The release

‘Never Let Me Down’ was the fourth song on the album of the same name, released on 20 April 1987.

It was also the third and final single taken from Never Let Me Down. Released on 17 August 1987, the single was Bowie’s last until 1990’s ‘Fame 90’.

The song was not a commercial success, and did not reach the top 10 in any country. It reached number 27 on the US Billboard Hot 100, while in the UK it peaked at number 34.

As with the other Never Let Me Down singles, it was released with a number of remixes across various formats. The UK and US 7″ singles contained ‘Never Let Me Down’ (Single Version), an edit lasting 3:58, with ‘’87 And Cry’ (Single Version) on the b-side.

There were two 12″ singles released in the United States. The first had ‘Never Let Me Down’ (Extended Dance Mix), ‘’87 And Cry’ (Edit), ‘Never Let Me Down’ (Dub), and ‘Never Let Me Down’ (A Capella).

The second 12″ had ‘Never Let Me Down’ (Extended Dance Mix), ‘Never Let Me Down’ (7″ Remix Edit), ‘Never Let Me Down’ (Dub), ‘Never Let Me Down’ (A Capella), ‘Never Let Me Down’ (Instrumental), and ‘’87 And Cry’ (Edit). The same tracklisting was also used on a Japanese CD single, Bowie’s first ever on the format.

The box set Loving The Alien (1983–1988) was released on 12 October 2018. It contained Dance, a collection of Bowie remixes from the era. Among them was ‘Never Let Me Down’ (Dub/Acapella), which placed two of the 12″ single tracks back to back.

The 3:58 7″ Remix Edit was also included on Re:Call 4 in the box set.

The video

A promotional video for ‘Never Let Me Down’ was directed by Jean-Baptiste Mondino.

That’s an experiment; I’m really putting myself in his hands. It’s for the song ‘Never Let Me Down’. I think if I did it, it would be very abrasive, and I’m not quite sure if that’s how I want the song to come off visually. In concert it will be abrasive; it won’t have the same quality as the video. But I really think Mondino is a fantastic video maker. He just knows that this is his genre. He’s like a craftsman and that’s what he’s trying to perfect, this craft of making his five minutes work.
David Bowie
Music & Sound Output, June 1987

2018 version

The box set Loving The Alien (1983–1988) contained the original version of Never Let Me Down, and Never Let Me Down (2018), in which Bowie’s vocals were treated to newly-recorded backing tracks.

The new version featured Reeves Gabrels on guitar, Tim Lefebvre on bass, Sterling Campbell on drums, producer Mario J McNulty on percussion, and a string quartet arranged by Nico Muhly.

We didn’t have any real plan, we would throw the old multiple tracks up and do them one by one. The spirit of David was definitely in it. You’d laugh if you saw how most of the stuff I did with that man was done. It’s almost comedic. We’re technically dicking around, but at the same time we know what we’re doing.

David’s voice was astounding to listen to after everything else had been stripped away. I couldn’t trip on the record in ’87, but just hearing him on an acoustic guitar and vocals made me go, ‘Holy crap! This is an amazing song.’ It sounds so much more powerful now.

Sterling Campbell
Uncut, November 2018

Carlos Alomar’s original rhythm guitar track was one of the few 1987 elements that were retained for the new version.

Carlos played a gated rhythm part on ‘Never Let Me Down’ that just moved the song in the same way that Johnny Marr’s part on [the Smiths’] ‘How Soon Is Now?’ does for that song, so it made sense to keep it. We weren’t trying to be cruel or destroy the original document, but this was David’s wish, so that absolved us from any guilt we might have had.
Reeves Gabrels
Guitar Player, 2 November 2018
Previous song: ‘Beat Of Your Drum’
Next song: ‘Zeroes’