Apropos. While women gather at the weeping wall to bewail their burden, yet again, here is David Bowie with his two cents. From beyond the grave, a reminder that he, the original woke one, pinpointed domestic violence as one of the evils of the world way back in 1979. Just one more ugly side to the infinite-sided prism of everything that’s fucking bad and wrong about mankind, as comprehended by a humanoid alien from Mars. Everything is bad and wrong, and the only redeeming things in the world are art, and those fleeting moments when two people somehow find the means to actually feel connected to one another. In that order. And not everybody even has that. The most harmful and tragic thing is those people who don’t know how to connect to someone without hurting them; they are literally souls trapped in hell.
I’ve pondered why Lodger, in my book and it critics’, never quite gets the accolades of its nearest siblings. It’s just never been my favorite David Bowie album, and it’s never been the most acclaimed David Bowie album. Why is that, besides the unattractive cover? It’s one of David Bowie’s punkest albums. It’s got big hits. It’s got iconic videos. It’s got bold experimentation. It’s got things to say. Well, obviously, following on the heels of Station to Station, Low and “Heroes” is no enviable task. We’re nearing point when the jaded expatriate character gets towards the end of his arc and needs to retire. But, pondering it more deeply, I realized – after a lot of listening to this song in particular – that underneath all of the serious things, there’s a lot of…silliness. Like, childish silliness. I mean, this could almost be a children’s song, but with more feedback. Listen to the way he sings about sailing off to the hinterland “It’s far, far, far, far, far, far away….” Those are some Muppet-level lyrics, and it slides by only on the sheer conviction of being David Bowie and therefore impeccably cool. You can’t question David Bowie’s coolness or artistic seriousness. You didn’t question it when he was playing with instrumental soundscapes, and you don’t question it when half the songs are in gibberish or in Turkish. Of course, there’s still depths of meaning to be plunged into, the requisite existential angst, esoteric reference points, gender-bending nonconformity, everything we ask our god to provide. But there’s that element of silliness that suggests that the artist was about ready to head out to lunch.
What David Bowie giveth, David Bowie can take away. Yes, this is the same song as Iggy Pop’s Sister Midnight. (Which we’ll discuss more deeply in due time.) Bowie originally wrote the tune for Iggy, then rewrote for himself, wiping out all of Iggy’s lyrics except part of the chorus. On one hand, understandable; Iggy’s lyrics were about Oedipal lust. Incest and murder are uncomfortable and depressing, even for an artist who likes to skew pretty dark. But why Bowie felt inclined to take the tune he’d written for Iggy’s album and make it into a completely different song doesn’t make much sense, except as a deliberate dick move. Maybe they were in a fight? David Bowie could be a real dick sometimes, especially during the cocaine years. As it happens, Sister Midnight is a really great song, while this iteration is merely somewhat great. I think Bowie realized that, because in later years he made it a setlist staple – and performed it Iggy Pop’s way.
Having lived all over the world and left every place, David Bowie bemoans his nomadic life. Marginally less angsty than he’d been a few years before, Bowie now sees moving on as an inevitable facet of life. Always, whatever happens, if you don’t die, you move on. Bowie likes to signal the stations with a change of wardrobe, but it’s equally true for those who don’t. You’re always becoming a different person.