In the studio

As he had on Let’s Dance, David Bowie made demo recordings of several songs before entering the studio. That was a surprise to guitarist Carlos Alomar, who told Musician magazine in December 1984: “It was the first time in the eleven years that I’ve been with the damn man that he’s brought in anything.”

Some of Bowie’s demos were given the working titles ‘1’, ‘2’ and ‘3’. ‘1’ became ‘Loving The Alien’, the album’s opening song and third single. The other two numbered demos remained unfinished.

They were really just jams. David had some riffs on a tape, in his head, and the band would jam on them and we’d make a bit of a song out of it. But they were quite raunchy songs. At one point, David asked me what my least favourite song out of the eleven or twelve we had was, and I said ‘Blue Jean’. I thought it was a bit lightweight. I would have rather had ‘2’ in its place. I couldn’t tell you why he didn’t put them on the album. But I would have loved to have finished them.
Hugh Padgham
Musician, December 1984

Bowie later said that the demo of ‘Loving The Alien’ was far more superior to the final studio recording.

I thought it [Tonight and Never Let Me Down] was great material that got simmered down to product level. I really should have not done it quite so studio-ly. I think some of it was a waste of really good songs. You should hear the demos from those albums. It’s night and day by comparison with the finished tracks. There’s stuff on the two albums since Let’s Dance that I could really kick myself about. When I listen to those demos it’s, How did it turn out like that? You should hear ‘Loving The Alien’ on demo. It’s wonderful on demo. I promise you! (laughs). But on the album, it’s… not as wonderful. What am I meant to say? (laughs).
David Bowie
Q magazine, June 1989

Tonight was recorded at Le Studio in Morin Heights, Canada in May and June 1984.

It was rushed. The process wasn’t rushed; we actually took our time recording the thing; Let’s Dance was done in three weeks, Tonight took five weeks or something, which for me is a really long time. I like to work fast in the studio. There wasn’t much of my writing on it ’cause I can’t write on tour and I hadn’t assembled anything to put out. But I thought it a kind of violent effort at a kind of Pin Ups.
David Bowie
Musician, August 1987

Upon the album’s release, the New Musical Express’s Charles Shaar Murray told Bowie that he thought the backing vocals on ‘Loving The Alien’ sounded like ‘O Superman’ by Laurie Anderson.

No, that’s Philip Glass actually, more reminiscent of ‘Einstein On The Beach’, but maybe Laurie was thinking also of something from that.
David Bowie
NME, 29 September 1984

‘Loving The Alien’ was arranged by Carlos Alomar, with strings by Arif Mardin.

[For the first time] there were demos of some of the things he’s written. In the past we had absolutely no demos, but when we were faced with a situation where we didn’t have any material then everything that he has on a cassette, every idea that comes out [was considered] – we listened to a lot of stuff. Some of them had names, like ‘Loving The Alien’, others were things that he’d written on a piece of paper.

On ‘Loving The Alien’ I had to make my biggest arrangement and the most amazing thing, so that Bowie could give it to [arranger] Arif Mardin and go, ‘This is the song I want you to do strings on.’ For me, that was a challenge, because he wanted something amazing. And I think ‘Loving The Alien’ jumps out from that record as an amazingly progressive and complicated song that addressed the whole alien thing.

Carlos Alomar
David Bowie: Ultimate Record Collection (Uncut)