying (1987). Bowie had him perform the mid-song rap for "Shining Star (Makin' My Love)".[3] Two tracks were recorded that ended up as B-sides, "Julie" and "Girls", the latter of which was briefly considered for inclusion on Never Let Me Down in late 1986.[19]


I wanted the energy, high power and state-of-the-art sound of the '80s, but I also wanted to reflect everything I've lived through and been a fan of and been involved in.[20]

—David Bowie on the album's sound

The music on Never Let Me Down has been characterised as pop rock, art rock and hard rock.[3][21][22] During its making, Bowie stated he felt that the sound and style was reminiscent of his 1980 album Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) and less like its immediate predecessors.[23] He also acknowledged that the songs lacked a cohesive musical style, which he said reflected his eclectic musical tastes at the time, and stated that the album was "a reflection of all the styles of writing I've used over the last few years."[9] When promoting the record, he described it as "an eclectic hybrid of long-standing influences and personal nostalgia."[11] At the time, a writer for the Canadian Press considered the record "a basic serving of high-energy, guitar rock", representing a departure from his "adventurous" late 1970s works and the "R&B-flavoured" Let's Dance.[24] Biographer Paul Trynka writes that the record contains mostly "conventional music, lyrics and sounds".[25]

Side oneEdit

"Day-In Day-Out" reflected Bowie's concerns about the treatment of the homeless in Los Angeles.[3] Author James Perone states that the song is a good example of Bowie's experimentation with the R&B genre.[26] "Time Will Crawl", which Bowie named as his favourite track from the album, was inspired by the Chernobyl disaster and the idea that someone from one's own neighborhood could be responsible for the end of the world.[15][27] Compared to Prince's "1999",[26] Bowie said his vocals on the song "owed a lot to Neil Young", and noted that the variety of voices he used on the album were a nod to the musicians who had influenced him in the past.[9] Bowie called "Beat of Your Drum" a Lolita song, a "reflection on young girls... 'Christ, she's only 14 years old, but jail's worth it!'"[14] Biographer Nicholas Pegg, who called the song one of the better tracks on the album, noted that it could be called a "direct ancestor", both lyrically and musically, to Tin Machine's 1991 song, "You Belong in Rock n' Roll".[28] Perone finds it resembles the contemporary techno craze, while further exhibiting punk rock influences.[26]

The title track is about Bowie's long-time personal assistant, Coco Schwab. Bowie wrote the song as a direct reference to his relationship with Schwab as a counterpoint to the rest of the songs on the album, which he felt were mostly allegorical.[23] Bowie attributed his vocal performance on the track to John Lennon.[9][26] One reviewer later called it one of Bowie's "most underrated songs."[22] "Zeroes", which Rolling Stone's Steve Pond called the most heartening and successful track on the album,[29] 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."[9] Musically, the track features a sitar reminiscent of George Harrison's work with the Beatles. The song also references Bowie's earlier songs "Diamond Dogs" (1974) and "'Heroes'" (1977) in its music and title, respectively.[30]

Side twoEdit

Actor Mickey Rourke (pictured in 2009) performed the mid-song rap on "Shining Star (Makin' My Love)".

"Glass Spider" marks a return to the electronica of Bowie's late 1970s Berlin Trilogy, as well as influences of psychedelic folk and heavy metal.[26] It presents a mythological story based on a documentary Bowie had seen about black widow spiders, describing how they lay the skeletons of their prey out on their webs. Echoing "Future Legend" from Diamond Dogs (1974), he 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.[3][31] Bowie described "Shining Star (Makin' My Love)" as one that "reflects back-to-street situations, and how people are trying to get together in the face of so many disasters and catastrophes, socially around them, never knowing if they're going to survive it themselves. The one thing they have got to cling on to is each other; although it might resolve into something terrible, it's the only thing that they've got. It's just a little love song coming out of that environment."[14] He rejected the notion that his "high, little" voice (which he attributed to Smokey Robinson) in the song was a new character, instead saying it was just what the song needed, as he had tried the song in his regular voice and did not like the outcome: "That never bothered me, changing voices to suit a song. You can fool about with it."[9] "New York's in Love" is a dance track that Bowie described as a sarcastic song about the vanity of big cities.[14][26] Pegg would later call it "a strong contender for the ... wooden spoon" of the album.[32]

