After nearly a decade out of the spotlight, David Bowie emerged early Tuesday morning (January 8) – his 66th birthday – to announce a new album, The Next Day, and release its first single, “Where Are We Now?” Now Bowie’s longtime producer, Tony Visconti, has revealed more details about the album, to be released March 12, as well as Bowie’s health.
Though it was rumored that Bowie had practically retired over declining health, Visconti denied as much, referring to Bowie as “rosy-cheeked” and “so happy to be back in the studio.” “We all know he had a health scare in 2003 or 2004, but he’s a very healthy man, I can assure you,” he said.
Regarding melancholy single “Where Are We Now?”, Visconti told BBC News, “It’s maybe the only track on the album that goes this much inward for him. It’s quite a rock album, the rest of the songs. I thought to myself: ‘Why is David coming out with this very slow, albeit beautiful, ballad? Why is he doing this? He should be coming out with a bang.’ But he is a master of his own life. I think this was a very wise move, to link up the past with the future, and I think the next thing you hear from him is going to be quite different.”
The producer, who has worked with Bowie on and off since 1969′s Space Oddity, noted that the Thin White Duke been working on the album on and off for the last couple of years. “If people are looking for classic Bowie, they’re going to find that on this album,” he added. “If they’re looking for innovative Bowie – some new directions – they’re going to find this on this album, too.”
Visconti added of “Where Are We Now?”: “I think it’s a very reflective track for David. He certainly is looking back on his Berlin period.”
Indeed, the song evokes Berlin, with Bowie singing lines like, “Sitting in the Dschungel/On Nurnberger strasse/A man lost in time near KaDeWe.” Additionally, The Next Day album cover is a play on the Heroes album cover, the most commercially successful of Bowie’s Berlin trilogy of albums, and the “Where Are We Now?” video recalls the same period.
Speaking of the Next Day cover, its designer Jonathan Barnbrook took to his blog to explain the use of the Heroes cover in a new way.
“We wanted to do something different with it – very difficult in an area where everything has been done before – but we dare to think this is something new. Normally using an image from the past means, ‘recycle’ or ‘greatest hits’ but here we are referring to the title The Next Day. The “Heroes” cover obscured by the white square is about the spirit of great pop or rock music which is ‘of the moment’, forgetting or obliterating the past.”
Barnbrook writes on: “If you are going to subvert an album by David Bowie there are many to choose from but this is one of his most revered, it had to be an image that would really jar if it were subverted in some way and we thought “Heroes” worked best on all counts. Also the new album is very contemplative and the “Heroes” cover matched this mood. The song ‘Where Are We Now?’ is a comparison between Berlin when the wall fell and Berlin today. Most people know of Bowie’s heritage in Berlin and we want people to think about the time when the original album was produced and now.”
– Jillian Mapes, Radio.com