David Bowie’s musical comeback is certainly one of the most exciting highlights of the current year. With a new album released two weeks ago, currently topping the charts, it is time to pay tribute to one of the most important figures in pop history – and a great admirer of Tina Turner!
It was David that apparently got Tina her recording contract with Capitol Records back in the early 1980’s. Consequently, he donated two songs to her comeback albums (1984 on Private Dancer, and Girls on 1986’s Break Every Rule). And he invited Tina to be a guest vocalist on the track Tonight, of his 1984 album with the same title. It was this song that David and Tina performed together during a 1985 concert in Birmingham, that was also filmed and later released on video.
David Bowie has been a long-time admirer of Tina. In 1983, he invited a group of Capitol Records executives to Tina’s show at The Ritz in New York. They were blown away by her performance, and this finally led to the recording contract for her 1984 comeback album Private Dancer. David contributed a song for this album (and the 1986 album Break Every Rule). Returning the favor, Tina was a guest vocalist on the track Tonight, in 1984.
Tonight was a track that David Bowie wrote with Iggy Pop, and was released on Iggy Pop’s ‘Lust For Life’ album in 1977. The lyrics of the song’s original version refer to a man, speaking to his girlfriend on her death-bed, apparently dying of a drugs-overdose. David re-arranged the song, when he recorded it with Tina in 1984, giving it a reggae flavor, and removing the spoken opening lyrics from Iggy’s version:
“I saw my baby, she was turning blue
I knew that soon her young life was through
And so I got down on my knees down by her bed
And these are the words to her I said”
Due to the change of the lyrics, the song turned from a dramatic farewell message to a romantic love song. While the studio recording is generally not considered as a big highlight for both David and Tina, the song gained its full potential as a romantic ballad when they performed it together live.
In March 1985, Tina was at the height of her success, filming a live concert at Birmingham’s NEC Arena, to be broadcast on HBO and released on video. When looking for a guest performer to make that night extra special, the choice for David Bowie was quickly made. He gladly joined Tina on stage for two nights, on March 23 and 24. Their performance was particularly steamy. Rumor has it that David and Tina a short liaison the night before the performance. With the glances exchanged between them on stage, this isn’t too hard to imagine!
The video above shows the song as it was performed on March 23, which was videotaped. The duet was however reprised the second night, and the difference between both nights is obvious, including a dramatically different saxophone solo. You can listen to an audience recording of the second night below – unfortunately the quality is not the best.
Their sexy performance didn’t go by unnoticed, and it has been featured in many ‘best pop duets’-lists. The Austrian magazine Rennbahn Express featured Tina & David in a 1985-issue and called them Das Traumpaar; the dream couple.
The live version of the song was finally released as a single in 1988, when it was included on Tina’s compilation album ‘Live in Europe’. It did much better than the original studio version that Bowie released in 1984: it even topped the charts in The Netherlands and Poland.
In 1987, Tina and David re-recorded another one of David’s songs, Modern Love, which was featured in the Pepsi commercial that they did together. With The Thin White Duke’s return to the recording studio, we can only hope that he will lure his friend out of her retirement too, for ‘one last’ sexy duet!