Written by: Iggy Pop, James Williamson
Recorded: May-June 1984
Producers: David Bowie, Derek Bramble, Hugh Padgham
Released: 24 September 1984
Carlos Alomar: guitar
Derek Bramble: guitar, bass guitar, piano, keyboards, synthesizer
Omar Hakim: drums
Sammy Figuerosa: percussion
Mark Pender: trumpet
Stanley Harrison: alto saxophone
Lenny Pickett: tenor saxophone
Steve Elson: baritone saxophone
Robin Clark, George Simms, Curtis King: vocals
‘Don’t Look Down’ is the second song on Tonight, David Bowie’s 16th studio album.
‘Don’t Look Down’ – I swear, man, you have never heard a better reggae song. For him to do a song like that? Listen to his vocals.
David Bowie: Ultimate Record Collection (Uncut)
It was co-written by Iggy Pop and his former Stooges bandmate James Williamson, and originally appeared on Pop’s 1979 album New Values.
I suppose the most obvious thing about the new album is that there’s not the usual amount of writing on it from me. I wanted to keep my hand in, so to speak, and go back in the studio – but I didn’t really as if I had enough new things of my own because of the tour. I can’t write on tour, and there wasn’t really enough preparation afterwards to write anything that I felt was really worth putting down, and I didn’t want to put out things that ‘would do’ so there are two or three that I felt were good things to do and the other stuff…
What I suppose I really wanted to do was to work with Iggy again, that’s something I’ve not done for a long time. And Iggy wanted us to do something together. We’re ultimately leading up, I hope, to me doing his next album. We’ve been talking about it for a year or so and we’ve got him off the road. He’s not on the road now and he won’t be going back on the road for a while.
NME, 29 September 1984
Two of the songs on Tonight – the title track and ‘Don’t Look Down’ – were recorded with reggae beats. Bowie told the New Musical Express’s Charles Shaar Murray that the rhythm for ‘Don’t Look Down’ came about after experimenting with a drum machine.
I was trying to rearrange ‘Don’t Look Down’ and it wouldn’t work. I tried it as a march, and then I just hit on an old ska-sounding beat, and it picked up life. Taking energy away from the musical side of things reinforced the lyrics and gave them their own energy. I think working with Derek Bramble really helped a lot, because he played proper reggae bass lines.
NME, 29 September 1984
An instrumental of ‘Don’t Look Down’ was used as background music in Julien Temple’s film Jazzin’ For Blue Jean, released as a video single to promote Bowie’s ‘Blue Jean’.
‘Don’t Look Down’ was released on 24 September 1984 on the Tonight album.
‘Loving The Alien’ was the third single released from the album, in May 1985. It reached number 19 in the UK, and number nine in Ireland. The b-side was ‘Don’t Look Down’.
Both songs were remixed for the single by Steve Thompson and Michael Barbiero, and a 12″ single included ‘Loving The Alien’ (Extended Dance Mix), ‘Don’t Look Down’ (Extended Dance Mix), and ‘Loving The Alien’ (Extended Dub Mix).
‘Don’t Look Down’ (Extended Dance Mix) was included on Dance, a remix compilation in the 2018 box set Loving The Alien (1983-1988). The single remix of ‘Don’t Look Down’ was also included on Re:Call 4, a compilation of non-album singles, single versions, and b-sides from the era.