In the studio

The recording sessions for The Next Day were spread over a three-year period, from 2010 to 2012.

Bowie started by recording demos, with no certainty that they would result in an album. One of these recordings, known simply as 067 on his digital recorder, caught the ear of guitarist Gerry Leonard.

There are beautiful changes to it. He had these chords on his keyboard. David is an amazing writer, but he’s not a schooled guy, he just goes by his ear.
Gerry Leonard
Ashes To Ashes, Chris O’Leary

The backing track for ‘Where Are We Now?’ was recorded on 13 September 2011 at the Magic Shop studio in New York. The key musicians were David Bowie on keyboards, guitarist Gerry Leonard, bassist Tony Levin, and drummer Zachary Alford.

When I heard ‘Where Are We Now?’ I cried. It was a mixture of happiness that it was being released, that it sounded gorgeous, and hearing this vulnerability in a person that I know and think of as almost superhuman.
Zachary Alford
The Guardian, 23 February 2013

Bowie’s vocals were recorded on 22 October at Human World Wide, the New York studio owned by Tony Visconti’s son Morgan.

More overdubs followed at the Magic Shop and Human. These included Henry Hey’s piano part. Bowie was impressed enough by Hey’s work to invite him to become the musical director of Lazarus, his 2015 stage musical.

David was always interested to hear what a particular musician might do on a song before he gave any guidance. It’s a great way to work as it allows people to put forth their most prominent instinct on a passage. After that, he might mention parts of what you played that he liked, or in some cases maybe something that he’d rather that you avoid – yet he was always such a gentleman about it.
Henry Hey
The Complete David Bowie, Nicholas Pegg

‘Where Are We Now?’ was one of the songs that featured in Lazarus. It was performed by Michael C Hall, who also recorded it for the Original Cast Recording album the following year.

Cover artwork

‘Where Are We Now?’ came with artwork by Jonathan Barnbrook, who had previously worked with Bowie on Heathen and Reality. It featured a live shot of Bowie taken at New York’s Radio City in 1974, rotated 180°.

Where Are We Now? single artwork

We went through many different designs for the album cover, but the starting point was an image he had of this concert he did at Radio City. He was telling me about how isolated he felt at that time, and that was the basis of the feeling he wanted. We tried out every single Bowie cover there’s been, but it ended up as “Heroes” because it’s such an iconic album, and the image on the front has the right kind of distance. Originally the album was going to be called Love Is Lost, which is one of the other tracks. But The Next Day, in combination with the “Heroes” image, and what the album is saying about somebody who’s looking back at his age… it just felt appropriate.
Jonathan Barnbrook
NME