HE WAS branded an ailing recluse who turned his back on the music that made his name.
But six months after refusing to participate in the Olympic Games opening ceremony, where his song Heroes became an unofficial anthem, David Bowie has once again become one to millions of fans worldwide by releasing his first single in a decade.
In a surprise move that caught the music world unaware, the musical idol, who has spent the past ten years living quietly in New York, celebrated his 66th birthday by releasing a new song entitled Where Are We Now?, which appeared on iTunes at 5am.
The singer’s official website also played host to an accompanying atmospheric video, with both song and video harking back to Bowie’s days living in Berlin in the 1970s.
The first hint that the singer’s long silence was about to be shattered came from his son Duncan Jones, the director of the film Moon, who tweeted: “So who wants to know a secret? ;)”
before continuing: “So... First off, it’s midnight in NY. That means a HUGE HAPPY BIRTHDAY is in order to my lovely, very talented dad! Been ten years since his last album... So you better get to itunes. ;)”
The track was instantly well received by his devotees, with long-time fan Boy George declaring it “bloody gorgeous”. Bowie’s last album of new material, Reality, was released in 2003 but after touring the songs he largely withdrew from the public eye, concentrating on his family life in New York with his wife, the former model Iman, and his daughter Alexandria. Unsurprisingly, ten years since he was last heard, Bowie’s voice sounds older and more world-weary. The melancholic song sees him reviewing his time in Berlin – where he created some of his most groundbreaking music in the 1970s – as he lists some of his haunts with the repeated line “just walking the dead”.
In the video directed by Tony Oursler, with the musician’s pensive face projected on to a puppet, he appears to be almost biting back tears as he looks back on his life. Where Are We Now? was written by Bowie and recorded in New York. It was produced by his long-term collaborator Tony Visconti, who has worked on many of his most famous albums, beginning with 1969’s Space Oddity. A follow-up album called The Next Day is set to be released in March.
Bowie has not performed live since 2006 when he appeared alongside David Gilmour at London’s Royal Albert Hall, and a few months later on the bill of a charity concert in New York.
His public withdrawal has led to rumours of poor health, although this has continually been denied. Bowie, who
is known for the constant reinvention of his look and sound, particularly in the 1970s, turned down the opportunity to appear at the Olympics opening ceremony last year despite a personal plea by director Danny Boyle.
His re-emergence yesterday quickly caused a buzz online. Broadcaster and author Jon Ronson wrote on Twitter: “Did you think David Bowie would never release another record or be seen again? We were wrong. And it’s great.” While Boy George said: “Just bought David Bowie’s new single Where Are We Now? – bloody gorgeous.”