‘Labyrinth’: David Bowie Said ‘Magic Dance’ Song Caused Problems in the Studio
And baby said… Dance magic dance! Jim Henson brought joy to countless childhoods, and Labyrinth showcased his talents along with David Bowie‘s. Henson combined powers once again with Brian Froud to bring gothic-style puppets to the big screen while Bowie brought the music and swagger.
The British singer created original songs for the movie and belted them out as Jareth. When the Goblin King sang the classic bop “Magic Dance” a.k.a. “Dance Magic,” the audience had to join in. People love that track, but Bowie said it posed a tiny challenge for him.
David Bowie said ‘Dance Magic’ song in ‘Labyrinth’ gave him a problem
David Bowie played Jareth, a character he once described as “kind of spoiled” and a “big kid.” After the goblins kidnapped Toby, they and their king sort of became de facto babysitters until Jennifer Connelly’s character came to the rescue. The baby was the other big star of the film.
Though Bowie didn’t really participate in the global promotion for Labyrinth, he spoke about the movie during interviews. He appeared in the 1986 Inside the Labyrinth documentary which chronicled the entire production process.
Bowie shared that Jim Henson granted him autonomy when it came to creating the music, but “Magic Dance” tested him in a hilarious way. “Jim gave me complete free hand, allowed me to say what I wanted and write the things that I wanted. ‘Dance Magic’ gave me a bit of a problem,” said Bowie.
How? Capturing the baby’s cooing sounds didn’t quite work out the way he planned. “In the recording studio, the baby I picked of one of the backing singers — Diva [Gray] had this cute little baby who couldn’t put two gurgles together. And it wouldn’t work for me,” he recalled.
Bowie recorded the baby sounds himself
Bowie joked that he tried to harass the baby into screaming and making the right sounds, but nothing worked. To get the job done, he handled the sound effects himself. “He really buttoned his lips. So, I ended up doing the gurgle so I’m the baby on that track as well,” he said.
Bowie compared the experience to recording 1967’s “The Laughing Gnome” where he included giggles and a fictitious fairy on the song. He dove into “Dance Magic” with the same spirit.
‘Magic Dance’ is an infectious ‘Labyrinth’ soundtrack tune
Toby — in his striped suit — was serenaded by Jareth and enthusiastic goblins who couldn’t resist tossing him into the air. Fans typically sing along. The lyrics “What kind of magic spells to use … ” became a contagious part of the Labyrinth soundtrack. Following Bowie’s death in 2016, the song “Dance Magic” peaked at #19 on the U.K. charts.
In addition to this track, Bowie wrote four others for the film, including “Underground,” “As the World Falls Down,” “Within You,” and “Chilly Down.” Fans may remember hearing each during memorable scenes featuring Sarah, the ballroom party, and the zany Fireys.
Notable voices on the soundtrack include Luther Vandross, Chaka Khan, and Cissy Houston, Whitney Houston’s mother. They all performed background vocals for the album. To relive the magic and celebrate the movie’s 35th anniversary, stream Labyrinth on HBO Max.