Many presumed that David Bowie had retired for good – a rumor he proved untrue this week by announcing a new album, The Next Day, and its first single, “Where Are We Now?”. But there seems to be one caveat to Bowie re-emergence: He has no plans to perform live… ever.

“He’s fairly adamant he’s never gonna perform live again,” Bowie’s longtime producer Tony Visconti told NME. “One of the guys would say, ‘Boy, how are we gonna do all this live?’ and David said, ‘We’re not’. He made a point of saying that all the time.”

It’s easy to point to health problems as Bowie’s impetus for staying off the stage. The 66-year-old suffered a heart attack in 2004 backstage at Germany’s Hurricane Festival, and since then, has not performed live outside of guest appearances and a song here and there.

Regardless of health issues, however, this is not the first time Bowie has made statements regarding live retirements of some kind. Let’s look at past examples from the man who famously sang, “Look out you rock’n’rollers, pretty soon you’re gonna get older.”

Ziggy Stardust Calls It Quits – 1973

July 3, 1973 was the final night Bowie performed as his most famous persona, Ziggy Stardust, as documented on the live album Ziggy Stardust: The Motion Picture. Before playing his final song, Bowie made an announcement that many took to mean an early retirement from touring. “Of all the shows on this tour, this particular will remain with us the longest because not only is it the last show of the tour, it’s the last show that we’ll ever do,” he said. “Thank you.” “NOOOO!” erupted from the crowd. And with that, Bowie launched into “Rock ‘N’ Roll Suicide.” Bowie returned several months later with his Pin Ups album and performed live again, just without his Spiders from Mars backing band. But for a second there, he had everyone worried.

Sound + Vision Tour Hangs Up The Hits – 1990

Things were a little weird with Bowie at this point in his career. After falling into a little bit of a commercial slump, he started the hard rock band Tin Machine and released one poorly-received album. He stepped away from the band between its first and second albums to embark on the Sound + Vision Tour in 1990, a seven-month world tour that Bowie vowed would mark the final performances of many of his biggest hits and early work.

“It’s time to put about 30 or 40 songs to bed and it’s my intention that this will be the last time I’ll ever do those songs completely, because if I want to make a break from what I’ve done up until now, I’ve got to make it concise and not have it as a habit to drop back into,” Bowie said in an interview at the time. “It’s so easy to kind of keep going on and saying, well, you can rely on those songs, you can rely on that to have a career or something, and I’m not sure I want that.”

Of course, a number of Bowie’s hits would creep back into his performances as time went on.

– Jillian Mapes,


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