At the end of December, NPR asked me to be a part of their end-of-year music survey. One of the questions was "What are you hoping for next year?” I wrote: "Would it be too much to hope for something, anything, new from David Bowie?"
If you detect a glum, even whiny note to my answer, well, it has been ten years since the guy put out his last record (2003's Reality). Of course I wanted a new Bowie album, but I would’ve settled for an EP, or even a single track. Anything to show that Bowie was still in the game, you know?
Well today, on Bowie’s 66th birthday, he unveiled his new single, "Where Are We Now?”, and announced that a new record, The Next Day, would be out on March 12.
The new song, and its sad/creepy/nostalgic video, look back at Bowie’s years in Berlin in the late 1970s when he recorded some of the most extraordinary music of his long and ever-changing career. Bowie had gone to the divided city and set up shop near the Wall, where he exorcised the demons that overcame him during his time in L.A. and revived both his own career and those of Iggy Pop and guitarist Robert Fripp. Side two of Low, and parts of “Heroes”, came close to leaving the rock world behind, meeting Minimalism and the classical avant-garde halfway.
Now, an older David Bowie -- eight years after emergency heart surgery abruptly ended his last tour -- looks back at the streets and bridges of Berlin, but refuses to live in the past. "As long as there's me / As long as there's you," he sings.
To me, the song has the same touching blend of retrospection, regret, and quiet determination to push ahead that we've heard in songs like “Thursday’s Child,” from his 1999 album Hours… It’s probably also worth mentioning Tony Visconti, who has produced so much of Bowie’s music since the early 70s (!) and did his usual superb job with this track. It bodes well for the full-length.
Oh, and before I go, here’s an interesting question: Did anyone see this coming? Doesn’t everything leak onto the Internet before it’s released? How was Bowie able to keep the lid on this? For years, his fans have been grasping for any sort of rumor or hint that he might be working again; yet no one I know had any clue this was about to happen.
Now, at the risk of standing in the bread line and asking for toast, can we have a tour?