This Week In 1983: May 13th
It’s the third and final week at #1 for “Beat It” and, while there are still four more singles to be released from the album Thriller (all of which reach the Top Ten), this is Michael Jackson’s last week at #1 as a solo artist until 1987 when he fires off five straight #1 songs from the album Bad. He does spend time at #1 with Paul McCartney later in 1983 and into ’84 with “Say Say Say” (one of my personal favorites) but that is traditionally considered McCartney’s single since it was recorded for his album Pipes of Peace.
There’s a lot of movement all over the chart this week. The Top 20 is full of 80’s goodness, including Rick Springfield and Journey who move into the top half of the chart. Debuting at #40 this week is a little known band from Down Under, INXS, and their debut single “The One Thing”. The song peaks out at #30 in a few weeks and they don’t see their major chart success until later in the 80’s (1987 and beyond).
Song Story: “Let’s Dance” by David Bowie
This is David Bowie’s first transatlantic #1 song hitting the top spot in the US, the UK and fifteen other countries. The video, in Bowie’s words, is a “very simple, direct” statement against racism. It features an Aboriginal couple who are struggling against Western cultural imperialism. The patrons of the bar where the video is shot resented the Aborigines who starred in the video and mocked their dances moves. The director captured that on film and edited it into the video. So the white people you see dancing in the video are actually making fun of the couple.
Stevie Ray Vaughan played guitar on the song and the album. In the video, Bowie is seen playing a guitar and, at one point, appears to be playing the song’s guitar solo, an image the blues guitarist wasn’t too happy with. He felt that Bowie shouldn’t be pretending to play something he didn’t and couldn’t understand why he would do that. They had a contentious relationship due to that, the recording process and the subsequent tour that Vaughan backed out of at the last minute.
Bowie wanted more of mainstream, funkier sound on the Let’s Dance album so he enlisted Chic’s Nile Rodgers (who produced Duran Duran, INXS, Madonna and others) to produce the album. While the album achieved Bowie’s best mainstream success, he later said the album depressed him and led him to a creative funk for several years.