Lucy Can't Dance


David Bowie


Black Tie, White Noise

We’ve already learned this from the Rykodisc reissues, but the point is worth repeating: David Bowie will often remove the best track from an albums sessions. In Black Tie, White Noise’s case, it was “Lucy Can’t Dance,” a track that is A) a better summation of everything Black Tie, White Noise was trying to be as an album, B) a repudiation of the near-misogyny  of Tin Machine’s “Baby Can Dance,” C) the best song of the sessions with the best lyric Bowie’d written in over a decade. Nile Rodgers was convinced it was the song that was going to make the album explode onto the charts forever:

“He had another song, ‘Lucy Can’t Dance,’ which was a guaranteed Number 1 record, and everyone around was totally perplexed when it only appeared as a bonus track on the CD. He was running from success and running from the word ‘dance.’ Imagine David Bowie and Nile Rodgers together, and we come out with a song ‘Lucy Can’t Dance’. Smokin’!! I was already accepting my Grammy. But he was not budging. It was an exercise in futility- no matter who I tried to call, it fell on deaf ears.”


It’s just as frustrating for listeners to have a song that’s truly great and have it be shoved to ‘bonus track’ status. Of course, having be a ‘bonus track’ on a CD means it might as well be an album track in it’s own right, but it’s wedged after an unnecessary remix of Jump They Say. And of course there’s always just the association of ‘bonus track,’ and especially since it’s coupled with a remix, ‘Lucy Can’t Dance’ loses any importance just by association. Plus it’s easy to assume the album is over once “The Wedding Song,” a clear bookending reprise-of-a-song, ends. Why keep the CD running? (And yes, in the digital age of the playlist, these concerns are meaningless. But it’s still insulting to a great song.)

But it’s undeniable- this song’s got everything the rest of the album should have. A killer, propulsive beat, great hooks, great delivery, and now let’s look at how great these lyrics are. Bowie delivers some of his best, funniest, quippiest couplets of the decade. Examples: 


But you can’t buy me off in this serial world / Oh but who died and made you material girl?




Now you’re looking for God in exciting new ways / I say trust Him at once which is something these days


or, the real best line:


So I’ll spin while my lunatic lyric goes wrong / Guess I’ll put all my eggs in a postmodern song


Ahh, so good! That’s such a great line. And he throws these out between the repeated hook of “lucy can’t dance to the noise but she knows what the noise can do,” which is almost hypnotic in it’s repetition. It’s all just so smart.