Magic Dance singleWritten by: David Bowie
Recorded: April-June; October-November 1985
Producers: David Bowie, Arif Mardin

Released: 23 June 1986

Available on:
Labyrinth

Personnel

David Bowie: vocals
Dan Huff: guitar
Robbie Buchanan: keyboards, synthesizer, programming
Will Lee: bass guitar, backing vocals
Fonzi Thornton, Diva Gray: vocals

‘Magic Dance’ was one of five songs recorded by David Bowie for the 1986 Jim Henson film Labyrinth.

The song’s working title, ‘Dance Magic’, was how Bowie referred to it during filming, and it was named thus in the closing credits.

Backing singer Diva Gray’s baby was unable to gurgle on the microphone during the studio recording, so the noises were taped by Bowie instead.

‘Dance Magic’ gave me a bit of a problem. It’s a song for the Goblin King and the baby. In the recording studio the baby I picked – one of the backing singers, Diva, had this cute little baby, and couldn’t put two gurgles together! [laughs] And it wouldn’t work for me. I mean it just wouldn’t go; I kicked it, I did everything to make it scream, and it really buttoned its lip. So I ended up doing the gurgles, so I’m the baby on that track as well. I thought, ‘What the hell, I’ve done ‘Laughing Gnome’, I might as well go all the way.’ I never thought in twenty years I’d come back to working with gnomes.
David Bowie, 1986

Everything was done one thing at a time. He always does his vocals alone and all the parts were done one at a time, so the backgrounds [backing vocals] would have been done separately and probably done before he did his vocal. I like it.
Robbie Buchanan
David Bowie: Ultimate Record Collection (Uncut)

The famous introduction – “You remind me of the babe” – was lifted almost word-for-word from The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer, a 1947 film released in the United Kingdom as Bachelor Night. In it, Cary Grant’s character Richard Nugent attempted to avoid dating Susan Turner, played by Shirley Temple, by making a bad first impression:

Nugent: Hey, you remind me of a man.
Turner: What man?
Nugent: The man with the power.
Turner: What power?
Nugent: The power of hoodoo.
Turner: Who do?
Nugent: You do.
Turner: Do what?
Nugent: Remind me of a man.
Turner: What man?
Nugent: The man with the power…
The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer

The release

‘Magic Dance’ was the third track on the Labyrinth soundtrack, released on 23 June 1986.

Although lasting just over three minutes in the film, the album recording lasts 5:13. A single edit lasting 4:08 was also created for radio play.

The song was issued in January 1987 as a 12″ single in selected countries including the USA. It featured the 7:06 ‘Magic Dance’ (A Dance Mix); 5:22 ‘Magic Dance’ (Dub); and the album track ‘Within You’.

The New Zealand edition of the 2002 compilation Best Of Bowie included a previously-unreleased 4:01 edit of A Dance Mix, incorrectly billed as the Single Version.

The 2003 remix album Club Bowie contained ‘Magic Dance’ (Danny S Magic Party Remix). The mix was also included on a 12″ promotional disc along with the exclusive ‘Magic Dust Dub’.

In 2007 a digital EP was made available containing ‘Magic Dance’ (Single Version/Edit of 7″ Remix); ‘Magic Dance’ (12″ Remix/Dance Mix); ‘Magic Dance’ (Dub); and ‘Magic Dance’ (7″ Remix).

Following David Bowie’s death in 2016, the single version of ‘Magic Dance’ reached number 63 on the UK iTunes chart.

On the 2017 vinyl reissue of Labyrinth, ‘Magic Dance’ was edited to 4:13.

The 2018 box set Loving The Alien (1983-1988) contained Re:Call 4, a collection of non-album singles, remixes, live versions and rarities, including Bowie’s five Labyrinth vocal performances.

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