M. Ward – Let’s Dance

24th September 2023 · 2000s, 2005, Music

M. Ward takes Bowie’s banger Let’s Dance and wrings every ounce of emotion out of it in this intense acoustic interpretation.

A few years ago I went to the now-closed and sadly-missed Borderline to see M. Ward, a singer-songwriter of a melancholy disposition whom I had discovered, years earlier, via a song on one of those cover-mounted Uncut compilation CDs.

I only really knew that one song, called Fuel For Fire, which he had recorded in 2005, so I was not sure what to expect.

It was hot in there, and I was wedged against the bar by the door with my friend Janine, and it was one of those acoustic gigs where the intimacy of the performance cast a spell of attentive silence over the audience.

So there we were, our attention only occasionally diverted by people ordering drinks in our ears, when I began to get the sensation that I knew one of the songs he was singing.

At first I couldn’t place it: it had a funereal pace and the tune was unfamiliar but the words rang a bell. “Put on your red shoes and dance the blues,” he whispered. “Let’s dance,” he kept repeating, like a desperate plea.

It’s an extraordinary cover version: it takes Bowie’s exuberant disco-fied declaration of love and transforms it into an intense ballad in which the singer – the narrator – sounds helplessly lost, begging over and over again for one last dance:

“Because my love for you would break my heart in two / If you would fall into my arms and tremble like a flower.”

It’s more romantic by a huge margin. And Ward’s recorded version, with the distantly tinkling piano and the sad harmonica and his scratchy acoustic guitar, wrings every last ounce of emotion out of it.

It might even make you cry. But it won’t make you dance.