The album was given a cautious critical reception, with some writers responding positively, and others complaining that the album lacked the innovation of David Bowie’s earlier releases.
The album topped the charts in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, and reached the top ten in Australia, Austria, Canada, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and West Germany. In the US it stalled at number 11.
Bowie gave just one major interview in support of Tonight, to Charles Shaar Murray of the New Musical Express. Bowie appeared uncertain about his recent recordings, suggesting he was in a transitional phase and looking for a new direction.
I think this’ll be the last album where I’m involved in this kind of thing. There’s a particular sound I’m after that I haven’t really got yet and I probably won’t drop this search until I get it. I’ll either crack it on the next album or just retire from it. I think I got quite close to it on ‘Dancing With The Big Boys’ which got somewhere near where I wanted it to be. I think I should be a bit more adventurous. That was quite an adventurous bit of writing in the sense that we didn’t look for any standards. I got very musical over the last couple of years; I stayed away from experimentation. It’s not helpful sometimes, although it’s a good discipline.
I really got into that: trying to write musically and develop things the way people used to write in the ’50s, but in ‘Big Boys’ Iggy and I just broke away from all of that for the one track. That came nearer to the sound I was looking for than anything. I’d like to try maybe one more set of pieces like that. Whenever anyone asks me what the next album is going to be like, I invariably reply ‘protest’ because I have as little idea as anybody what comes next.
I’m terribly intuitive – I always thought I was intellectual about what I do, but I’ve come to the realisation that I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing half the time, that the majority of the stuff that I do is totally intuitive, totally about where I am physically and mentally at any moment in time and I have a far harder time than anybody else explaining it and analysing it. That’s the territory of the artist anyway: to be quite at sea with what he does, and working toward not being intuitive about it and being far more methodical and academic about it.
That’s what produced the last two albums. I’m not sure how comfortable I am with that any more. It was fun for these two albums, but I’m not sure that I want to do that again.
NME, 29 September 1984
In 1987, Bowie told the New York Times that Tonight had been “a desperate mistake”. He expanded further in 1989, while promoting the Tin Machine album:
I thought it was great material that got simmered down to product level. I really should have not done it quite so studio-ly. I think some of it was a waste of really good songs. You should hear the demos from those albums. It’s night and day by comparison with the finished tracks. There’s stuff on the two albums since Let’s Dance that I could really kick myself about. When I listen to those demos it’s, How did it turn out like that? You should hear ‘Loving The Alien’ on demo. It’s wonderful on demo. I promise you! (laughs). But on the album, it’s… not as wonderful. What am I meant to say? (laughs)
Q magazine, June 1989
Reissues, remixes, remasters
Tonight was reissued by Virgin Records in 1995. The compact disc contained three bonus tracks: the 1985 single ‘This Is Not America’ with the Pat Metheny Group; ‘As The World Falls Down’ from the Labyrinth soundtrack; and the 1986 single ‘Absolute Beginners’.
The album was reissued by EMI in 1999. This version had 24-bit digitally remastered sound, but no bonus tracks.
In October 2018, Tonight was included in the box set Loving The Alien (1983-1988). It also had the Re:Call 4 compilation, which contained remixes of ‘Loving The Alien’ and ‘Don’t Look Down’ by Steve Thompson and Michael Barbiero, originally released on the ‘Loving The Alien’ 7″ single.
The set additionally included Dance, a collection of 1980s remixes including ‘Blue Jean’ (Extended Dance Mix), ‘Dancing With The Big Boys’ (Extended Dance Mix), ‘Tonight’ (Vocal Dance Mix), ‘Don’t Look Down’ (Extended Dance Mix), ‘Loving The Alien’ (Extended Dub Mix), and ‘Tumble And Twirl’ (Extended Dance Mix).
Listening now to the album over 30 years later, I’m extremely proud of having had the opportunity of working with one of the best artists ever. I think it also sounds great. So I hope the listener enjoys it as I enjoyed working with such a huge legend and talent.
Loving The Alien (1983-1988) book