The Five Spot: Five Hit Music Videos From The 80's That Wouldn't Fly Today
China Girl-David Bowie
David Bowie is one of the greatest artists to ever live and we miss him terribly, especially during a year in which he might have made the greatest artistic curtain call that any musical icon has ever made.
David Bowie also made some highly questionable music video decisions during the eighties, like the oft-mocked “Dancing in the Street” video with Mick Jagger that premiered during the Live Aid telecast. A video that was ridiculous enough to almost make some forget that Bowie absolutely crushed his live set during the broadcast with a band he’d thrown together for the first time with only a couple hours of warm-up before it rocked 100,000+ at Wembley Stadium along with a couple billion watching live on television around the globe.
China Girl, as you can probably glean just from the .GIF that bookmarks this post, is quite possibly the most highly questionable of those decisions.
The song itself is bewildering brilliance in both its original incarnation, which Bowie and Iggy Pop co-wrote for Pop’s 1977 solo debut The Idiot, as well as its 1983 Nile Rodgers-produced and Stevie Ray Vaughn guitar-aided re-imagining, which became one of Bowie’s biggest hit singles off his biggest album Let’s Dance.
There’s debate over what China Girl was originally written about. Conceived during Bowie’s late-seventies “Berlin period” spent principally around Iggy, some have said it was about Pop’s fascination with a French-Vietnamese woman named Kulean Nguyen. Others have said it was about “China White”, the powerful street slang term for the opioid hybrid of high-grade heroin and fentanyl, which was running rampant in 1977 Berlin. Bowie had re-located to Berlin in large part due to being tired of always crashing in the same car while in the midst of cocaine-induced psychosis back in Los Angeles. Bowie would later become romantically involved with his costar in this video, New Zealand model Geeling Ng. Bowie has said the song’s video was a commentary on racism but then again C. Thomas Howell claims the same thing about Soul Man.
We love you David but in this case, oh baby, just you shut your mouth.
As for the rest of us, we'd recommend sticking to the superior live version from the Serious Moonlight tour if you want to watch a video for the song.