Written by: Marvin Gaye, William ‘Mickey’ Stevenson, Ivy Jo Hunter
Recorded: 29 June 1985
Producers: David Bowie, Alan Winstanley, Clive Langer
Additional production: Nile Rodgers, Mick Jagger, Steve Thompson, Michael Barbiero
Released: 12 August 1985
Loving The Alien (1983–1988)
Kevin Armstrong, GE Smith, Earl Slick: guitar
Steve Nieve: keyboards
Matthew Seligman, John ‘Skinny’ Regan: bass guitar
Neil Conti: drums
Pedro Ortiz, Jimmy Maelen: percussion
Mac Gollehon: trumpet
Stan Harrison: alto saxophone, tenor saxophone
Lenny Pickett: tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone
Helena Springs, Tessa Niles: backing vocals
David Bowie and Mick Jagger recorded a version of ‘Dancing In The Street’ in 1985 for the Live Aid concert. It was released as a single to raise money for the victims of the Ethiopian famine.
Bowie had been invited to sing the opening lines on Band Aid’s ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ the previous year, although he was unable to appear. He did, however, record a brief speech that formed the centrepiece of its b-side, ‘Feed The World’:
This is David Bowie. It’s Christmas 1984, and there are more starving folk on the planet than ever before. Please give a thought for them this season and do whatever you can, however small, to help them live. Have a peaceful New Year.
‘Feed The World’
For the following year’s Live Aid concert, organiser Bob Geldof ensured he had Bowie’s full support. The singer’s early involvement was crucial in enticing other key performers to take part, and Bowie’s four-song set was one of the event’s highlights.
It had initially been difficult to get a lot of the acts interested in performing, especially some of the Americans, but as soon as Bowie said he was in, it all started to roll. When Bowie said he’d do it, literally everyone said they’d do it. It shows you just how much influence Bowie still had. Everyone started taking our phone calls when David said he was in, which meant we got Queen, U2, Elton, the Who, Macca [Paul McCartney]… A lot of the bigger artists were wary of getting involved, as it was being organised at quite short notice, and it needed someone of David’s stature to lend it credibility.
David Bowie: A Life, Dylan Jones
An early idea for the concert was for a transcontinental duet between Bowie and the Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger, with Bowie singing in London’s Wembley Stadium and Jagger at John F Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
During the planning stage they tried out a version of Bob Marley’s ‘One Love/People Get Ready’. The idea was abandoned, however, after the satellite delay between England and America was deemed impractical.
After several attempts at working out a way to make it work, they eventually decided that this wasn’t going to happen, and so we all went off to a nightclub together and they spent the evening trying to outdo each other on the dance floor. They were competitive even when they were dancing. Each of them was trying to attract the attention of all the girls in the club, but mostly they were competing with each other. This gave them the idea of recording a cover of ‘Dancing In The Street’, to be broadcast at the Wembley event and released as a single. David also had another idea, this one involving a rocket ship, as Bowie wanted one of them to be inside a NASA space shuttle, doing a duet with the other on Earth. Seriously. I’m not making this up. At one point, just to try and move it on, and either get a green or a red light, I actually made a call to NASA. I asked them if they had a spare rocket that we could send Mick Jagger up in. I could tell they were thinking, Who is this nutcase? In the end, as well as deciding to perform in their own special way – Mick with Tina Turner in Philadelphia and David in Wembley – they decided on an old-fashioned video, camping their way through a rather average version of the Motown classic by Martha and the Vandellas. It wasn’t a great record, but the video was quite camp, quite fun, and it helped raise awareness as well as raising an awful lot of money.
David Bowie: A Life, Dylan Jones
The Motown classic ‘Dancing In The Street’ was written by Marvin Gaye, William ‘Mickey’ Stevenson, and Ivy Jo Hunter. In 1964 Martha and the Vandellas took it to number two on the US Billboard Hot 100, and number 28 in the UK.
A number of cover versions followed, by a variety of artists including the Kinks, the Mamas and the Papas, Grateful Dead, Little Richard, and Van Halen, prior to Bowie and Jagger’s recording.