An Open Letter To David Bowie – Please Don’t Retire

Dear David / Dave / Bowie / Mr Jones / Ziggy / Most Noble Thin White Duke,

Please don’t retire. Not yet. It’s not your time. I know you’ve reached the pension period of your life, have been quiet of late, have a young daughter, have given us way more than pretty much any other artist since the mid sixties, and it’s your decision, but still. Don’t go just yet.

We need you more now than ever before. In the week Gaga unleashes her latest pop pastiche and the nation battens down the hatches and prepares for the four month twin onslaught of The X Factor and The X Factor US, having you around becomes even more pressingly important.

David Bowie

Plus also it’s just not fair. To paraphrase that great sage Lemar, if there’s any justice in the world you’d be still doing the rounds while other senior artists were calling it quits. We’d be jumping on to the Jubliee to see you at the O2 while some of your peers took a raincheck.

I first heard you when I got my hands on a generational hand-me-down of ‘The Man Who Sold The World’ and from that epic opening eight minutes onward I knew I’d need to go out and get a better stereo.

It blew a teenager’s tiny mind on impact and from then on, through the album’s ‘Black Country Rock’ and ‘The Man Who Sold The World’, to the previous year’s ‘Space Oddity’, the rest of your early 70s output, the plastic soul years, Berlin trilogy and the rest of your well-documented diverse and near-flawless career, I was all kinds of smitten.

It almost goes without saying how essential you’ve been over the last five decades, laughing at the notion of boundaries, turning your talents to glam, disco, soul, ambient, jazz and practically any other sound, showing us how pop can be truly transformational, giving us over 15 properly great albums, Labyrinth and Duncan Jones but most of all an escape from the humdrum. Even when you got it wrong you got it wrong for the right reasons – taking risks that usually paid off but could be forgiven when they didn’t.

One of your biographers reckons you’d only come back if you think you could deliver something that will be seismic. We have faith. Of all the performers operating near the twilight ends of their careers you’ve got the best form, right up to the last decade – as your work with Arcade Fire, Scarlett Johansson and TV On The Radio will attest.

And even if you came back with another ‘Reality’ or ‘Heathen’ – sturdy, reliable rock with a Bowie twist – that would be OK. As NME wrote of the latter back in 2002, “even at [your] most self-referential, you’re still a zillion times more inventive, brave and rocket-to-Mars brilliant than anyone who’s been prodded by the ubiquitous genius stick, ever.”

As a man who missed the Led Zeppelin and Cream reunions but was lucky enough to see The Who while John Entwistle was still running through five minute bass solos halfway through the set, I know the value of the last chance saloon. And as someone who’s endured recent Pistols and Buzzcocks gigs, I know I should be careful what I wish for. Some nagging feeling tells me you’d pull it off though, avoiding the nostalgic pitfalls and tired rehashes others succumb to, coming across more Johnny Cash than Bob Dylan.

If nothing else, could we cheekily ask for one last greatest hits tour, for me and the likes of 19-year-old NME commenter Jay Parmar, who is yet to see you live, like innumerable other big Bowie fans.

Here’s hoping your retirement is as brief as this one, and we see you on a stage soon.

Don’t Shed Any Tears Over Bowie’s Retirement