"'87 & Cry" was written as a statement about then-UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The song referred to the distinction between the authoritarian government and the citizens,[33] and Bowie admitted that the lyrics verged on the surreal, describing people "eating the energies of others to get to what they wanted."[14] "Too Dizzy" was the first song Bowie and Kızılçay wrote together for the album and was written in homage to the 1950s. Bowie said, "a real Fifties subject matter was either love or jealousy, so I thought I'd stick with jealousy because it's a lot more interesting".[34] Iggy Pop's version of "Bang Bang" flopped when originally released as a single, and Bowie covered it for Never Let Me Down as he felt it could be a hit.[3] For his version, Bowie imitated Pop in his vocal performance, while lyrically, it contains themes present in other album tracks.[35] Perone compares Bowie's version to the work of Talking Heads' David Byrne.[26]


It's a pompous little title, isn't it? Seen out of context it's quite abrasive, but in the context of the song and songs on the album, I think it's rather tongue-in-cheek to use it as the title. Also, there's a vaudevillian thing about the cover. The two combined are kind of comical.[14]

—David Bowie on the album's title and cover

"Day-In Day-Out" was released by EMI America Records as the lead single to the album on 23 March 1987, with "Julie" as the B-side.[36] The single performed decently in both the UK and the US, peaking at Nos. 17 and 21, respectively.[37] The song's music video, directed by Julien Temple,[37] contained controversial content, causing it to be banned by some networks.[3] A version of the song sung in Spanish, recorded to promote Bowie's first-ever concerts in Spain during the Glass Spider Tour, was released for the first time in 2007 when the "Day-In Day-Out" EP was released digitally.[37]

EMI America issued Never Let Me Down on 20 April 1987,[3] with the catalogue number AMLS 3117 (LP) and CDP 7 46677 2 (CD).[6] It was released in a variety of different formats, and was the first Bowie record to feature simultaneous releases on vinyl and CD. Both of these formats had different lengths in the runtime, with four tracks on the CD release up to a minute longer. In Australia, the album appeared on blue vinyl and in Japan, a Japanese vocal version of the outtake "Girls" was included.[38] The cover artwork was designed by Mike Haggerty, who designed the artworks for Let's Dance and Tonight,[39] and taken by photographer Greg Gorman.[38] It was described by Bowie as being in a "vaudevillian" style. It depicts the long-haired Bowie jumping through a circus ring surrounded by elements from the album's songs, including a drum, a skyscraper, a "candyfloss" cloud, and an angel from the "Day-In Day-Out" music video.[38]

Initial sales of the album were strong,[40] peaking at No. 6 on the UK Albums Chart,[41] but dropped off disappointingly.[42] Bowie was not concerned with the album's relative poor performance in the charts, saying "I've made about 20 albums during my career, and so far this is my third biggest seller. So I can't be that disappointed, yet, it is a letdown that it hasn't been as buoyant as it should be. ... But I don’t really feel that negative about it. As far as I'm concerned it's one of the better albums I've made. As I've said. Never Let Down has been a pretty big seller for me. So I'm quite happy."[43] "Time Will Crawl" was released as the second single from the album in June 1987, backed by "Girls".[36] It stalled on the UK Singles Chart, peaking at No. 33. Bowie pre-recorded a performance of the song for the BBC television programme Top of the Pops, although it was not aired at the time, as the single subsequently fell down the charts.[27] Its accompanying music video was directed by Tim Pope and previewed some of the choreography of the upcoming tour.[27]

The title track was released as the album's third single in August 1987, with "'87 and Cry" as the B-side.[36] It peaked at No. 34 in the UK and at No. 27 in the US. Its accompanying music video was directed by Jean-Baptiste Mondino and was described by Bowie as "experimental".[44] "Shining Star" was one of Bowie's early choices to be a single, but the idea was rejected by EMI.[43] A 12" remix of the song was made available on iTunes when the "Never Let Me Down" EP was released digitally in 2007.[45] EMI briefly considered "Too Dizzy" for release as a fourth single, instead appearing as a promo release in the US.[34]

Critical receptionEdit

Contemporary reviews of the album were mixed. In Trouser Press, 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."[46] The Canadian Press's Tim O'Connor praised Never Let Me Down as an improvement over the "unfocused disaster" Tonight, finding the musical styles "suit[s] him well" and concluded: "It's not so dazzling or powerful an album that it will set any styles, but it's good to hear Bowie kicking out the jams again."[24] In Billboard, Steve Gett hailed the record as "unquestionably" Bowie's finest work up to that point, highlighting "Day-In Day-Out", "Time Will Crawl", the title track and "Shining Star".[47] Another reviewer called it "a welcome return to form for the ever-ambitious Bowie".[48] The magazine's year-retrospective issue called it "arguably the year's most underrated release" and considered the album a "Critic's Choice" for the year.[49]

