The excitement of late in the kingdom of song is that David Bowie has a new single out with an album forthcoming. The real story is probably more that he managed to keep it all under wraps during the recording process and commanded so much (excessive?) media time by doing so. We all thought he was finished but look he isn’t dead after all – and the song’s not bad either.
As with The Rolling Stones revival (that ran for a limited period last year) and the cavalcade of other re-unions, the question is often in whether any new recorded music is worthwhile. Like Bowie’s the Stones track was pretty good, even if it was one of only two new songs on their 157th compilation of hits mostly recorded over thirty years ago.
I’m prompted by two thoughts that I intend to explore at slightly longer length over the next few weeks. One is that ‘the oldies’ (as we’ll collectively call them) occupy so much media space because there’s a vacuum of star quality in the rock sphere of late, few new acts have filled the void which is leading to bigger problems than the lack of recorded music sales. For instance there are too few major acts to fill the stadiums and festivals, if the old guys don’t step up there are few options and since we’d all previously agreed that live was the only way to earn from music it will lead to further issues in the months and years to come.
The other thought is that the album is really nearing the end of its useful life. Now that digital sales are finally exceeding physical it seems clear that singles (or at least single tracks/songs) will prevail. I’ve mused on this issue in the past and others frequently point to the sales of Adele’s 21 or Mumford albums as being proof that I’m wrong. Sadly these artists are too few – and their albums already contain a significant number of individual tracks that have been big at radio or as singles. As such it becomes as cheap to buy the album as those individual songs. More likely it is those of my age-group who are still the purchasers of physical product and we are wedded to the album format for better or worse.
I’ve often wondered why it hasn’t led to more random single releases from artists with that level of artistic and commercial freedom. Radiohead may have broken the mould when it came to pricing and releases but they clearly got bored with themselves or maybe just couldn’t be bothered.
It’s great that
is back, he is an icon and his legacy is magnificent.
You may argue that this is a pensioner singing about public transport as I saw
one wag do, but there has to be room in our life for heroes,
however fallible they are. Bowie
As for the long-form and long-term I’ve no doubt that there are many who want to hear a full album from him, just as there are for Bob Dylan, Springsteen and others in progressively smaller numbers as the years roll by. I tend to think though that we’ve already got Hunky Dory, Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, Station To Station, Scary Monsters.....we don’t actually need any more
we do need new stadium acts though. Form an orderly queue. Bowie