David Bowie’s best-selling record until the day he died was launched 35 years ago today. The move to sing for the many not the few did help his career but would cost him his hardcore fan base who would return to him only on occasion after that when the launched three of his more obscure masterpieces like “Outside”, “Heathen” and the haunting “Blackstar”.
By the time you read this it will be already April 14 in Australia, the continent he took to in order to film the video clip for the song “Let’s Dance”. It was 1983 and there were more folk dancing to David Bowie than ever before. “Let’s Dance” was the main single from the eponymous album and suddenly a considerable part of the world discovered the icon gone global after fourteen albums where he appealed mostly to a crowd that felt motivated to live up to their different music tastes, clothing, sexuality and whatever Bowie stood and stands for ever since he appeared with his new approach to music and fashion. Assisted by funkmaster Nile Rogers, better known as founding member of Chic and producer of major hits from bands like Sister Sledge the record made its way to dance floors. But despite the clear funk influence Bowie did not give up his rock influences having invited Steve Ray Vaughan to add his guitar riffs thereby launching an album with the right funky feel that suited the early 80’s but with a pint of rock here and there. The image, another distinguishing feature of David Bowie seemed to follow the popular spirit of the new Bowie. Wearing immaculate suites in pastel colours and his hair dyed blond Bowie looked rather like an northern-European holidaymaker than the alien he had impersonated in some records.
35 years after being released “Let’s Dance” is still a difficult album to digest for the hardcore Bowie fan and marked a period of some creative decline in the man’s career. The Bowie for the many not the few was not the Bowie the few waited for and he would regain his particular fanbase only after “Outside” which followed the popular “Tonight” and the not so popular “Never let me down” and “Black Tie White Noise”. After that he failed again when trying to have a go with drum’n and bass with “Earthling”, when he launched “Hours” a mild album and “Relity” equally mild, the album that preced “Heathen”, the record that hinted somehow to the path he would follow when he launched “The Next Day” and his final epos “Blackstar”, the record that proved that despite some failed attempts he was still the man he stands for for many – avant-garde, unpredictable and master of reinvention.
Carlos Tomé Sousa
© MASAYOSHI SUKITA
“The Next Day”, the much anticipated and publicised new album by David Bowie is out this week worldwide. It all began with the release of the first single “Where are we now” that brings us to Berlin, to the city where he once lived and recorded three of his best albums and where his creativity was at its peak.
Launched on his 66th birthday, this sad longing song has set the music world on fire, particularly hardcore Bowie fans. The man was back in force with and the album would come out in two months.
All the media buzz is perfectly understandable. After all, this is the man who shaped modern music, the master of style, a multi-instrumentalist, a total artiste, the man who touched nearly all areas of artistic creation, who anticipated music trends, who influenced whole generations and the first pop star to have explored the full potential of the Internet.
Two months after this marketing stunt, the second week of March is here and with it “The Next Day”. It is not an easy album, and surely not the one most fans had expected. The guitars are closer to what he did with Tin Machine, the band he formed in the nineties, or to the atmosphere of “Station to Station” and there seems to be no traces of Berlin in the album, aside from the references in “Where are we now”.
The album seems to go through his career, but rather through what he did after his last brilliant album which was “Scary Monsters”. The two most remarkable songs in the album are curiously the ones with clearer references to what he did in his best days. “You feel so lonely you could die”, both emotional and powerful, brings us closer to what he did between “Space Oddity” and “The man who sold the world”, with traces of soul reminiscent to the “Young Americans” phase. “Where are we now”, on the other hand, is one the most beautiful songs to be released in the first three months of this year, the song which generated the expectation that we might have another “Heroes”.
Where are we now is the question asked in this track. Where is Bowie now is the question many people may ask. This is not surely the review Trendenz wanted to write. We love the man unconditionally but we wanted another Bowie, we wanted more “Low”, “Hunky Dory”,”Diamond Dogs” or “Scary Monsters”. We do not dare to ask for another “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” as Bowie killed Ziggy back in the 70’s, but we wanted a different Bowie.
This review was written after some auditions the day the album was launched. Should we repent after further listening to this album, we will confess our sin.
Carlos Tomé Sousa