Chris William of the Los Angeles Times primarily criticised the lack of innovation throughout the record, noting elements from Bowie's entire career. He further stated that none of the tracks are among Bowie's best—calling "Day-In Day-Out" "the most useless single of Bowie's career"—and ultimately expected more from the artist.[50] In 1987, Glenn O'Brien of 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",[51] but two years later a different reviewer called it "disappointing".[52] Steve Pond of Rolling Stone 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."[29] In Creem, Roy Tarkin felt that the album represented a creative low point for Bowie, in that all the songs musically looked back on his career up to that point, but were executed poorly. Tarkin ended his review stating "I guess you could say Never Let Me Down did just that; let me down."[53]


Bowie (bottom center) on stage in Berlin in support of Never Let Me Down

To support the album, Bowie embarked on the Glass Spider Tour, which began on 30 May 1987 and ended on 28 November the same year.[54] Bowie knew he'd be taking the album on tour, and in early interviews said "I'm going to do a stage thing this year, which I'm incredibly excited about, 'cause I'm gonna take a chance again", but when pressed for details, he refused to give up any, saying "I'll just be doing what I always did, which is keeping things interesting."[23]

Bowie performed several of the album's songs during a press tour that preceded his highly theatrical Glass Spider Tour, which played to a combined audience of as many as six million fans.[55] Bowie wanted to produce a live show that picked up where his aborted 1974 Diamond Dogs Tour left off.[56] Although considered financially successful and well attended,[57] the tour itself was critically dismissed.[10] Bowie designed his next few tours specifically to avoid the problems that the Glass Spider Tour was criticised for by avoiding overly theatrical stage presentations and focusing on his music.[58][59][60] However, no song from Never Let Me Down was performed on any of Bowie's tours after 1987.[3]


At the conclusion of the Glass Spider Tour, Bowie began to reevaluate where he was at in his career.[61] The tour had taken a toll on him, as he found it hard to maintain the stadium rockstar lifestyle.[62] Due to the poor critical reception of the tour and Never Let Me Down, he decided to rejuvenate himself creatively and artistically, forming the rock band Tin Machine with guitarist Reeves Gabrels, whom he met through the tour,[63] creating a partnership that would last through the rest of the 1990s.[64][65] Bowie also effectively cut ties with Alomar,[62] whom he had worked with since the mid-1970s (starting with 1975's Young Americans), although Alomar would play on the Outside Tour in 1995 and on a few tracks for Bowie's later records Outside, Heathen (2002) and Reality (2003).[66]

Now I listen to Never Let Me Down and I wish I had [been less indifferent to its production], because there were some good songs on it, but I let go and it became very soft musically; which wasn't the way I would have done it if I had been more involved.[67]

—David Bowie, 1993

Although he was initially proud of the finished product, Bowie's views on Never Let Me Down soured as the years passed. By 1993, he remarked that he played the role of a session musician in the studio and allowed others to take control of the production and arrangements rather than being more involved himself, resulting in a final product he felt was "a bitter disappointment".[68] Upon the launch of his personal website BowieNet in 1998, Never Let Me Down became the artist's only studio album excluded from his official career biography on the site.[68] In 1995, he acknowledged Never Let Me Down as his "nadir":[69]

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.


Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic     [22]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music     [70]
MusicHound Rockwoof![71]
Record Mirror     [73]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide     [74]
The Village VoiceC+[75]

Retrospectively, Never Let Me Down has received unfavourable reviews, with many criticising its production, and is generally considered one of Bowie's weakest releases.[38] Critic Charles Shaar Murray told journalist Dylan Jones in the 2010s that he thought Never Let Me Down was "just awful" compared to Tonight, which he called "an album of classy filler with no center".[76] In The Rolling Stone Album Guide, the magazine also compared the album to its predecessor, writing: "Tonight was an expensive quickie padded with lame covers, while Never Let Me Down made things even worse with originals."[74] Writing for AllMusic, Stephen Thomas Erlewine stated that "while it's not as consistent as Tonight, [Never Let Me Down is] far more interesting".[22] Reviewing the album's 2018 remaster, O'Leary summarised: "For all of its flaws, Never Let Me Down has a unity – the album has a somewhat charming period – piece feel to it now. It's one of the most time-stamped '1987' records ever made."[72] Looking back in 2019, Ultimate Classic Rock's Patrick Moran considered Never Let Me Down to be "far from being the nadir of Bowie's long stretch between Let's Dance in 1983 and Outside in 1995," although it still remains one of his worst. Calling it "an undigested mix of ideas, time signatures and grooves that never quite comes together", Moran concluded: "Never Let Me Down can boast a handful of tracks that are a credible mix of the commercial and the experimental, a characteristic which has always been the mainstay of Bowie's best work."[77]

