Posts Tagged ‘Bowie

19
Feb
19

David Bowie “Diamond Dogs”

Pretty much the first 14 years of my life I was dead-set on a future career as either an engineer or a manager—it was all studies, math, things in their place, doing what they were supposed to do—I didn’t waste time, wore socks to bed, pajamas tucked into them. Then I got this record and the next thing you know I saw something in the night sky—and after that, there wasn’t going to be any life for me in which I wasn’t some kind of an artist. That story isn’t exactly true—in fact it isn’t true at all—I really don’t know what happened to me, when, or why—that prevents me from having any kind of normal happiness. I’m just struggling here, thinking about how to possibly write about this album that even comes close to expressing how much I like it. I can say that I love it even more than snow on my eyelashes, sex, beer, and five o’clock on Friday, but all I ever hear from anyone is that it’s not even in their Bowie top five, and the album cover seriously freaked them out, and they like “Rebel Rebel” okay. Bowie fans are probably the hardest to convince, actually. And what do I care? I’m not trying to make people agree with me, after all, and everyone has their favorites here and their particular problems with this and that. Like the way the record ends with, “RockRockRockRockRock”—I mean, kind of embarrassing to me, even. And that opening, mutant wolf howl, and all that sci-fi bullshit. Well, I like that, of course—whenever I take a photograph of a weird landscape that reminds me of the inside album cover, I post it on Instagram and then recite “Future Legend” to Siri and see what she does with it. I mean, I even named my band Love Me Avenue—and don’t tell me there’s another band called Love Me Avenue out there—and if there is, you can speak to my attorney.

But how do I express why I love this record so much? That question has a lot of similarities to trying to explain why a good song is a good song. Maybe I should take a few minutes to see what a few other Bowie fans say about this record (I mean the ones who love it). Is there a 33 1/3 book about this one yet? (Not that I would want to attempt one of those books about this record—I don’t feel like I’m up to that task, and I don’t mind admitting it.) I know someone wrote one of the 33 1/3 books about Bowie’s album Low (which makes me, now that I think of it, want to read that book and revisit Low). I don’t think there is… I look it up, and holy shit! There is a book on Diamond Dogs! It’s only fitting that I listened to this record, just now, sitting under this insane February full moon, and it sounded better than it ever has—and now I see there is a book about it! It came out in… November 14, 2019. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t that approximately nine months in the future? Insane. It’s by a guy named Glenn (with 2 n’s) Hendler (with an “e”). What the hell, Hendler? How can you do this to me? Oh, well… that’s okay, and kind of fitting, in a way. I have always felt—and always known—that there is something freaky and special about this record—and it’s almost as if the weird cover, the dystopian sci-fi lyrics, the whole package really, is some kind of smoke-screen for something even more weird below the surface. If we could say what it was, it wouldn’t be below the surface—elusive, unknowable, and mysterious—but, you know, the thing. The reason we’re here. Anyway—so, it’s just kind of fitting that this hopefully groundbreaking and vital text about this record (no pressure, Hendler!) has come out… in the future.

I wish I could remember the circumstances around buying this record, but 1974 is a confusing jumble of memories, a confusing time for sure. Maybe a record that I didn’t understand was the perfect thing. I didn’t understand the cover, with the steel and bronze dog-people. The album folds out and it looks like a scene from Blade Runner, which hadn’t been made yet—there is plenty of room for lyrics, but the only thing printed are the lyrics to the first song, a goddamn poem! (Though I recited “fleas the size of rats…” at every opportunity, for years.) Then I was confused by the song “Diamond Dogs”—why did it sound like the band was playing waist deep in a swamp, and why did I like that so much? And then why did the record shift to a slow song, that sounded like it was from a musical? And then why a song called “Candidate” (not into politics at the time). And then why a (reprise)? (I’m not sure when I was first aware of the pretentious prog-rock bands I listened to around then putting a song reprise on their records, but I’m pretty sure I pulled that same shit in my first band, somewhat ironically.) I liked “Rebel Rebel” (how could you not?)—but why two rebels?

