When David Bowie’s 1983 album Let’s Dance once again confirmed him king of the pop charts there was one man who could be attributed with a great deal of the credit, the legendary guitarist, Stevie Ray Vaughan. Largely seen as a revolutionary force for the Starman, when Bowie asked SRV to help him out on his latest single, the album’s title track, nobody could have known how iconic the moment would become.
‘Let’s Dance’ has gone on to become one of the late, great Bowie’s most revered songs. While diehard fans may be turned off by the unstoppable pop undertones that carried it, and the album, as Bowie himself later was, there’s no denying just how impressive the song is, still standing the test of time nearly forty years later. If there’s one crowning crescendo in the song it has to be Vaughan’s incendiary guitar solo, below we’re looking back at that moment through the isolated guitar track.
The relationship between Bowie and SRV may have started as a flash of brilliance, a creative spark that the ‘Heroes’ singer had only enjoyed with a select few people (Iggy, Brian Eno, Tony Visconti, Gail Ann Dorsey, to name a few). But with all explosion sometimes people get burned.
Bowie essentially launched the career of SRV with his inclusion on the album and it put Bowie’s sound in a brand new space and for a brand new audience—they had both mutually benefitted. The guitarist’s performances on the album’s landmark songs ‘Cat People’, ‘China Girl’ and the titular track make the record what it is.
It seemed as though the duo would continue their fruitful partnership as Bowie and his team offered Vaughan the opportunity to tour with the singer. What’s more, they were even happy for him to conduct interviews and promote his new album with Double Trouble while on the tour, with a few opening slots pencilled in to boot. Sadly, things went awry rather quickly as Bowie’s team reneged on the deal and, after SRV’s manager decided against the opportunity, left the guitarist literally on the pavement with all his guitars.
While their relationship deteriorated, the songs that Bowie and SRV created together have stood the test of time. ‘Let’s Dance’ is a shining example of how well they worked together, SRV effortlessly chiming in with unique licks while Bowie takes the steering wheel of the ship and directs it to new waters. It’s a stunning pop tune like no other and it would be nowhere without Stevie Ray Vaughan’s iconic guitar solo.
Below, via the isolate guitar track, we can hear how balanced Vaughan’s guitar really is. It holds all of the power of the past, using bluesy notes and soulful licks, while still adding a crunchy reverb that couldn’t have sounded more ‘of the moment’, if it tried. Without this solo, and work across the album, there’s no doubting that Let’s Dance would have never have reached the heights it did without Stevie Ray Vaughan.