The legacy

David Bowie’s Serious Moonlight tour opened in Brussels on 18 May 1983, ending in Hong Kong on 8 December.

It was Bowie’s longest and most successful tour to date, taking in 96 performances in 15 countries, with over 2.6 million tickets sold. Every date on the tour sold out, making Bowie one of the world’s richest pop stars.

The truth is that Let’s Dance just threw me for a loop. For a minute or so there, I really enjoyed all the attention. I’d walk into a restaurant, and my record would be playing. I felt like I’d arrived, that I was legit. I didn’t realize that I’d just come from prison.

Suddenly, Let’s Dance became the yardstick against which everything was measured. It put me in a very uncomfortable place. I had always been a complete tyrant until then, but I started to relinquish control, and I made a lot of mistakes.

David Bowie
Rolling Stone, 31 October 1991

Serious Moonlight had initially been designed as a smaller tour, but the huge success of Let’s Dance led to high demand for tickets. The proposed indoor venues were switched to larger outdoor arenas. The largest single show was to 80,000 people in Auckland, New Zealand, although Bowie also played to 300,000 at the US 83 Festival in California.

Bowie was a bona fide superstar by the end of 1983. His chart and box office success came at a price, however. The album’s glossy sheen was far removed from his art pop origins, and as the Eighties wore on he found himself unmotivated and less involved in making music.

I escalated myself into some kind of MOR hell with Let’s Dance. I was treading water after that. I just didn’t have any real interest in writing or playing, it’s as simple as that. I just trotted out albums which, ironically, became very big albums for me. It was just the most incorrigible situation. I felt really frustrated because I saw myself in a cul-de-sac that I just loathed and hated.
David Bowie
Seconds magazine, August/September 1995

Bowie’s decision to distance himself from Let’s Dance soured his relationship with Nile Rodgers. The producer was additionally hurt by what he viewed as Bowie’s failure to credit him for the album’s success.

Here’s the thing I most treasure about David Bowie: It’s no secret that there was a little bit of a rift between us because after Let’s Dance, he was on cover of Time and I don’t think my name was even mentioned once. So I was like, ‘Man, every time he talks about music, he’s always talking about his old stuff, but he’s on the cover of Time because he just sold a gazillion records and it wasn’t because of Scary Monsters.’

A few years later, I was getting an award and they chose David to give it to me. He came up onstage and said, “Ladies and gentleman, I’m proud to give this award to Nile Rodgers, the only man on Earth who get me to start a song with a chorus.” It almost brought tears to my eyes.

Nile Rodgers
Rolling Stone, 12 January 2016

The book inside the 2018 box set Loving The Alien (1983-1988) included a new letter in which Nile Rodgers paid tribute to the late singer.

Dearest David,

I never imagined when we started this adventure together in Switzerland, that 35 years later this would be an album that people are still talking about, getting incredible joy from and be the biggest selling album in the career of one of the most influential rock stars – scratch that, human beings of all time. That’s you my brother and it’s the way I’ve felt from the moment we met. I love you and miss your presence in this world everyday.

The words ‘Nile darling’ just don’t sound the same coming from anyone else. You made me better, and you made everyone who had the privilege to hear you and know you better!

Love forever,

Nile Rodgers

P.S. Just in case you’re wondering …
You continue to inspire the world!