Tag Archives: Next Day

➤ The Bowiesconti proxy has spoken: only second-hand interviews from here to eternity

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The Bowiesconti proxy: silent pop star plays puppet in the hands of his ventriloquist producer Visconti

❚ SHOCK HORROR REVELATION in today’s Times. David Bowie has been a member of Alcoholics Anonymous though seems to have abstained from drink 23 years ago. This is the bonus ball among many truths we’ve been getting closer to since the star’s 66th birthday comeback bombshell on Tuesday. Another is that he will “never do another interview again” and this itself comes from the mouth of his lifelong 68-year-old friend and producer Tony Visconti who is giving this interview to The Times. Visconti has become Bowie’s Voice on Earth, we’re told. And by the end of the two-page read, we’re so far into Smash Hits territory – Bowie’s fave TV shows are The Office and The Shield – that you’re gritting your teeth at the prospect of another 30 years of interview-by-proxy.

➢ Meanwhile here are five revelations we gleaned from today’s Times interview with the Bowiesconti proxy:

1 – A second Bowie single may be issued before the album The Next Day is released on March 11. And a second album is almost inevitable. “What he wants to do is make records. He does not want to tour,” says his Voice on Earth.

2 – An exclusive list of the 14 album tracks shows all-original material embracing adult themes of “tyrants, spies and soldiers” to reflect Bowie’s recent reading matter, as well as “love in the internet age”. Titles include Dirty Boys (about glam-rockers), Valentine’s Day (about a mass murderer), Set the World on Fire (about an unnamed female nightclub singer) while the track The Next Day is itself a gruesome number in which a man is hung, drawn and quartered in stereo (remember the final scene in Braveheart?) so you might have to look away now and have a lie-down.

Braveheart, movie, Mel Gibson

HDQ in Braveheart 1995: Mel Gibson takes it like a man

3 – During Bowie’s cocaine-fuelled Berlin years recalled on the new single, Where Are We Now?, his Voice says: “We’d have both been dead if we’d carried on.” Visconti stopped taking coke in 1984. Both men went to AA and we’re invited to deduce that Bowie has passed his 23rd anniversary without a drink, placing his temperance decision at 1989, year of the Tin Machine album, itself an expression of musical regeneration.

4 – Since his heart op in 2004 rumours have circulated that Bowie also has cancer. “They’re categorically not true,” says the Voice. “He is incredibly fit because he takes care of himself. He looks rosy cheeked.”

5 – Big letdown for the gayers: while living in Berlin David and Iggy had separate bedrooms in their seven-room Hauptstrasse apartment. Did their relationship go beyond friendship? “No, absolutely not.” Aw, c’mon. What about the Ziggy years? “I never witnessed him with a boyfriend,” Bowiesconti declares. “He said Ziggy stardust was a persona.”

After slapping us with this big wet fish, perhaps Tony Visconti can rehearse a few laughs for his next major interview as the proxy David Bowie, otherwise Jonathan “The Joker” Ross will hog the limelight as usual.

JAN 13 UPDATE

➢ New from the Sunday Telegraph interview with the Voice on Earth:
Despite all reports to the contrary, Visconti reveals that Bowie may actually perform these songs live. “He doesn’t want to tour any more. He’s had enough of it. But he hasn’t ruled out that he might do a show.”

Will there be another record? “We recorded 29 titles. We have at least four finished songs that could start the next album,” says Visconti. “If all goes well, we will be back in the studio by the end of the year. He’s back. Bowie has found out what he wants to do: he wants to make records. Nothing else.”

➢ Jan 13: David Bowie secures first Official Top 10 Chart single in two decades – Arriving at Number 6, Where Are We Now? becomes his highest charting hit since Absolute Beginners reached Number 2 in 1986.
➢ Shock and awe verdicts on Bowie’s born-again masterpiece
➢ Riddle of the train Bowie could not have taken in
Where Are We Now?

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2013 ➤ Shock and awe verdicts on Bowie’s born-again masterpiece

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❚ SURPRISE WAS THE SECRET WEAPON. Even the star’s longtime London publicists were told only on Friday. For months there must have been “sudden death” clauses in his 35 collaborators’ contracts to deter them from breathing a word about the 14 songs on his first album in a decade, or about yesterday’s haunting new single, realised in a resourcefully resonant music video that navigates those fertile but often fraught landmarks from Berlin in the 70s as if in Google Street View… every one a turning point… ghosts from the tragic city’s Cold-War hinterland as well as the singer’s own.

Driven by piano and synth, the song is a bittersweet elegy. Its poignant title asks Where Are We Now? and is rendered with suitable despair, while the accompanying images reinforce the singer’s seemingly mournful contemplations on “walking the dead”. Yet all comes clearer with repeated viewing when the self-deprecating humour brightens your moist eyes. The old fella’s tremulous voice, eroded half an octave lower than we remember, is courageously confessing with dignity and relief what all buddhists seek in the journey through life – enlightenment. There may be melancholy in his acceptance of mortality but it is unsentimental. “As long as there’s sun / As long as there’s rain” and crucially “As long as there’s fire”, then “You know, you know”.

 Where Are We Now? , David Bowie, comeback,Next Day, video,Tony Oursler ,Tony Visconti

Bowie and soulmate as one cuddly toy: their faces are projected onto the puppet-like dummy, Berlin’s Reichstag in the city tour is projected behind them during Tony Oursler’s video for Where Are We Now? (© Iso/Columbia)

The news broke at 5am in the UK (midnight in New York) on his 66th birthday, and the world’s media suddenly received the good news like a shot in the arm. No, Bowie had not retired, laid low after heart surgery in 2004, but was back with a bang. By breakfast-time BBC Radio’s flagship current affairs show Today rushed a critic into the studio to enthuse about the new ballad as legacy from Bowie’s so-called Berlin Trilogy of albums, 1976-79, produced by Tony Visconti, as is the new album. The veteran anchor John Humphrys empathised with a “weariness” he detected in the voice.

