When David Bowie Met Stevie Ray Vaughan: Collaborators Look Back on the Brief Pairing


It's unusual while you notice one in every of your favourite recording artists sessioned on the hit album of one other one in every of your favourite acts again within the day. And for some, it is perhaps a shock to study that the late blues big Stevie Ray Vaughan served because the lead guitarist on David Bowie's 1983 smash LP Let's Dance.

"It was only a journey to listen to my child brother on a No. 1 file [the title track topped the Billboard Hot 100 in May '83]," says guitarist Jimmie Vaughan, who would go on to work together with his sibling and Let's Dance producer Nile Rodgers on the 1990 LP Family Style as The Vaughan Brothers. "That track simply took over all the pieces; a complete smash. And there was Stevie taking part in lead guitar on it. Stevie known as me to inform me he had met up with David Bowie and Nile Rodgers in New York, and I believe they recorded him fairly shortly. It was solely in the future or one thing for the guitar; he simply overdubbed himself onto the tracks. But he solely wanted one or two takes; he simply went in there all fired up and did his factor."

The dialogue that we have been at all times speculated to observe -- put forth by music critics and even Bowie himself -- was how the dearly departed Duke's mid-80s albums have been to be prevented in any respect prices. And whereas individuals have been largely speaking about 1984's Tonight and 1987's Never Let Me Down, sadly Let's Dance was additionally swept up onto the blacklist by some followers regardless of its largely constructive crucial acclaim upon hitting file outlets in April of '83. Thanks to the fourth version of Parlophone's Bowie field set collection, nonetheless, Bowie's Labyrinth period has been given a long-overdue reassessment, together with a whole makeover of the largely reviled Never Let Me Down by one of many singer's closest studio associates in producer Mario McNulty.

"Both Bowie and Stevie Ray Vaughan have been mega monster musicians," McNulty tells Billboard. "And the stuff they did on Let's Dance was made to face the check of time. It's fairly superb. David was the perfect at bringing collectively the likes of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Nile Rodgers in a room."

When unboxing Loving the Alien and digging into this era, one can't assist however be reminded of the trinity that gave the previous Mr. Stardust his greatest smash and the potential of what may have been had Vaughan not determined to again away from touring with Bowie, so ebulliently displayed on the well-known bootleg 1983 Dallas. Listening to the Austin guitar icon soften into songs and kinds you'd by no means anticipate him to, like "Station to Station," "TVC 15" and "Life On Mars," offers you a distinguished show of the flexibility that might outline the guitarist and his all-too-brief profession because the purveyor of uncooked electrical blues purity within the 1980s. It's extremely shocking, in actual fact, to reckon that Vaughan—although an admirer of Bowie—was not totally hip to his entire catalog regardless of the convenience by which he performed alongside such longtime David cohorts as bassist Carmine Rojas and guitarists Earl Slick and Carlos Alomar, who additionally served because the music director of the Serious Moonlight tour in help of Let's Dance.

"To let you know the reality, I used to be not very aware of David's music when he requested me to play on the periods," Vaughan mentioned in dialog with late Billboard editor in chief Timothy White for an interview within the May 1983 problem of Musician. "David and I talked for hours and hours about our (Double Trouble's) music, about funky Texas blues and its roots – I used to be amazed at how he was. At Montreux, he mentioned one thing about being in contact after which tracked me down in California, months and months later."

Indeed, Vaughan and Double Trouble -- the inimitable rhythm part of Tommy Shannon on bass and drummer Chris Layton -- have been booed by some blues purists throughout their breakout efficiency on the 1982 Montreux Jazz Festival, however the band gained an enormous fan in Bowie, who not solely talked to Stevie that night time, however Layton as properly.

"He wished to know the place Stevie grew up," Layton tells Billboard. "How did all of us meet, the place me and Tommy have been from, how did all of us start the band. He was giving due diligence to discovering all the pieces out that linked us. He appeared to be attempting to understand the concept that Stevie would work on Let's Dance, and that we'd all go on tour collectively; kinda testing the waters of what he may do with the entire idea involving himself and Stevie. Unfortunately, not one of the different got here to move past Stevie taking part in on Let's Dance and going to rehearse the tour with him in Dallas, which we all know he didn't do."

Though Vaughan did set Bowie's setlist on fireplace together with his ferocious taking part in in Dallas, it was clear that degree of touring life was the incorrect route for him to embark upon the precipice of his personal rising star as Double Trouble's traditional debut Texas Flood was about to see worldwide launch on June 13, 1983. In reality, it was Alomar who admits to serving to Vaughan attain a choice that some stories had additionally blamed on the Austin guitarist's arduous partying methods.

"There's at all times that place the place a musician involves a celebrity scenario and thinks this is perhaps a launching pad, this is perhaps the door that I've been in search of," Alomar explains to Billboard. "When I met Stevie, it was about saying to him, 'Dude, what are you doing? Nobody has based their profession from this.' You gotta do not forget that anyone's first file…man, that's their coronary heart. They've been residing with these songs for years, which made Texas Flood so particular. It was kismet. He needed to deny David. He wasn't speculated to be there, man. He was speculated to be selling his debut, going on the market and killing it, taking part in all night time lengthy after which getting within the automobile and driving to the following gig. Not jet planes and sushi cooks. I believe that might have jaded his blues-ness. Stevie was the true deal, and he wasn't going to let anybody take that away from him."

In flip, Vaughan closed out his 1983 by jamming together with his lifelong hero Albert King on the present In Session on the Hamilton, Ontario, public tv station CHCH. King had recognized Vaughan as "Little Stevie," the thin white child who used to come back round and sit in each time Albert handed via Austin for gigs. To hear him inform the story on this present is each hilarious and heartwarming. What would transpire over the course of the following hour and 45 minutes is likely one of the most particular unions of trainer and scholar in trendy music historical past. "I'm about prepared to show it over to you," King says to Vaughan at one level in the course of the taping. "No, I don't imagine that," Stevie responded. "Oh sure, it's true son, it's true," he returned. "Twenty-eight years is lengthy sufficient. I gotta sit again and watch you."

It was a second that may not have occurred had Vaughan not heeded Alomar's recommendation. The guitarist and Double Trouble would go on to provide three extra studio albums of contemporary AOR blues with 1984's Couldn't Stand the Weather, 1985's Soul to Soul and 1989's In Step earlier than we misplaced Vaughan in a helicopter crash in East Troy, WI, on Aug. 27, 1990. He was simply 35. However, in revisiting this explicit interval within the careers of Bowie and Vaughan via the Loving the Alien field set, we may be extremely grateful that he selected self over stardom in his resolution to make his residence within the Ziggy Universe a short one, albeit one which helped launch him into the stratosphere of acclaim amongst music followers, heroes and friends alike.

"Stevie had a significant quantity of respect for David and vice versa," Layton explains to Billboard. "But typically issues simply don't work out, and Stevie didn't know if he may give his full dedication on the time. We have been all attempting to do the issues we wished to do again then, and all of us transfer out and in of various spheres for each season. But Bowie noticed us play and was so fascinated by Stevie he wished to determine how he may work him into what he was doing. I give Bowie a lot credit score for studying between the strains in our tradition and sense one thing that may not have been as apparent to the bare eye."