I was pretty much worn out by the first side, and wore out the first side, going back again and again, trying to figure out what it was about this record. Why did Bowie drop the “David” and play guitar, saxes, Moog, etc.—so many instruments—and what in the hell was a Mellotron? Was the bass player really named Herbie Flowers? Finally, after many, many plays, or maybe days, (the days felt like months), I flipped the record, and side two was just so disappointing after side one. It starts with a ballad love song, yuck. But then, a few months, maybe years later, something happened and I liked side two more than side one! This might have coincided with the change in my life where I suddenly liked beautiful songs—was it drinking? Weed? Love? Maybe just the progression of music in my life. A song like “We are the dead” (even slower) was making an impact on me, even though I could only make out about 10% of the lyrics. And then “1984” is like a straight-up disco song (I hated disco, remember?) but there are these little parts that drop out, little lyrical parts, where I’m thinking, how does he even think of stuff like that? And then the song “Big Brother”—which maybe my brain couldn’t even handle at that point. Even now, like 40 some years later, after listening to this record thousands of times, I still can’t even comprehend, put my finger on, even describe, much less figure out, what happens in that song, musically or lyrically. It ends abruptly, too, just blending into, you know, the chant of the ever circling skeletal family. Nothing unusual there.

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22
Apr
12

David Bowie “Lodger”

First of all there have been a few changes, since I moved AGAIN and this time I had to give away all but a handful of my records. So no longer am I going through my record collection alphabetically, since my record collection now, such as it is, could fit into a shopping bag. If this sounds sad, it is, but also it’s a new beginning, and thankfully– because of the continued appreciation of vinyl– you can still find records out there. At the rate I’ve been going, anyway, by the time I write about the records I DO have, I’ll have collected a new batch of records to write about.

I’ve been trying to figure out what I think about this record, “Lodger,” for literally a year now. Part of the reason it has taken me so long is that I am never compelled to put it on the turntable. I guess I just don’t like it very much… but the funny thing is really WANT to like it. I feel like there is something there that I’m not grasping, but I don’t know what it is. I think I like this record intellectually, I can appreciate it okay, but I just don’t feel it. I’ll start with the cover, one of those that opens up like a double album, and it’s supposed to look like a big post card, but of course it doesn’t, because it’s the wrong scale, shape, and imagery. This is also one of those covers that you never know if it’s upright or sideways, or how it’s supposed to be looked at. It’s deliberately disorienting… or annoying, depending on your point of view. When it folds out there is a full body image of Bowie with a bandaged hand and his nose crushed like his face is pushed against glass. He looks like he’s either just fallen off a building or has been sucked into the air lock of a spaceship, or maybe he’s been molecularly transferred into an Archies comic in which he’s playing Richard Hell at RIverdale High’s Punk-Themed prom. He’s not dead, he’s just dancing.

The inside cover looks like they realized about two hours before press time that the damn thing opened up and they had to provide some art. What’s laying around here? –some art books, a couple of magazines… There is no sleeve in this particular version, so I don’t know if lyrics accompanied the record. I guess I can look them up online… because I feel like what I’m hearing is kind of confusing. What is it all about? “Fantastic Voyage”– is it about the movie where Raquel Welch and crew are shrunk go inside of someone’s body? It’s a nice pop song, but “Learning to live with somebody’s depression” is not your usual pop chorus. “African Night Flight” has a LOT of words, and he’s saying them REALLY FAST and it is not pleasant. “Move On” sounds like someone galloping on a horse with lots of mentions of exotic places in the world. I guess in keeping with the traveling theme. “Yassassin” is another foreign sounding song with the title chanted before each line. I think it means “I’ll have two eggs over easy and dry toast,” but you can look it up yourself if you want to be sure. Now “Red Sails” is one I’m really curious about. It’s a catchy song, upbeat, with electronic bullshit, something about “The Ponderosa”– no, it’s Thunder Ocean, I’m glad I looked that up. It’s a great image, Red Sails… and I guess it’s based on an old song, “Red Sails in the Sunset.”

