(I know THBD a million times before, but since the search function has been broken for a week, I can't find any of the other threads. So fix it already or kiss my ass.)
Okay, so let's say The Elephant Man was sold out on December the 8th, 1980, and MDC decides to murder any other rock star who happened to be in NY at the time, like Lou Reed or something. Or, he simply stays home and shoots himself out of boredom. Whatever the scenario, the point is that Bowie never makes all the papers and continues living to this day. How would his career have evolved in the following 26 years?
During the 80's, Bowie would have focused more in his acting career, participating in some hit movies and becoming an internationally recognizable film star. He would have played the villain in the 1985 James Bond movie (the director has said Bowie would have been perfect for the part), and possibly performed the main theme during the climatic scene. His dark, weird and complex "soundtrack albums" would often be seen as minor side-projects for the general public, an odd little hobby for a big star.
As a consequence of the rise of Bowie the actor, Bowie the musician would have become less prolific, releasing only 8 or so albums in the entire decade (including soundtracks and live albums, one of them from the 1981 tour we know for a fact was coming). However, at the same time he would have established himself as a sought-after music producer, working not only with Lou Reed and Iggy Pop, but also Michael Jackson and Madonna. His collaborations with pop idols succeed in bringing them some artistic credibility, but fail to incite the masses to buy Bowie's "uncomfortable" albums.
Given Bowie's closeness to John Lennon, his participation in 1985's Live Aid event is a given. Maybe they could have even performed a small set together, consisting of a bombastic version of Fame, a touching acoustic rendition of Across the Universe, and duel of guitars for Dust to Dust (though I guess it's unlikely that Lennon would have written that song if Bowie hadn't died). While we're on the subject, I think Bowie's involvement in Mick Ronson's Tribute Concert in the 90's would have turned that event into something bigger than it really was, closer to the Freddy Mercury Tribute. Bowie's presence would have possibly brought other big names on board, like Lou Reed or Mick Jagger. The peak of the evening would have been the short-lived Spiders reunion at the end of the concert. "Not only is this the last song of the concert...", Bowie would have joked.
In the 90's, with the rise of alternative music, Bowie would have made a conscious decision to leave his acting career aside and focus in the music. The sum of his output during that decade would have broken the 10 album mark once again... However, at this point his popularity has started decreasing considerably. His tendency to alienate the new bands he's influenced (such as NIN, Manson or Placebo), as he did with Gary Numan, has cost him his younger audience. Nirvana never covers TMWSTW, and the resulting mid-90's Bowie revival never happens. The brilliant Sound + Vision set never comes out, so we probably wouldn't even know songs like Alternate Candidate, Some Are or Black Hole Kids. Bowie would still be respected for the great influence of his past work, but his figure wouldn't be nearly as mythical as it is in our world. His music, while still cutting edge, would fail to excite critics or listeners. They would be used to Bowie's strangeness by now, due to the natural overexposure caused by his extensive catalogue (around 32 albums by 1999), not to mention the various copycats stealing his gimmicks.
The present decade would find Bowie recording small and intimate acoustic albums nobody listens to. Nearing the age of 60, Bowie would be unwilling to go on big world tours, unless he wanted to get pains in his chest and a lollipop in his left eye. His recording pace would once again slow down, this time in favour of his knitting hobby.
July, 2007: Bowie killing a mosquito in 1985 starts a long chain of minor events that somehow results in TW's search function working properly this week.
One day, Effee died.