Many commentators agree that the album's poor production choices marred what they considered good songwriting.[15][76] Chris Ingalls of PopMatters named "Time Will Crawl" and "Zeroes" among those affected by the "headache-inducing [and] overstuffed with garnish" production.[78] Author Marc Spitz noted "Day-In Day-Out", "'87 and Cry", "New York's in Love" and "Time Will Crawl" as tracks that are hampered by poor production.[15] Perone contends that the production on "Zeroes" and "Beat of Your Drum" make the tracks sound too much like other contemporary pop of the era "to stand out as distinctive".[26] Dave Thompson highlights "Zeroes", the title track, "Glass Spider" and particularly "Time Will Crawl" as standout tracks from the record, finding Bowie's initial dismissive attitude towards the project "galling" when considering the "strength" of these tracks.[16] Journalist Sean Doyle, editor of the website The Worst Albums Ever, similarly stated that Never Let Me Down is "produced to death": "The extravagant production clashes sharply with the album's often socially minded lyrics, so much so that they become entirely flippant and insincere."[76]

Bowie's biographers have given Never Let Me Down mixed assessments, but most consider it better than Tonight.[16] Buckley calls Never Let Me Down more focused and coherent than its predecessor, but finds that it suffers from overproduction.[79] O'Leary similarly calls it Bowie's "ugliest-sounding record" since Diamond Dogs, noting that Bowie produced both records with the intention of "proving himself", which backfired.[3] Trynka states that the record is "bereft of inspiration", but agrees that it is "neither as good nor as bad as Tonight".[80] In a similar statement, Spitz describes Never Let Me Down as "not a terrible album", but "another slothful one" following Tonight and Labyrinth.[15] Perone, likewise, considers it better and more artistically daring than Tonight and writes that it achieves "a better balance between working on pop songs and challenging songs". Nevertheless, he acknowledges its dated production as its biggest flaw.[26] Like Perone, Pegg states that Never Let Me Down is not Bowie's "finest hour, but by no means his worst". He argues that it comes off as more of a David Bowie album than either of its two predecessors.[81] Christopher Sandford describes it as "a shoddily constructed work" that lacked innovation,[41] while Thompson attributes the album's failure to it being "brutally out of sync" with the contemporary music of the time.[16]

In a 2016 retrospective ranking all of Bowie's 26 studio albums from worst to best, Bryan Wawzenek of Ultimate Classic Rock placed Never Let Me Down last, stating "There is no greater let-down in Bowie's catalog than the nadir of what he later called his 'Phil Collins years'," noting "bad idea after bad idea".[82] The writers of Consequence of Sound ranked the album number 21 (out of 28, including the two Tin Machine records) in their 2018 list, arguing that both it and Tonight are due for reevaluations, as "Bowie's weaker efforts are still better than most".[39]


"Too Dizzy" has been deleted from subsequent reissues of Never Let Me Down at Bowie's request, reportedly because it was his least favourite track on the album. Regarding its deletion, Pegg writes: "Its removal from Never Let Me Down has rendered it a latter-day collector's item, but few will feel impelled to hunt it down."[34] Virgin Records (CDVUS 98) re-released the album in the UK on CD with three bonus tracks.[6]

EMI released the second reissue in 1999 featuring 24-bit digitally remastered sound but no bonus tracks, and also without "Too Dizzy". A 2007 Japanese re-release of the album, based on the EMI 1999 re-issue, included "Too Dizzy" on the track listing although the song itself doesn't appear on the CD.[83]

In 2009, the album was re-issued in SHM-CD format. The reissue had the same track listing as the 2007 reissue.[84] In 2018, the album was remastered by Parlophone and released on CD, LP, and digitally as part of the Loving the Alien (1983–1988) box set; a standalone release of the album on all three aforementioned formats was issued in February of the following year.[85]

Track listingEdit

This was the first Bowie album to have different length songs on the vinyl release than on the cassette and CD, with almost all the songs appearing on the latter having a longer running time than on the former.[86]

LP editionEdit

All tracks are written by David Bowie, except where noted.

