Album release: Never Let Me Down

Never Let Me Down, David Bowie’s 17th studio album, was released on 20 April 1987. It was his last long-player prior to the formation of Tin Machine.

Later mostly disowned by its creator, the album yielded the singles ‘Day-In Day-Out’, ‘Time Will Crawl’, and ‘Never Let Me Down’.

Never Let Me Down received mostly poor critical reviews, and its sales were similarly weak. It failed to top the chart in any major country, although it went top ten in the United Kingdom, Austria, Canada, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden. In the UK it peaked at number six, Bowie’s lowest chart position for a new album in 25 years, and in the US it stalled at number 34.

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…

EMI may well have felt unsteady as a company long before it released this album. So it has not been entirely the best year on that side. 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 Me Down has been a pretty big seller for me. So I’m quite happy… We’re all expecting to see greater momentum on the charts with the tour to support the album.

David Bowie
Words and Music, January 1988

Never Let Me Down album cover

Never Let Me Down was the first Bowie album to have songs edited for different lengths for the vinyl edition, with longer versions on the cassette and compact disc editions. The vinyl version lasted 48:06, while the other formats lasted for 53:07.

On the original vinyl edition, seven songs were edited for length. ‘Day-In Day-Out’ was reduced from 5:35 to 4:38; ‘Beat Of Your Drum’ from 5:03 to 4:32; ‘Glass Spider’ from 5:30 to 4:56; ‘Shining Star (Makin’ My Love)’ from 5:04 to 4:05; ‘New York’s In Love’ from 4:32 to 3:55; ‘’87 And Cry’ from 4:18 to 3:53; and ‘Bang Bang’ from 4:28 to 4:02.

In Japan, original pressings had a re-recording of the album outtake ‘Girls’ sung in Japanese. It was included at the end of side one, after ‘Zeroes’. The Japanese translation was by Hiro Hozumi, and Bowie was coached for the recording by Kiri Teshigahara.

My own success as a songwriter and performer, I think, really flies or not on whether I’m doing it with a personal integrity. All my biggest mistakes are when I try to second guess or please an audience. My work is always stronger when I get very selfish about it and just do what I want to do. Even if they’re dismissed, and perhaps rightly, there were a couple of albums in the ’80s that did exceptionally well for me – and I’m not a huge selling artist – but they’re not albums I’m proud of. I’d much prefer to say that I did Buddha Of Suburbia. I feel much more comfortable about that than about say Never Let Me Down even though it was a really big seller.
David Bowie
The Word, October 2003
Album release: Labyrinth
Album release: Tin Machine
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