I HAD to feel sorry for reformed Britpop heroes Suede last week.
Brett Anderson and co released their first new song for over a decade to expectant fans pining on a return to the glory days of the early Nineties.
All looked good for the indie heroes for a few hours until the band’s spiritual mentor David Bowie decided to do exactly the same creating an outpouring of adulation, downloads and overuse of the phrase ‘chameleon of rock’.
It was strange seeing both these acts’ comebacks strangely intertwined as I largely have Suede to thank for introducing me to the strange, endless trip which is Bowie’s career.
The past decade has not been a great time to be a Bowie fan. Since he last toured in 2003, there has been an extended and frustrating period of radio silence. Alarming rumours of a heart attack were coupled with a creeping realisation that Bowie might just be happy to retire and enjoy the rather more sedate life of a husband and father to a young son.
This creeping acceptance that that was that when it came to Bowie’s career, made last week’s stunning and wholly unexpected release of new single The Next Day such a delightful surprise.
These days much of the mystery and mystique of pop music has long since disappeared. I used to hungrily wait for Wednesday morning’s delivery of the NME to find out what my favourite acts were up to, whether they had a tour planned or an album in the pipe line. Today, we seem to know everything about our musical stars because they choose to tell us. Twitter feeds, blogs and exclusive making of webcasts have all made the likes of Lady Gaga and Rihanna far more accessible to anyone who wants to pretend they’re in their orbit.
Somehow, Bowie, one of the most tech-savvy of musicians, bypassed hoopla and released a song that no one had heard yet or even knew about. In doing so he created a media storm bigger than any internet viral campaign ever could.
Perhaps we should not have been surprised. Bowie’s career has been a constant litany of surprises which make this latest comeback all the more welcome.
Only The Beatles can rival him for sheer musical innovation. If you have a day to spare (and I used to have a lot when my Bowie obsession was in full throw) try sitting down and listening to that extraordinary run of albums from the 1970s.
Ziggy Stardust is incredible – a bona fide rock classic that can still be androgynous, camp and contain a song as beautiful as Five Years. Aladdin Sane and Diamond Dogs continue the trend but by 1975 we have the white soul of Young Americans, quickly followed by the icy Thin White Duke period of Station to Station.
Remarkably these albums tumbled out of Bowie’s creative mind at a rate of one a year, combining a whole raft of influences from the cinema to visual art and fashion all of which reciprocated the debt of gratitude.
Best of all to my mind is the Berlin trilogy of albums which gave us Low, Heroes and Lodger.
A brilliant collision of art and music, they combine all that is amazing about Bowie. Avant garde instrumentals one minute, soaring anthems like Heroes the next.
Thankfully the sound of that most special of songs blasting out at the Olympic Stadium as our gold medal winning heroes strutted their stuff will not now be our last memory of Mr Bowie.
Now there’s a new album to look forward to and with it the certain realisation never again should we take this most special of artists for granted.