By 3pm the single was topping the British iTunes chart and by midnight the next day’s national press were trumpeting their finest prose stylists in spreads devoted to the last of the godlike popstars who define their era. This is the sizzle The Thin White Duke still generates. If Mr Humphrys thinks Bowie was sounding his age, in The Times Caitlin Moran thinks the song shows every year of Bowie’s age beautifully…

THE FOXED VOICE

➢ Caitlin Moran in The Times says Bowie arrived out of retirement overnight, like unexpected snow
It is a worn voice, a gentle voice, a voice with small burn-holes, slight foxing. Of all the things, it most reminded me of David Attenborough narrating some extraordinary murmuration of starlings, or a thaw. A voice that has a superior grasp of how large the universe is; a voice that has come to appreciate the value in simply being alive.

THE LIVING POET

➢ Poet Alan Jenkins blogs at The Times Literary Supp and shares his elation at the arrival of a masterpiece
Almost from the first and unfailingly ever since, Bowie has been a byword for musical boldness and invention. His instinctive power as a lyricist has perhaps been somewhat overlooked – his characteristic note a combination of the shy and portentous, of confessional detail and unembarrassed declamation, of raw truthfulness and authentically barmy allegorizing. Where…? takes us haltingly into personal history and personal mortality, distilling from its simple, beautiful progressions an atmosphere of bewildered sorrow that is not entirely dispelled by the tender-stoical declarations of the final moments.

 Where Are We Now? , David Bowie, comeback,Next Day, video,Tony Oursler ,Tony Visconti

Quavering voice and unflattering close-up: pension-age Bowie ruminates on the passing of time in his stark yet tender lyrics (© Iso/Columbia)

THE RETRO MUSIC

➢ Neil McCormick in the Telegraph declares the perfect comeback
Lush, stately, beautifully strange, weaving resonant piano chords, decaying synths and echoing drums around a simple chord progression and a weary, tenderly understated, quietly defiant vocal, the ageing Starman reminisces about days in Berlin… It is to the slightly wonky, retro-futuristic ambience of late Seventies rock electronica that Where Are We Now? returns … It was a musical style influenced by one-time collaborator Brian Eno and once heralded for its icy futurism, but now it sounds familiar enough to be instantly accessible yet oddly contemporary. Retro synths are all the rage once again, early electronica deemed to have a quality of human warmth often absent in hi-tech digital pop.

THE SELF PROMOTER

➢ Alexis Petridis in The Guardian on an object lesson in record promotion
The main reason it’s created such a fuss is simply because no one knew. It’s incredible that, in an era of gossip websites and messageboard rumours, one of the biggest stars in the world, presumed retired, can spend two years making a new album without the merest whisper of it reaching the public. But somehow he did it… Whatever The Next Day sounds like [the album due on March 11], he’s turned it into the biggest release of 2013 by the simple expedient of doing absolutely nothing other than make an album. Furthermore, he’s managed to maintain the myth and mystique that was always central to his stardom and his art in a world where rock and pop music has almost no myth or mystique left.

THE WHISPERING SAGE

➢ At the Quietus Chris Roberts asks: After a decade of artlessness Bowie is back. So why are so many clowns complaining?
The delicately-sung single, Where Are We Now?, is not “instant”, or flash. It is not a sad by-numbers attempt to recapture old glories. It is very much Bowie, but it is a quivering ghost of a Bowie song, the imprint of his fabulous past gently laid over a forlorn, elegiac yet life-affirming drape of meditations and reveries about missing the old Europe and, possibly, youth. It is becoming of the man, and of the star. And it is becoming obvious that, after all this time, he wouldn’t have let it out of the house if he didn’t believe it would add to his body of work and polish his mythology. It is spectral, frail, yearning without chest-beating, candid in its few, clipped phrases and sighs concerning the heart’s filthy lessons. The crooning peacock is now a whispering sage.

BOWIE’S BERLIN SIGHTS DECODED

➢ Helen Pidd, The Guardian’s former Berlin correspondent, helps identify key Berlin landmarks in Bowie’s video
In the 20s Potsdamer Platz was the place to be, full of sexy lesbians in smoking jackets and the sort of boys Christopher Isherwood fancied. Then we bombed it. After the war, the East Germans built the Berlin Wall around it, placing it in a no man’s land. If you’ve seen Wim Wenders’ film Wings of Desire, you’ll remember the old man sitting on a sofa in what purported to be the deserted Potsdamer Platz…

 Where Are We Now? , David Bowie, comeback,Next Day, video,Tony Oursler ,Tony Visconti

Bowie as art student: ironic coda to the video when he looks in at the auto repair shop beneath the Berlin apartment where he once lived (© Iso/Columbia)

The archetypal Berlin art studio-cum-squat: This is a modern cliche of the German capital. Bowie, in his enigmatic slogan T-shirt, looks like any other foreign immigrant who has come to Berlin to “do my art” (read: go to Berghain and get an asymmetric haircut). Like many of the city’s young pretenders, he is carrying a notebook and no doubt tells people at squat parties he is a writer.

ECHOES OF EXTRAS?

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❏ And in lighter vein… More than one fan has noticed that parts of the new melody bear a resemblance to Pathetic Little Fat Man, Bowie’s improvised tribute to Ricky Gervais in his BBC sitcom Extras in 2006 (above)

Where Are We Now? , David Bowie, comeback,Next Day

Banjo-man! Exclusive birthday photograph (Jimmy King )

➢ Future plans and memorabilia at the newly rejuvenated official Bowie website

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