Is Bowie’s New Single Inspired by Recovery?

The blogosphere has been set on fire this week by legendary musician David Bowie who just released his first new single in 10 years. “Where are we Now” is a surreal teaser for Bowie’s new album, which will come out in March. Bowie describes himself as “a man lost in time” and the music video, for me, conveys the feeling of confusion that comes with the struggle towards abstinence.

And all of this on his 66th birthday.

Where are we now’ finds Bowie in the same melancholic and meditative mood as we heard in his last album, Reality (2003). But what got fans really excited is that Bowie revisits, lyrics-wise at least, his beloved Berlin. You can see the music video here.

In 1977, Bowie moved from Los Angeles to Berlin. He was prompted not only by a change in musical direction but primarily to escape his cocaine addiction. In various interviews, he talked about his drug-fueled lifestyle in the US while he was recording the album Station to Station, and how he remembers little of the recording session themselves.

Invited in 1975 to perform the single Golden Years on the popular music show Soul Train, he reportedly got himself drunk in order to perform in front of a live audience. Berlin meant a new beginning for Bowie and due to city’s fragile political status as a Cold War icon, it was a sobering experience for the artist.

In a 1977 interview he said that Berlin was a necessary departure from his flamboyant lifestyle. He recalls that he “had to go down the road and buy food from a shop, actually learn how to buy a plane ticket, which sounds so sort of naive and trite to most people because they can do those things”.

In 1977 he also brought along his friend and life long collaborator Iggy Pop in order to get through their addiction together. The result was some of the best work of their respective careers.

Bowie’s Berlin trilogy, comprised of albums Low, Heroes and Lodger, is a reference point for generations of musicians. Iggy Pop’s recordings during his Berlin experience spawned some of his most enduring hits such as Lust for Life, Passenger and China Girl.

It remains to be seen whether the new Bowie album will give us another glimpse into his recovery from cocaine.