British rock icon David Bowie broke a decade-long musical silence yesterday, unveiling a new single to coincide with his 66th birthday and announcing that he will release an album in March.
The outlandish star surprised fans by posting a video for the single, entitled Where Are We Now?, on his website, and it will also be available to download on iTunes. The new album, The Next Day, will be released on March 11.
Bowie has been a relative recluse in recent years, having released no new musical productions since his last album, Reality, in 2003, and not having performed live since 2006. He underwent a medical procedure for a blocked artery in 2004.
"January the 8th is of course David Bowie's birthday, a timely moment for such a treasure to appear as if out of nowhere," a statement on his website said, adding the song was written by Bowie and recorded in New York.
"Throwing shadows and avoiding the industry treadmill is very David Bowie, despite his extraordinary track record."
The new album will contain 14 tracks and there will be a deluxe version with three bonus tracks.
Bowie reportedly spent most of the past decade living in New York with his wife, the Somali-American model Iman, and their daughter.
"In recent years radio silence has been broken only by endless speculation, rumour and wishful thinking ... a new record ... who'd have ever dreamed it!" added the statement.
The video for the single harks back to Bowie's time in Berlin in the 1970s and features his face projected onto the body of a puppet. A woman's face appears on another puppet next to his. He is seen looking at a car repair shop beneath an apartment where he lived in the German city - which was then divided into West and East Berlin - during a period that produced the trilogy of albums Low, Heroes and Lodger.
The video was directed by his long-term collaborator, artist Tony Oursler.
Bowie's son, the director Duncan Jones, who was formerly known as Zowie Bowie and went on to win awards for his film Moon, paid tribute to his father's new song.
"Would be lovely if all of you could spread the word about da's new album. First in ten years, and it's a good 'un!," Jones wrote on Twitter.
Bowie has sold an estimated 140 million albums over a career spanning almost 50 years.
London's Victoria and Albert Museum will celebrate his career with an exhibition that also opens in March. Among the outfits on show will be the 1972 Ziggy Stardust bodysuit and the striped bodysuit used during the 1973 Aladdin Sane tour.