Despite its wistful lead single, David Bowie’s surprise new record is “quite a rock album”, his producer Tony Visconti said on Tuesday. The Next Day is a mixture of “classic Bowie” and “innovative Bowie”, Visconti promised, made by an artist who is both happy and in good health.
The album was recorded in New York and in secret, on and off over the past two years. “We never spent more than two to three weeks at a time recording,” Visconti told BBC News. “Usually we’d work on one or two songs in an afternoon, and whip them into shape so they’d sound like great rock tracks.” They would only add vocals later. “That’s the way I’ve been working with [David] since The Man Who Sold the World [and] he hasn’t really changed in his approach.”
Visconti – who has now produced 13 Bowie albums – said he was surprised with the decision to make Where Are We Now? the LP’s first single. “It’s maybe the only track on the album that goes this much inward for him,” he said. “I thought to myself: ‘Why is David coming out with this very slow, albeit beautiful, ballad? … He should come out with a bang.’ But [David] is a master of his own life. I think this was a very smart move, linking the past with the future, and I think the next thing you hear from him is going to be quite different.”
Despite its melancholy, Where Are We Now? was warmly received by Bowie’s fans. Spandau Ballet’s Gary Kemp even said it made him cry. But many listeners weren’t just happy to hear a new song; they were grateful Bowie is healthy. The 66-year-old has scarcely been seen in recent years, and hasn’t performed live since 2006.
“We all know he had a health scare in 2003, 2004,” Visconti said, referring to an emergency operation after a heart attack in June 2004. “But … David is extremely healthy, he’s rosy-cheeked [and] he smiles a lot … He still has that power in that chest and in his voice … When he starts singing [I] have to back off, and go into another room and just leave him in front of a microphone.”
Bowie also left a positive impression on Jonathan Barnbrook, a graphic designer who worked on The Next Day’s album cover. “[He is] very intelligent, funny, serious when he needs to be and generous in his thoughts and actions,” Barnbrook wrote on his firm’s blog. Together, they conceived an unusual cover image: the artwork from Bowie’s 1977 Heroes LP, obscured by a white square, on which are printed the words The Next Day.
“The obscuring of an image from the past is … [about the] human condition; we move on relentlessly in our lives to the next day, leaving the past because we have no choice but to,” Barnbrook wrote. “[It] is about the spirit of great pop or rock music that is ‘of the moment’, forgetting or obliterating the past … We want people to think about the time when the original album was produced and [about] now.”
The Next Day will be released in March.
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