Tonight album coverWritten by: David Bowie, Iggy Pop
Recorded: May-June 1984
Producers: David Bowie, Derek Bramble, Hugh Padgham

Released: 24 September 1984

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David Bowie: vocals
Carlos Alomar: guitar, cuatro
Derek Bramble: keyboards, synthesizer
Mark King: bass guitar
Omar Hakim: drums
Sammy Figuerosa: percussion
Guy St Onge: marimba
Mark Pender: trumpet
Stanley Harrison: alto saxophone
Lenny Pickett: tenor saxophone
Steve Elson: baritone saxophone
Robin Clark, George Simms, Curtis King: backing vocals

David Bowie ended the Serious Moonlight Tour at the end of 1983 with a holiday in Bali and Java, accompanied by his assistant Coco Schwab, and Iggy Pop and his partner Suchi Asano. Their experiences inspired the Tonight song ‘Tumble And Twirl’.

Tonight, David Bowie’s 16th studio album and the follow-up to Let’s Dance, contained just two songs – ‘Loving The Alien’ and ‘Blue Jean’ – solely credited to Bowie. The rest was a mixture of cover versions, and old and new songs written with Iggy Pop.

‘Tumble And Twirl’ and ‘Dancing With The Big Boys’ were both new songs co-written by Iggy Pop, the latter also credited to guitarist Carlos Alomar.

I think it worked out around 50/50 lyrics on most of the songs, but Jimmy’s work stands out most obviously on ‘Tumble And Twirl’. I think that’s obviously his line of humour. The lines about the T-shirts and the part about the sewage floating down the hill… We had a holiday after the tour, Jimmy and his girlfriend Suchi [Asano], Coco [Schwab] and I – we went to Bali and Java, and in Java particularly the very rich oil magnates of Java have these incredible colonial-style houses with sewage floating down the hills into the jungle.

That stayed with me, and watching films out in the garden projected on sheets. It felt so bizarre to sit there in the jungle watching movies at the end of the garden through monsoon weather with rain pouring down. Images of Brooke Shields… it was quite absurd.

I guess those circumstances make one quite fond of the ‘free world’ because a country like Java or Singapore is quite most definitely not free.

There’s an extraordinary split between one class and another, far more exaggerated than any class system in the West. If I had the choice between Singapore or Java, I’d pick England! That’s what I meant by that line, but when put in a musical structure these things take on a life of their own – as we know from past experience!

David Bowie
NME, 29 September 1984

In the studio

‘Tumble And Twirl’ was written at Le Studio in Morin Heights, Canada, during the Tonight sessions. The album was recorded in May and June 1984.

Performing uncredited on ‘Tumble And Twirl’ was Level 42 frontman Mark King.

As far as I remember, Iggy only came up to the studio for about a week after the break [in the recording sessions]. All the backing tracks had been done. It was mainly to help David write lyrics, as far as I remember. Maybe they wrote the lyrics to ‘Tumble And Twirl’ then. The other thing about that song is that Mark King played the bass on it and didn’t get credit, which I presume was a contractual thing.
Hugh Padgham
David Bowie: Ultimate Record Collection (Uncut)

The song’s sprightly arrangement was by Carlos Alomar, Bowie’s long-standing guitarist. The result was a clash of cultures and internationalism that, minus its Eighties sheen, might have found a home on Lodger.

For ‘Tumble And Twirl’ I did a whole Latin arrangement with the Borneo Horns.
Carlos Alomar
David Bowie: Ultimate Record Collection (Uncut)

The release

‘Tumble And Twirl’ was the seventh song on Tonight, which was released on 24 September 1984.

The album’s title track was released in November 1984 as its second single, with ‘Tumble And Twirl’ on the b-side.

A 12″ single of ‘Tonight’ was also released, which contained ‘Tonight’ (Vocal Dance Mix), ‘Tumble And Twirl’ (Extended Dance Mix), and ‘Tonight’ (Dub Mix).

In October 2018, Tonight was included in the box set Loving The Alien (1983-1988). It included Dance, a collection of 1980s remixes including ‘Blue Jean’ (Extended Dance Mix), ‘Dancing With The Big Boys’ (Extended Dance Mix), ‘Tonight’ (Vocal Dance Mix), ‘Don’t Look Down’ (Extended Dance Mix), ‘Loving The Alien’ (Extended Dub Mix), and ‘Tumble And Twirl’ (Extended Dance Mix).

Previous song: ‘Blue Jean’
Next song: ‘I Keep Forgettin”
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