Over the course of his career, David Bowie was one of the most prolific recording artists in rock and roll, but a cursory glance at his solo discography might lead you to believe that he was resting on his laurels between 1987 and 1993. While he didn’t release any new studio albums during that half-decade period, he was keeping occupied as the frontman for a band called Tin Machine. After two studio albums and a live LP with that group, however, Bowie decided it was time to jump back into his solo career with a little record called Black Tie White Noise.
At this point, Bowie had, at least from a critical standpoint, left his solo career in tatters with his previous solo album, 1987's critically reviled Never Let Me Down. But Black Tie White Noise wasn’t just Bowie returning five years and a band later; he was returning with his former Let’s Dance collaborator, producer Nile Rodgers. In fact, Bowie and Rodgers had reconnected on the track “Real Cool World” for the animated Ralph Bakshi film Cool World - a musical teaser for the sound that Bowie would be exploring on his next record. ("Real Cool World," along with Black Tie White Noise, features in the new Bowie box Brilliant Adventure (1993-2001).)
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Recorded mostly between Mountain Studios in Montreux, Switzerland and the Hit Factory in New York City, with a little bit done at Los Angeles’s 38 Fresh Studio, too, Black Tie White Noise ultimately wasn’t exactly the album Rodgers wanted to make, since he’d been imagining a sort of sequel to Let’s Dance. That said, it also wasn’t entirely the artistic statement that Bowie wanted to make, either - but it did find him reuniting with both Mick Ronson and Mike Garson, duetting with Al B. Sure! on the title track, and closing out the album with a Morrissey cover (“I Know It’s Gonna Happen Someday”), which – you’ll have to trust us on this – was a pretty awesome thing for him to have done at the time.
Needless to say, the arrival of a brand new David Bowie album was nothing short of momentous in the U.K., and it found exactly the sort of chart reception that a momentous album should receive: it went all the way to the top of the charts. On the other hand, America wasn’t nearly as excited about the situation – there’s just no accounting for taste – and only sent the LP to No. 39 on the Billboard 200. Similarly, none of the album’s three singles charted on the Hot 100, but all three made their way into the Top 40 across the pond: “Jump They Say” went to No. 9, the title track hit No. 36, and “Miracle Goodnight” stayed strong at No. 40.