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 Alomar4:03
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 Kızılçay3:58
6."Bang Bang"Iggy Pop, Ivan Kral4:02
Total length:48:06

CD editionEdit

All tracks are written by David Bowie, except where noted.

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, Alomar4:03
5."Zeroes" 5:46
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, Kızılçay3:58
11."Bang Bang"Pop, Kral4:28
Total length:53:07


Adapted from the Never Let Me Down liner notes.[87]



Sales and certificationsEdit

Sales certifications for Never Let Me Down
Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia 40,000[110]
Canada (Music Canada)[111] Platinum 100,000^
France (SNEP)[112] Gold 100,000*
Italy 100,000[113]
United Kingdom (BPI)[114] Gold 100,000^
United States (RIAA)[115] Gold 500,000^

* Sales figures based on certification alone.
^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.

Never Let Me Down 2018Edit

Never Let Me Down 2018
Studio album (re-recording) by
Released12 October 2018 (2018-10-12)
RecordedJanuary–March 2018
StudioElectric Lady (New York City)
David Bowie chronology
Welcome to the Blackout (Live London '78)
Never Let Me Down 2018
Loving the Alien (1983–1988)
Singles from Never Let Me Down 2018
  1. "Zeroes (2018 version)"
    Released: 19 July 2018

Bowie considered the idea of re-recording tracks from Never Let Me Down almost immediately after meeting Reeves Gabrels in the late 1980s, but Gabrels talked him out of it.[116] Bowie considered the idea again in the 1990s when in 2008,[117] he had engineer Mario J. McNulty remix "Time Will Crawl" for the self-selected collection of favourites, iSelect.[118] The same mix was later included on the career-spanning compilation Nothing Has Changed.[119] At the time Bowie had said, "Oh, to redo the rest of that album". In 2018, two years after Bowie's death, the Parlophone label brought the artist's idea to fruition. Early that year, musicians including Gabrels, David Torn, Sterling Campbell, Tim Lefebvre, Nico Muhly and Laurie Anderson started recording in New York's Electric Lady Studios from January to March.[120][121] Of these musicians, Torn, Campbell, Lefebvre and Gabrels were all selected by Bowie before he died to take a part in the project.[122] In July 2018, it was announced that a new version of the album, titled Never Let Me Down 2018, would be released in October of that year. The album includes "newly 'remixed' artwork", unseen images from the original album's photo-shoot, and was released as part of the 2018 box set Loving the Alien (1983–1988).[123]

McNulty used the experience of making the "Time Will Crawl" remix to influence his approach for producing this version of the album. He received the master tapes from the label[124] and "kept all of Bowie's vocals", some of the original acoustic guitars, and "anything distinctive" about the song,[121] such as Alomar's rhythm guitar on "Never Let Me Down" and Frampton's sitar on "Zeroes".[124] He sent rough mixes, called "stems", to each musician as a baseline along with ideas of what they should record. Each musician recorded their parts separately, and were not typically in the studio together,[124] although Torn and Gabrels did record together for one day at one point.[122]

For "Day-In Day-Out", McNulty discovered that Bowie had recorded the Borneo Horns playing live, but had at some point replaced them with synthesised horns. McNulty restored the live horns in the new version, which has "one foot in the past and another in the present", saying "it was difficult. Most of the lyrics are quite dark, but everything else about it is almost uplifting. ... I just thought, 'It makes sense to do something bright.'"[124] For "New York's in Love", Gabrels wanted the new recording to reflect the change in New York, saying "[the city] isn't really about the blues anymore. It's more multicultural...I wanted to reflect that change with what I did [play]...I told Mario, 'Put up that song and let me see what happens.'...I soloed through the whole song and tried different things, and I reacted to what was going on. When the song ended, Mario looked at me and said, 'Well, that one's done then.' [laughs]".[122]

McNulty replaced a lot of synthesiser parts throughout the album with strings, saying "There were a lot of random synthesisers from the Labyrinth department lurking in the background. I was pretty confident I could do a lot of that work with strings."[124] Anderson replaced Rourke for the remix of "Shining Star". O'Leary disliked her appearance, finding it "intriguing in theory" but poor in execution.[3] Regarding the song, McNulty stated: "The [original] programming is a mess and the rap comes out of nowhere. I was just trying to find the right elements to fit the song. Luckily I know David and Laurie Anderson were good friends and she said yes to this [recording new vocals for the song] and it was really great of her."[124] Original musicians Alomar and Kızılçay were not part of the reproduction. Alomar approved of the changes to the album, but Kızılçay was unhappy with the new arrangements and threatened a lawsuit as a result.[124]

