Late on Monday night, the eve ofDavid Bowie's 66th birthday, there were whispers on Twitter. Would he release a single? It seemed like wishful thinking. Bowie, a man who has every
claim to being the greatest pop star of this century and the last, had not put out any music since 2003's album, Reality. Nor has he made any official public appearances in years.
For some time the consensus – reluctantly reached – had been that Bowie had retired. More distressing were the rumours of fast deteriorating health. In short, new David Bowie material felt about as
likely as Thomas Pynchon appearing on breakfast television. But, went the voices of the faithful last night, his website was down – which surely constituted evidence that something was in the
Where Are We Now? – his first new song in 10 years – has Bowie in deeply reflective mode, a man "lost in time … just walking the dead". It's a stately, down tempo reminiscence that runs
through a litany of Berlin streets.
"Had to get the train," he begins, in that familiar, mournful tremor of a voice, "from Potsdamer Platz / You never knew that …" before the orchestration swells to a chorus of: "Where are we
now? Where are we now? / The moment you know you know you know."
Even before the news, the hashtag #BowieComeback2013 was gaining momentum. But the term "comeback" suggests he went away; while Bowie may not have put a record out since 2003, his influence, and
the phenomenal fandom he inspires, have never waned. He is a man for whom hyperbole is valid. The Next Day – his 24th studio album and first in a decade - will be released on 12 March.
Meanwhile, perhaps the world will grant him a timely birthday present in a number one chart entry for Where Are We Now?