Released: 20 April 1987
David Bowie: vocals, keyboards
Carlos Alomar, Peter Frampton: guitar
Philippe Saisse: piano
Erdal Kızılçay: keyboards, bass guitar, drum programming
Errol ‘Crusher’ Bennett: percussion
Earl Gardner: trumpet
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: lead guitar, rhythm guitar
David Torn: lead guitar, ambient guitar
Tim Lefebvre: bass guitar
Sterling Campbell: drums
Mario J McNulty: percussion
Nico Muhly: string arrangement
Rob Moose, Laura Lutzke: violin
Nadia Sirota: viola
Gabriel Cabezas: cello
‘Beat Of Your Drum’ is the third song on Never Let Me Down, David Bowie’s 17th studio album.
The song is about an adult viewing a teenage girl with thoughts of sexual desire, knowing that making a move would be illegal but ultimately not caring.
It’s a Lolita number! [laughs] Reflection on young girls… Christ, she’s only 14 years old, but jail’s worth it!
Music & Sound Output, June 1987
At a time when Bowie’s songs were increasingly concerned with issues of social inequality, deprivation, and crime, it remains unfortunate that he would so breezily release a song celebrating the sexualisation of young girls. In contrast, ‘Beat Of Your Drum’ bears none of the subtlety of the previous year’s Labyrinth, a coming-of-age movie which contains a similar adult-child dynamic, yet which was dealt with far more delicately and with little sleaziness.
In December 1986 an early running order for Never Let Me Down was assembled, which contained several differences from the final version. The album at that time had ‘Beat Of Your Drum’, ‘Day-In Day-Out’, ‘Time Will Crawl’, ‘New York’s In Love’ and ‘Bang Bang’ on side one, and ‘Shining Star (Makin’ My Love)’, ‘Glass Spider’, ‘Too Dizzy’, ‘’87 And Cry’, ‘Girls’ (Extended Edit), and ‘Zeroes’ on side two.
Upon its release, seven songs were edited for length on the vinyl edition of Never Let Me Down. ‘Beat Of Your Drum’ was reduced from 5:03 to 4:32. The edit was included on Re:Call 4 in the 2018 box set Loving The Alien (1983–1988).
Bowie performed ‘Beat Of Your Drum’ during 1987’s Glass Spider Tour. His performance from 30 August 1987 can be heard on the live album Glass Spider (Live Montreal ’87).
The Loving The Alien (1983–1988) box set contained Never Let Me Down (2018), an album which retained Bowie’s 1987 vocals but added new backing.
David and I were sitting on deckchairs by Mountain Studio in Switzerland, looking across Lake Geneva. He started telling me, ‘Y’know, I’m proud of the songs on Never Let Me Down, but I wasn’t in the best shape and wasn’t as present as I should’ve been at the sessions.’ He later pointed to a couch in the studio and said, ‘I did most of my work on the record from there, passed out.’ He blamed himself for a lot of it and suggested we try re-recording some of those songs back then. It was a subject that would come up periodically through the years, usually late at night on the tour bus or in the studio.
Uncut, November 2018
Aside from ‘Time Will Crawl’, which dated from 2008, the re-recordings were done after Bowie’s death. Never Let Me Down (2018) was produced by Mario J McNulty.
Ahead of the box set, the digital single ‘Zeroes’ (2018) (Radio Edit) was released in July 2018. It was followed by a double a-side 7″ picture disc single, containing ‘Zeroes’ (2018) and a 4:26 radio edit of ‘Beat Of Your Drum’ (2018).
Loving The Alien (1983–1988) was released on 12 October 2018. Never Let Me Down (2018) contained the full-length version of ‘Beat Of Your Drum’ (2018), lasting 5:28.