Released: 8 March 2013
The Next Day
Gerry Leonard, David Torn: guitar
Gail Ann Dorsey: bass guitar
Zachary Alford: drums
‘Dancing Out In Space’ is the tenth song on David Bowie’s 24th and penultimate studio album The Next Day.
That’s a very uptempo one. It’s got a Motown beat to it, but the rest of it is completely psychedelic. It’s got very floaty vibe. There’s a guy called David Torn who plays guitar, who we use; he comes with huge amounts of equipment that he creates these aural landscapes. He uses them in a rock context with all that ambient sound, and he’s bending his tremolo arm and all that. It’s just crazy, completely crazy sound on that track.
Rolling Stone, 15 January 2013
In January 2013, ahead of the album’s release, Tony Visconti told The Times that ‘Dancing Out In Space’ was “a song about another music artist, possibly a conglomeration of artists.” This raised suggestions that it was partly inspired by Mick Jagger. The two singers collaborated on 1985’s ‘Dancing In The Street’, and one early plan for the Live Aid concert was for Jagger to sing his part of the duet in a space rocket.
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
Bowie undertook no promotional activity for The Next Day, although he did send novelist Rick Moody a list of 42 words to explain each song’s theme. Those for ‘Dancing Out In Space’ were: Funereal, Glide, Trace.
The words may refer to the second verse couplet: “Silent as Georges Rodenbach/Mist and silhouette”. Rodenbach’s 1892 novel Bruges-la-Morte tells the story of Hugues Viane, a grieving widower who becomes infatuated with a dancer at the Bruges opera who bears a resemblance to his late wife.
In the studio
The backing track for ‘Dancing Out In Space’ was recorded at New York’s Magic Shop studio on 4 and 7 May 2011.
The song was then left unfinished for more than a year, until Bowie’s lead vocals were added on 8 October 2012.