An unreleased demo of David Bowie‘s “Let’s Dance” has been unearthed to celebrate what would have been the rock icon’s 71st birthday Monday.
Bowie and Chic’s Nile Rodgers, who produced 1983’s Let’s Dance, recorded this stripped-down version of the hit single on December 19th and 20th, 1982 at Montreux, Switzerland’s Mountain Studios. Compared to the bombast of the final version, the demo presents “Let’s Dance” in its bare bones form, with Bowie’s singing thrust to the song’s forefront.
“I’ve been blessed with a wonderful career but my creative partnership with David Bowie ranks very, very, very high on the list of my most important and rewarding collaborations,” Rodgers said in a statement. “This demo gives you, the fans, a bird’s eye view of the very start of it! I woke up on my first morning in Montreux with David peering over me. He had an acoustic guitar in his hands and exclaimed, ‘Nile, darling, I think this is a HIT!'”
Bowie was so eager to lay down the track that a makeshift band made up of local musicians was formed specifically for this recording of “Let’s Dance”; the identities of the drummer and second guitarist on the recording are still unknown. (“If you played 2nd guitar or drums let us know who you are,” Rodgers added.)
Thirty-five years after recording the demo, Rodgers unearthed and then mixed the track at his Connecticut studio specifically for its digital-only release. The demo concludes with Bowie exclaiming, “That’s it! That’s it! Got it,” as if he knew he had just recorded one of his biggest hits.
“This recording was the first indication of what we could do together as I took his ‘folk song’ and arranged it into something that the entire world would soon be dancing to and seemingly has not stopped dancing to for the last 35 years! It became the blueprint not only for ‘Let’s Dance’ the song but for the entire album as well,” Rodgers said.
“The time we spent mixing it just before Christmas was full of tears as it felt like David was in the room with us. Happy Birthday David, I love you and we all miss you!”
Watch below: A fashion tribute to David Bowie, from Ziggy Stardust to Lazarus.