The front cover of Let’s Dance showed David Bowie bare-chested and shadow boxing, and looking far healthier than he had at any time in the 1970s.
The photography was by Greg Gorman, with sleeve design by Mick Haggerty.
The back cover and inner sleeve artwork featured illustrations by Derek Boshier, who had previously designed Bowie’s 1979 album Lodger. Boshier continued the pugilistic theme with an illustration of a boxer, standing under the moonlight, in a style not dissimilar to that of street artist Keith Haring.
Derek Boshier worked on the set design for the Serious Moonlight tour, while Mick Haggerty worked on the cover for Bowie’s follow-up to Let’s Dance, 1984’s Tonight. Haggerty and Gorman additionally worked on 1987’s Never Let Me Down.
Signing to EMI
Let’s Dance was recorded without Bowie having a recording contract. Although it left him responsible for the upfront costs, it allowed him both artistic freedom and leverage when it came to signing a new deal.
EMI America had piqued Bowie’s interest since his July 1981 recording session with Queen, which resulting in the single ‘Under Pressure’. In January 1983 he entered into negotiations with the label, armed with his new, commercially-friendly recordings with Nile Rodgers.
In contrast to his previous engagements with labels, which had been handled by managers such as Ken Pitt and Tony Defries, Bowie negotiated with EMI himself. He reportedly secured the deal based on the backing tracks for Let’s Dance alone.
The five year contract with EMI America, said to be worth just under $17 million, was signed on 27 January 1983. Although such a huge advance was a considerable risk for the label, it paid dividends once Let’s Dance became a global success.
You know how deals are constructed. That figure would depend on a lot of clauses. But it was a superstar deal – when maybe David’s sales so far wouldn’t warrant it. [However,] if you were to say to any record company they could have that deal again, you would have a line of people around the block.
Starman, Paul Trynka
The deal was announced during a press conference held at Claridges hotel in London on 17 March. A tanned Bowie, wearing an immaculate grey suit and sporting an impressive blonde quiff, looked delighted with his new direction. He also looked, for perhaps the first time, like a slick pop superstar and a member of the music aristocracy.