Released: 14 April 1983
Stevie Ray Vaughan, Nile Rodgers: guitar
Bernard Edwards: bass guitar
Tony Thompson: drums
Stan Harrison, Steve Elson: saxophone
George Simms, Frank Simms: vocals
‘Without You’ is the fourth song on Let’s Dance, David Bowie’s 15th studio album. It was released as a single in November 1983.
Producer Nile Rodgers often used his bandmates from Chic when recording with other acts, but for Let’s Dance he recruited a new bassist and drummer. At that time he was concerned by the drugs use of bassist Bernard Edwards and drummer Tony Thompson were using, and by their unreliability for a Bowie session.
Thompson did, however, play on three of the album’s songs, while Edwards was brought in to add bass to ‘Without You’.
Bernard only played on one song on the album: ‘Without You’. I brought him in to deal with a tricky bass line, one that Carmine Rojas had struggled with.
Nard walked into the control room (precisely on time), said a quick general hello, unpacked his bass, and went out to the studio. He sat in the bass chair and plugged in his gear. He took a look at the short asymmetrical chart on the music stand and said to me, ‘Is this the song?’
I replied, ‘Yes, that’s it.’ David could sense there was something uneasy in the air, because unlike the other sessions, there was no laughing and joking on this one. David knew Bernard was my Chic Organization partner, but Nard treated us like strangers.
After taking just a few minutes to get Bernard’s technical sound correct (a process that could sometimes take hours, but not with Chic’s A-team and in our home base, the Power Station), Nard told the engineer Bob Clearmountain, ‘Run the motherfucker.’ One take later he glared through the control-room window.
‘Is that what you want?’
David and I smiled.
‘Yeah, bro, that’s what we want.’
Prior to the session, I had bet David that Nard would finish the song in fifteen minutes. He did it in thirteen. I was never more proud of him in my life, and it happened on the last day of basic recording. David shrugged his shoulders in approval and disbelief, and I thought to myself: ‘Chic Organization. That’s how we do it! One take, fifteen minutes. These rhythm tracks are done.’
Bernard quietly packed up his bass and walked out. He was pissed off that I hadn’t called him for the rest of the album, but he knew that I was proud to show off his genius. David was so impressed with my guys that he took almost everyone, including the background singers, the Simms Brothers, on the Serious Moonlight Tour that followed.
In November 1983 it was released as a single in Japan, the Netherlands, Spain, and the USA. The b-side was ‘Criminal World’.
The front cover artwork was by artist Keith Haring, while the back cover featured a photograph by Denis O’Regan.