It was three years ago today (January 10th, 2016) that the world lost David Bowie, just two days after his 69th birthday. Bowie’s death followed a private 18-month battle with cancer, and according to reports from insiders in the Bowie camp, the music legend died from liver cancer, after suffering from a handful heart attacks in recent years. Bowie was survived by his wife of 23 years, supermodel Iman, his son, movie director Duncan Jones, and his daughter with Iman, Alexandria.
Announced yesterday (January 9th) in commemoration of what would have been Bowie’s 72nd birthday on January 8th and 50 years since his 1969 debut hit, “Space Oddity,” a vinyl singles box set, titled, Spying Through A Keyholes (Demos And Unreleased Songs), featuring nine unheard demos and early takes from Bowie’s late-’60s sessions will be released later this year. DavidBowie.com posted: “‘Spying Through A Keyhole’, is a lyric taken from the previously unknown song: ‘Love All Around,’ and though most of the other titles are known, these versions have never been officially released until late last year (when they were briefly made available on streaming services). Most of the recordings are solo vocal and acoustic home demo performances, unless otherwise stated.” As it stands now, the collection will only be released on vinyl, “but the recordings may appear in the future on other formats.” No hard street date has been announced.
2018 saw the archival David Bowie Is exhibit open in March at New York City at the Brooklyn Museum for a four-month run. A new “augmented reality app” based on the multimedia museum exhibit was launched on January 8th. The app is narrated by Gary Oldman, with Pitchfork.com posting, “The app will allow users to interact with ‘the show’s hundreds of costumes, videos, handwritten lyrics, original works of art, and more.’ A virtual reality David Bowie Is experience is also in the works.
Released in November was David Bowie’s complete June 25th, 2000 appearance at England’s Glastonbury Festival was released in November. Only 30 minutes of Bowie’s career-spanning set has ever been aired, and the new collection, titled, David Bowie Glastonbury 2000, features such timeless tracks as “Fame,” “Let’s Dance,” “Life On Mars?,” “Changes,” “Under Pressure,” “‘Heroes,'” “China Girl,” “Ashes To Ashes,” “Station To Station,” “Golden Years,” “Ziggy Stardust,” and “Rebel Rebel,” among others. The collection was issued as a double CD/DVD, triple LP, double CD, digital, and High Resolution (48/24) Digital.
Last October saw the fourth in a series of Bowie box sets, titled, Loving The Alien (1983-1988). The 11-CD box, 15-LP vinyl set, and standard digital download boxed set was named after the opening track from the Tonight album and includes newly remastered versions of 1983’s Let’s Dance, 1984’s Tonight, 1987’s Never Let Me Down (original and 2018 versions), the live album Glass Spider (Live Montreal ’87), the previously unreleased Serious Moonlight live album, a collection of original remixes entitled Dance and the non-album / alternate version / B-sides and soundtrack music compilation Re:Call 4.
Of particular interest to ’80s Bowie’s fans is the 2018 remix of the Never Let Me Down album. According to the press release: “The seeds of this new reimagining of the albums were first sown in 2008 when Bowie asked producer / engineer Mario McNulty to remix the track ‘Time Will Crawl’ and record new drums by longtime Bowie drummer Sterling Campbell along with strings. The track was issued on the iSelect compilation to much acclaim and, in the notes for that record, David remarked ‘Oh, to redo the rest of that album.'”
The new version features new instrumentation by Bowie collaborators Reeves Gabrels on guitar, David Torn guitar, Sterling Campbell on drums, Tim Lefebvre on bass as well as string quartet with arrangements by Nico Muhly and a guest cameo by Laurie Anderson on “Shining Star (Makin’ My Love).
Last year also saw the release of release of the HBO documentary David Bowie: The Last Five Years. The film chronicles the late icon working on his final projects; his final two albums, The Next Day and Blackstar, along with his stage musical, Lazarus. The Last Five Years includes interviews with longtime producer and friend, Tony Visconti, as well as bandmates Earl Slick, Gail Ann Dorsey, and Carlos Alomar (among others).
In January 2018, Bowie’s son, Duncan Jones, launched an informal David Bowie Book Club to honor his iconic father. Jones, the director of such films as Moon and Source Code, launched the club on Twitter, describing his late-father as “a beast of a reader.” The first book posted is Hawksmoor — Peter Aykroyd’s 1985 award-winning novel. The book appears in the list of Bowie’s 100 favorite books. The plan is for fans to read the book and then discuss it with Jones on his Twitter page.
On January 8th, 2017 — on what would’ve been his 70th birthday — a clutch of Bowie’s final songs were released as a four-track EP, called No Plan. The songs, which were recorded during Bowie’s final sessions for his 2016 Blackstar album, had previously seen release on the cast album for Bowie’s 2016 musical Lazarus. Bowie’s last album, Blackstar — released on his 69th birthday — scored the rock legend his first chart-topping album in the U.S.
Although tributes were literally non-stop in the days and weeks following Bowie’s death, perhaps the most touching tribute was in July 2016 when Bowie’s 1974 classic “Rebel Rebel” took on Herculean proportions when it was played in unison by over 1,000 musicians. A professionally filmed clip of the volunteer-based rock band dubbed Rockin’ 1000 performed the song in Cesena, Italy’s Orogel Stadium.
In 1983, David Bowie shed light on how and why the character of “Ziggy Stardust” came to exist: “I think I was quite happy to buy into the idea of reinvention, up until the beginning of the ’80s, really. When I was a teenager, I had it in my mind that I would be a creator of musicals — I sincerely wanted to write musicals for the West End and for Broadway, whatever. I didn’t see much further than that — as a writer. And I really had the idea in my head that people would do my songs. And I was not a natural performer; I didn’t feel at ease onstage — ever. And I had created this one character — ‘Ziggy Stardust’ — that it seemed that I would be the one who played him, because nobody else was doing my songs and the chance of my getting a musical mounted were very slim, and so, I became ‘Ziggy Stardust’ for that period.”
David Bowie explained that his late-1970’s work with producer Brian Eno forever shaped the way he thought about songs and music: “The whole idea of using a recording studio as an instrument, of not necessarily thinking that you have to be prepared totally before you go in; that accidents will happen and sometimes planned accidents work our really well. If there’s a bad note, you can layer that note several times with other instruments and suddenly that bad note sounds like an extraordinary piece of arrangement.”