Reality was released on 15 September 2003 in European countries, and the following day in America.
The initial release saw two editions of the album: a single CD, and a double-disc set containing the studio outtakes ‘Fly’, ‘Queen Of All The Tarts (Overture)’, and a 2002 re-recording of ‘Rebel Rebel’.
The Japanese edition was a single disc set with one bonus song, a cover version of the Kinks’ ‘Waterloo Sunset’.
There was very little struggle to find what would be right for the album. In all, I think we only left off two or three songs.
Sound On Sound, October 2003
There was also a limited ‘European’ edition with a bonus disc. This collated the four bonus tracks from the other editions, as well as a cover of Sigue Sigue Sputnik’s ‘Love Missile F1-11’, and three versions of the ‘Rebel Never Gets Old’ mashup of ‘Rebel Rebel’ and ‘Never Get Old’: a radio mix, 7th Heaven edit, and 7th Heaven mix.
A ‘Tour’ edition of Reality was also issued to coincide with A Reality Tour’s visits to various countries. This contained the bonus cover of ‘Waterloo Sunset’, as well as DVD performance of the entire album, recorded at the Riverside Studios in London on 8 September 2003. In Canada the DVD was truncated to just five songs: ‘New Killer Star’, ‘Never Get Old’, ‘Days’, ‘Reality’, and ‘Bring Me The Disco King’.
Later in 2003, Reality was released on the SACD format, which contained all 11 album tracks in both stereo and 5.1 surround sound.
In February 2004 Columbia released Reality on the new DualDisc format. This contained the album audio on one side, and the 5.1 surround mix plus bonus material on the other. The bonus content included a photo gallery, lyrics, a biography, discography, and a promotional film which included clips for ‘Never Get Old’, ‘The Loneliest Guy’, ‘Bring Me The Disco King’, and ‘New Killer Star’.
The DualDisc edition was initially released in Boston and Seattle with slightly different artwork, before receiving a wider US release later in 2004.
Reality was critically acclaimed and became a chart success, entering the European Albums Eurochart at number one. It also went top ten in Autria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom, and topped the chart in Denmark, just as Heathen had done.
The album’s release was followed by the 112-date A Reality Tour. Bowie collapsed backstage following an appearance in Scheeßel, Germany, on 25 June 2004, and was subsequently hospitalised with an acutely blocked artery. The rest of the dates were cancelled, and Bowie rarely appeared on stage again.
Upon the release of Reality, Bowie was optimistic about recording new music.
We’re already half-talking about the next album. And I’ve got to get this tour done. We leave an album always thinking, ‘This is a good piece of work,’ and we judge it very much on the last day of when we’re listening to our final mixes. And at that point, it’s critical for us to look at each other and say, ‘This is a real success.’ Frankly, it doesn’t really matter what happens after that, because, you know, things like Low and “Heroes” and all those things, they weren’t huge sellers. I mean [laughs], they were just not huge sellers, but we knew how important and good they were when we were listening to the final mixes, and we still judge things in that way. As long as we can say ‘That was a first-class piece of work,’ everything after that is frankly a bonus.
Instead, Bowie went into semi-retirement for several years, before returning to the studio in November 2010 to begin recording The Next Day. The plans he had made in the months after Reality were abandoned.
We had plans to make three more albums, at least. We were talking about an electronica album, for instance. And he’d make up a group name. He wanted to have more fun and not have the pressure of releasing another David Bowie album for a while. He said, ‘When I get off tour, we’ll do that.’