The music world was taken by complete surprise on January 8 when, on his 66th birthday, David Bowie released his first new single in nigh on ten years. As the entertainment industry began to buzz with the news it was soon revealed he would also be releasing his first studio album since Reality in 20003. Quite the birthday gift to his fans wouldn’t you say?
The afore mentioned single, “Where Are We Now?” topped the iTunes charts in no less than 26 countries around the world. UK sales cemented Bowie’s highest chart placing for a single in 27 years when it made a stunning chart début at number 6. The last time Bowie rose this high in the charts was with “Absolute Beginners”. which peaked at number 2 in the summer of 1986. Pre-order sales for the album, “The Next Day” have continued to spike almost two weeks after the LP was announced.
A video directed for “Where Are We Now?” by Tony Oursler who is well known for Bowie’s 1997 clip for “Little Wonder” was made over two mornings late last year and features a guest role from Oursler’s wife, painter, Jacqueline Humphries. There is also a small cameo for Coco Schwab’s dog. Coco has been Bowie’s personal assistant and close friend since the mid 1970’s.
To complete the “trip-tych” of birthday surprises for fans the artwork for “The Next Day” revealed an intriguing interpretation of the “Heroes” album cover from September 1977. This alone has had journalists and fans contemplating deep thoughts over what it all means. As is always the case with Bowie we will find out more when he wants us to know.
So how was all this kept secret for almost two years? We live in the age of Facebook and Twitter where nothing stays under wraps for too long so how did Bowie and his people keep any leaks away from the hungry media throngs? Many have been waxing lyrical over this since the news broke but however it was achieved it has turned out to be one of the greatest marketing campaigns in decades. As many artists spend millions on advertising ventures to gain the upper hand in sales Bowie has simply relied on his mystique and guile coupled with his absence from an otherwise weakening music industry to send us all into raptures.
Britain’s music bible, the NME ran a Bowie cover story within days of the announcement that included an interview with producer Tony Visconti who’s recent work has seen him work with Morrissey and a feature on Bowie’s Berlin period. Thus far through Visconti’s interview it has been revealed that “The Next Day” contains mostly “rockers” and a couple of “ballads”. Across the ditch Rolling Stone magazine have also featured an interview with Visconti where he spoke of the process in which “The Next Day” came into being.
The pair caught up in early 2011 to scratch out some demo material before taking a long break. In 2012 they ventured back into the studio with musicians in hand to finish off the writing and recording of “The Next Day”. Bowie himself came up with the idea of releasing the single and news of the impending album on his birthday.
The only sure thing in all this is that we know Bowie’s new album will head straight to the number 1 spot in not just the UK charts but album charts the world over. And whilst his peers continue to cash in on overpriced “greatest hits” tours whilst providing stale new studio offerings in is great to know that Bowie still plays well ahead of the game.
As the slogan read in 1977. “There’s old wave, there’s new wave and then….there’s David Bowie!”
Still a slogan that would sit well with Bowie circa 2013.