Side Two starts with “D.J,” and you have to look to see if you accidentally put on a bad Talking Heads album in all the confusion. This is an annoying song, I’m sorry. “Look Back In Anger” could refer to the movie, or the play, “Look Back In Anger,” but I don’t care enough to try to determine that, mostly because the chorus keeps going “Waiting so long I’ve been waiting so long” which makes me think of all the other terrible pop songs that say “Waiting so long.” “Boys Keep Swinging” has a baseline that could really get in your nightmares. You can’t help listen to this song without envisioning a bawdy gay sailor movie with a line of dancers, pants down to their knees, with choreographed swinging prosthetic elephant sized cocks. “Repetition” is then a relief, until its relentless dissonant droning about Johnny who can’t cook and other tales of domestic unpleasantry, “Red Money” sounds just like that other Bowie song, I can’t remember which one… or maybe it’s this one… there’s a line about Comedy Central, and really no connection, that I can tell, to “Red Sails.”

So, amazingly, I warmed up to this record in the process of actually getting around the writing about it. The sad thing, however, is now I’ve switched back to cold indifference. That’s the way it goes with me and Lodger. Oh, also, no discussion of this record would be complete without a mention of Brian Eno.

 

01
May
11

David Bowie “ChangesOneBowie”

This record, which came out in 1976, seems to want to mark a change from sci-fi androgynous freak to good-looking mature artist, but it just rubs me the wrong way. It comes off more as midlife crisis, even though Bowie should have been much too young for that. It’s essentially a “greatest hits” record that doesn’t have a cheesy title like “Ladies and Gentlemen, The Very Best of…” But rather than approach it in context of the records the songs came from, I have to (I mean right now, for the sake of writing this) listen to it as the complete and unique art object it is.

“Space Oddity” is pure nostalgia for me, like everyone is sick of me rehashing. Blacklight posters and rootbeer incense and bad pot. But it’s just a good song, right? I’m sure there is a story behind “John, I’m Only Dancing” but I don’t care, because I can’t listen to it because it’s crap. Though, I would, some day, love to write a song with the title, John, comma, something. “John, Help Me To A Toilet So I Can Throw Up,” or something. “Changes” is a great song, and I suppose worth creating this particular record to get it out to the record buying public in a new format. “Ziggy Stardust” and “Suffragette City”–more nostalgia, but this time there is beer drinking involved. Whenever “Jean Genie” comes on, I’m just glad it’s the last song of Side One so I can take it off without listening to it and go directly to Side Two. White blues, but really white, and not blues at all.

Everyone who knows me is sick to death of me talking about how “Diamond Dogs” is one of maybe six favorite songs of all time. For some strange reason I just NEVER GET TIRED OF IT. I made the mistake, once, however, of looking up the lyrics on the internet, which almost ruined it for me, because they were NOT CLOSE to what I’ve been imagining all these years. I’ve been slowly deprogramming myself to go back to the way I used to hear it. “You’re dead,  they call them the Diamond Dogs.” Maybe it’s the cowbell, maybe it’s the way it sounds like the soundwaves are coming through some kind of viscous fluid. Maybe it’s nostalgia. I wouldn’t mind, however, NEVER hearing “Rebel Rebel” ever again. “Young Americans” has that 1980’s, Saturday Night Live, vapid entertainment sound. I think of Chicago (the city), comedy clubs, and those big pretzels, which, last time I ate one, I threw up. “Fame” is up next, White Funk, but REALLY white, and not funky at all. “Golden Years” is like a non-song with a non-hook, played as blandly as possible, and pretty much the perfect fit to end this record. It occurs to me that the lyrics might be interesting if I listened to them– after all, how do you justify calling a song “Golden Years?”– but I can’t even listen to the lyrics because I can’t listen to the song.




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