David Bowie has gone from new to old – and what a beautiful thing it is

This artist, approaching 70, has created a beautiful record from his own history

Share

It’s hard to keep a secret in the media. If somebody famous is getting divorced, or arrested, or exposed in the tabloids, then nosy meddling journalists like me tend to know about it before it happens. If the famous person is making a film or releasing a new album or writing another book, then we’re supposed to know about it, months or even years in advance.

So it came as a complete surprise this morning when David Bowie released a beautiful new single called “Where Are We Now?”, with an album soon to follow, and nobody knew anything about it. That is until they played the song on the Today programme on Radio 4 – it having been put on sale on iTunes at five o’clock in the morning – and a nation awoke to the strains of a sad, thoughtful man remembering the places he used to go in Berlin in the 1970s.

Yesterday was Bowie’s 66th birthday, and his voice on the record sings sadly, fondly, about the railway station in Potsdamer Platz, the Dschungel nightclub on Nürnberger Strasse, bridges, checkpoints, department stores, “a man lost in time”, “just walking the dead”.

“Where Are We Now?” is the sound of a man revisiting the city where he wrote several of his classic albums – though whether he has gone back on foot, or in his mind, is hard to tell. Also, he’s wearing a T-shirt that says Song of Norway on it. Now, in 1969, a woman called Hermione Farthingale, then the great love of Bowie’s life, left him to go and be in a film. It was said he never got over it. That film was called Song of Norway. So what does it all mean? Bowie used to eschew nostalgia, always preferring the new. Now, four years off his seventies, with rumours of ill-health abounding (though always denied), he has created a beautiful new thing by rummaging through in the jigsaw pieces of his life and throwing them around, seeing where they lie.

The video for the song shows Berlin’s black and white streets, apartment blocks, the Tacheles artists’ squat, the TV Tower. Bowie’s face sings on a sort of Siamese doll in a studio, with a woman’s face squashed next to his (it seems she may be Jacqueline Humphries, wife of the artist Tony Oursler who made the video). Objects from his past, references to other records, crop up around him. Then the lyrics become sweetly, romantically clichéd: “As long as there’s rain, as long as there’s rain, as long as there’s fire, as long as there’s fire, as long as there’s me, as long as there’s you.” It’s such a lovely record. It makes him sound so very… human.

Oh, Taylor! How could you?

I was so enjoying Taylor Swift, the American pop superstar, going out with Harry Styles, the British pop superstar. Her hair is so shiny, and his is so floppy – but they looked so sweet together, like pantomime children. She sings the one that goes, “We, are never ever, ever, getting baaaack together”, and he sings the one about what makes you beautifuuuul.

They got together late last year, and one time they went on a day out in Yorkshire, like normal people! On New Year’s Eve, they were in New York, not old, but they raced to Times Square and saw in the midnight hour with a big snog in the street, surrounded by thousands of normal people. Then they went on holiday to the Caribbean and posed for fan photos with normal people. And then they had a massive row and split up, like normal people. I may never get over it.

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Apprentice IT Technician

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Sales Associate Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

If it can't be seen from the cheap seats, it's in the wrong place

David Lister
For music lovers: John Cusack with his vinyl collection in 'High Fidelity'  

Record Store Day is all very well — but don't forget the rest of the year

Hugh Leask
How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit