IT WAS A GREAT START TO 2013. TO SAY THE ANNOUNCEMENT OF AN IMMINENT FIRST NEW DAVID BOWIE ALBUM FOR TEN YEARS TOOK MOST OF THE WORLD BY PLEASANT SURPRISE WOULD BE A VAST UNDERSTATEMENT.
Only a handful of core Bowie People actually knew that he had been writing music and was working in the studio again, so close to his chest did he keep his (Oblique Strategies) cards.
Prior to the announcement in January (beautifully, on the 8th – a gift from him on his 66th birthday) it seemed as if Bowie had ‘done a Garbo’, all but disappearing from even the narrowest view. It had been feared – and then generally accepted – that this most essential of 20th Century pop culture figures had finally closed out on an influential 35-year career, which had been littered with zeitgeist stardust at (more-or-less) every stage, to settle down into some sort of reclusive pipe and (no doubt highly stylish) slippers retirement as a quietly middle-aged English Family Man in New York.
In an artistic sense, Bowie was glimpsed only occasionally through the decade – brief fine fettle concert guest spots with Arcade Fire, David Gilmour and Alicia Keys all leaving the impression that New York’s gain was the world’s loss. And, of course, there were those cameos in Ricky Gervais’ EXTRAS and the Spongebob Squarepants movie, illustrating that Big Apple Bowie took his so-presumed ‘retirement’ far less seriously than the rest of the world did.
Stories of ill health had circulated following a heart attack during a show in 2004, which curtailed the last short run of dates on what had been the extensive and enormously successful REALITY TOUR – and one man who is able to add some proper context to those stories features in this special new edition of The Mouthcast. Guitarist Gerry Leonard was on stage with Bowie for every one of the hundred or so concerts of that mammoth globetrot.
Leonard first began working with Bowie on the (release abandoned) album TOY in the early 2000s, before becoming Musical Director and helming a tight and terrific band through the critically acclaimed albums HEATHEN (2001), REALITY (2003) and, now, THE NEXT DAY (on which he has co-written BOSS OF ME). This most versatile and inventive of musicians has released two solo albums (as Spookyghost), worked with an impressive succession of high-level artists including Roger Waters, Rufus Wainwright and Laurie Anderson, and is the ‘other half’ of Suzanne Vega’s regular touring duo, his textural and atmospheric contributions to her lyrical folk-spinning also captured for posterity on the recent four album series CLOSE UP.
Leonard (on the telephone from Washington DC the morning after one of the final dates on the current Suzanne Vega tour) talks briefly to The Mouth Magazine about his work with Vega and extensively about his time with Bowie, revealing how a short e-mail with the subject line ‘Schtum!’ signalled the sun rising on the start of THE NEXT DAY…