Released: 20 April 1987
David Bowie: vocals, guitar, keyboards
Carlos Alomar: guitar, vocals
Peter Frampton: guitar
Erdal Kızılçay: keyboards, synthesizer, bass guitar, drums
Philippe Saisse: piano
Errol ‘Crusher’ Bennett: percussion
Stan Harrison: alto saxophone
Steve Elson: baritone saxophone
Lenny Pickett: tenor saxophone
Robin Clark, Loni Groves, Diva Gray, Gordon Grodie: backing vocals
David Bowie: vocals
Reeves Gabrels: acoustic guitar, lead guitar, rhythm guitar
Tim Lefebvre: bass guitar
Sterling Campbell: drums
Mario J McNulty: percussion
‘’87 And Cry’ was David Bowie’s excoriating verdict on 1980s conservative politics, released on his 1987 album Never Let Me Down.
‘’87 And Cry’ was an impression of ‘Thatcherite’ England, where there’s such a separation between a high, authoritative governmental force and the ordinary people, the ‘dogs’. But I don’t use a didactic kind of politicism; I tend to create an ambiance rather than a polemic.
New York Times, 26 April 1987
Politics in the UK throughout the 1980s was dominated by the right wing Conservative prime minister Margaret Thatcher, a polarising figure who ushered in an era of deregulation, privatisation of national services and industries, low public spending, nationalism, and marginalisation of trade unions. Her ideology of promoting individualism over society, with a focus on personal prosperity and private wealth, led to widespread inequality during the course of her leadership.
Despite living comfortably as a tax exile in Switzerland, Bowie evidently looked upon the UK’s political situation with a degree of concern and sympathy for those left behind.
It started off, when I was originally writing it, as a kind of indictment of Thatcher’s England, but then it took on all these surreal qualities of a pushy person eating the energies of others to get to where they wanted and leaving the others behind: ‘It couldn’t be done without dogs.’ It was a Thatcherite statement made through the eyes of a potential socialist, because I always remained a potential socialist – not an active one.
Music & Sound Output, June 1987
With its opening salvo lambasting “a one-dollar secret, a lover’s secrets in the UK”, another target of Bowie’s ire may have been biographers and their sources. Shortly before the recording sessions for Never Let Me Down, Peter and Leni Gillman’s Alias David Bowie was published and serialised in the Sunday Times. The book contained interviews with a number of family members and former associates, a
When they drag out long-lost aunts to supply all the details, aunts I’ve had absolutely no contact with for maybe twenty years – who have no knowledge of me – and absolutely unbelievable, blatant lies are told…
Bowie performed ‘’87 And Cry’ throughout the Glass Spider Tour. A recording from 30 August 1987 can be heard on the live album Glass Spider (Live Montreal ’87).
Sketches shown at the David Bowie Is exhibition showed the singer’s initial plans for staging the song. They included a “Rockin’ Russia” scene with the hammer and sickle symbol on the backdrop, with armed guards positioned around the stage. His notes included the words “Put a tank together on stage”.
On the original vinyl edition of Never Let Me Down, seven songs were edited for length, ‘’87 And Cry’ among them. It was reduced from 4:18 to 3:53. The Vinyl Album Edit was included on Re:Call 4 in the 2018 box set Loving The Alien (1983-1988).
The third and final single taken from Never Let Me Down was its title track, released on 17 August 1987. It reached number 27 on the US Billboard Hot 100, while in the UK it peaked at number 34.
The UK and US 7″ contained ‘Never Let Me Down’ (Single Version), an edit lasting 3:58, with ‘’87 And Cry’ (Single Version) on the b-side.
Two 12″ singles were released in the United States. The first had ‘Never Let Me Down’ (Extended Dance Mix), ‘’87 And Cry’ (Edit), ‘Never Let Me Down’ (Dub), and ‘Never Let Me Down’ (A Capella).
The second 12″ had ‘Never Let Me Down’ (Extended Dance Mix), ‘Never Let Me Down’ (7″ Remix Edit), ‘Never Let Me Down’ (Dub), ‘Never Let Me Down’ (A Capella), ‘Never Let Me Down’ (Instrumental), and ‘’87 And Cry’ (Edit). The same tracklisting was also used on a Japanese CD single, Bowie’s first ever on the format.
The box set Loving The Alien (1983-1988) contained Never Let Me Down (2018), which retained Bowie’s original vocals but added new backing.
Produced by Mario J McNulty, it fulfilled a desire expressed by Bowie to rework the 1987 album, the songs on which he maintained had been badly recorded.
‘’87 And Cry’ (2018) featured Reeves Gabrels on guitars, Tim Lefebvre on bass, Sterling Campbell on drums, and McNulty playing percussion.