Autobiographical Order No. 498: David Bowie – Let’s Dance

So one of the grosser aspects of capitalism—and there’s a lot of gross things about capitalism!—is death exploitation profiteering. There’s an old, cliche joke about how nobody’s art is worth anything until after they’re dead, and there’s some truth to that. Especially when it comes to people who sell records on the Internet. A celebrity dies, and then everyone has to have a copy of their albums, and the eBay sharks jack up the prices. Is it how supply and demand works? Yes, though that doesn’t make it right. Especially when you consider that it happens essentially overnight.

So in early 2016, Bowie’s death hit pretty hard, and the tributes were being turned around in record time. Four years later, I think it’s probably safe to give the Bowie covers sets a break, but I certainly couldn’t fault anyone for wanting the cathartic feeling of singing his songs at the time. In fact, I was asked to DJ at a tribute night as well, which meant I probably had to stock up on more of the catalog. You’ll notice that I’ve already blogged about a half dozen or so Bowie records, but I figured between three other DJs the hits were going to be pretty well covered and I wanted to have more to choose from. (Hence the Bowie-related Lou Reed and Mott the Hoople records, a weird 7-inch here or there, etc.)

I needed to have Let’s Dance, though. I knew I wasn’t the only one who’d be playing tracks from the album, but I still needed it. Mainly because it’s a good album and I like it and I should have it anyway. But I started seeing it on eBay selling for $30 or higher and that was honestly super offensive to me. Plus I knew in a matter of months the price would go down 60 percent or so. I managed to time it just right to luck out with a $10 copy, but I still had to pay expedited shipping so I don’t know—maybe it was a wash, but I still got it without paying an obscene price.

Ahead of time I reached out to the promoter and asked if he might be able to lend me his copy and he brought it to the bar in case I wasn’t able to score a copy. We chatted about it for a while and he was flabbergasted about paying $30 for Let’s Dance. “That’s a $5 record!” he said, explaining how the vinyl resurgence has made otherwise common, easy-to-find records more expensive because of the novelty of it. I mean, guilty as charged, I’m buying these records too. But he said back when he worked at a local record store in the mid-’00s, there were stacks of Led Zeppelin records that nobody was buying. Nowadays, you’re most likely to find the $40 deluxe reissues. And the thing with Bowie albums is they’re still more expensive now than I would have hoped—Tonight, an album that’s not very good but I still kind of want for the sake of having “Loving the Alien” and “Blue Jean,” shouldn’t be more than $5, but it sells for $20 in some places. And the relatively scarce Outside from 1995? Good luck finding a copy for less than $100.

Still, I got Let’s Dance, Bowie’s big pop moment, and in general an excellent album that found Bowie teaming up with Chic’s Nile Rodgers and getting a little bit funkier. It was his most successful album in the states, and its singles are all-timers, particularly the title track. (“Cat People (Putting Out Fire)” is great too, though there’s a definite divide between those who prefer this version to the Giorgio Moroder version—as far as I can tell the Moroder mix isn’t as popular.)

And it was a fun night, for what it’s worth.

Rating: 9.0

Sound Quality: Great

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