The release of the box set was preceded by the digital release of the single "Zeroes (2018) (Radio Edit)" in July 2018,[125] and a physical 7" single in September 2018, backed with a radio edit of the 2018 version of "Beat of Your Drum".[126]


Reviewers have generally considered Never Let Me Down 2018 an improvement over the original album. When reviewing Loving the Alien, O'Leary found Never Let Me Down 2018 superior to the original album in Pitchfork, giving it a 6.7 out of 10. However, because Bowie's vocals remained the same – considering them "over-the-top performances to ensure Bowie stood out in the traffic-jam mixes" – he found that sometimes the new arrangements did not match his vocals, highlighting "Beat of Your Drum" and "Zeroes". Conversely, he gave praise to the new versions of "Day-In Day-Out" and "Glass Spider". Overall, O'Leary found Never Let Me Down 2018 to be "an interesting curio", stating "the remake doesn't improve on Never Let Me Down as much as it honors the original's all-over-the-place frustration."[72] Writing for Record Collector, Daryl Easlea praised the reworked album. He found the new production of "Time Will Crawl" and "Beat of Your Drum" drastic improvements that emerge them as "well-written pop songs", while "Zeroes" became "one of Bowie's greatest ever straight-down-the-line songs". He concluded that "the 2018 version of the album, with re-production and overdubs, is shorn of bombast and there are some truly lovely moments to be found", but expressed disappointment with the replacement of Rourke on "Shining Star".[127]

Ingalls stated: "Never Let Me Down 2018 goes a long way in salvaging those 1987 songs, with a 21st-century sensibility stripping away the overblown aesthetic of those original recordings."[78] He further commended the 2018 version for helping the album "breathe a lot easier". Ultimately, while the record still doesn't match the quality of Bowie's best work, Ingalls felt that everyone involved in the new version "does yeoman's work here."[78] Similarly, Michael Rippman considered Never Let Me Down 2018 to be the "crown jewel" of the box set in Consequence of Sound.[128] Langdon Hickman of Treble wrote that with the 2018 version, the album "no longer feels like a glaring misstep in his canon", but rather brings Bowie's original vision to life, sounding closer to his Tin Machine work. Rather than being at the bottom, the new version "manage[s] to cinch itself up against [the] middle tier" of his catalogue.[21] Erlewine, on the other hand, was more negative, writing that "the new Never Let Me Down is neither fish nor fowl: it's not radical enough to be a reimagined record – its core remains the same – and without its ornamental period feel, it seems trapped out of time."[129]

Track listingEdit

Never Let Me Down 2018 track listing
1."Day-In Day-Out" 5:26
2."Time Will Crawl" 4:26
3."Beat of Your Drum" 5:27
4."Never Let Me Down"Bowie, Alomar4:26
5."Zeroes" 5:06
6."Glass Spider" 6:53
7."Shining Star (Makin' My Love)" (featuring Laurie Anderson) 5:32
8."New York's in Love" 4:33
9."'87 and Cry" 4:25
10."Bang Bang"Pop, Kral4:42
Total length:50:56


Adapted from the Loving the Alien (1983–1988) liner notes:[19]


Additional musicians

  • Reeves Gabrels – guitar
  • David Torn – guitar
  • Tim Lefebvre – bass guitar
  • Sterling Campbell – drums
  • Steven Wolf – drums, bass
  • Laurie Anderson – spoken word ("Shining Star (Makin' My Love)")
  • Mario J. McNulty – percussion
  • Nico Muhly – string arrangements ("Beat of Your Drum", "Never Let Me Down" and "Bang Bang")
  • Rob Moose – violin ("Beat of Your Drum", "Never Let Me Down" and "Bang Bang")
  • Laura Lutzke – violin ("Beat of Your Drum", "Never Let Me Down" and "Bang Bang")
  • Nadia Sirota – violin ("Beat of Your Drum", "Never Let Me Down" and "Bang Bang")
  • Gabriel Cabezas – violin ("Beat of Your Drum", "Never Let Me Down" and "Bang Bang")
  • Gregor Kitzis – string arrangements ("Time Will Crawl")
  • Krista Bennion Feeney – violin ("Time Will Crawl")
  • Robert Chausow – violin ("Time Will Crawl")
  • Martha Mooke – violin ("Time Will Crawl")
  • Matthew Goeke – cello ("Time Will Crawl")


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External linksEdit