[identity profile] cabaretlights.livejournal.com

Big Brother
Artist: David Bowie
Album: Diamond Dogs
Year: 1974
: Alright. Shut up. Because I tried, honestly -- I went through my dad's old LPs; year-searched iTunes a dozen times; racked my brains for a week.
But let's be serious: there is no 1970s for me without David Bowie (and, truthfully, there would probably be no obsessive love of music -- and thus no [livejournal.com profile] 5pm_weds -- for me without David Bowie. Fuck, there'd probably be no me without David Bowie. I'm barely giving him his due by posting him for the..cough..fourth time).

Once I accepted that, it came down to selecting a song.
[slash perhaps the most initially difficult/eventually simplest task of my song-selecting life.]

Bowie was most universally acclaimed in the 1970s; from this decade, you get all those hits you'll hear on classic rock radio every now and then: "Ziggy Stardust" and "Rebel Rebel" and "Changes" and ""Heroes"" and so on. Bowie knows how to write a lasting radio hit, no question -- but, and it's not just my bias talking, he also writes a beautiful album. In the 70s, he was prolific, coming out with essentially an album a year -- and they were good. Each has its own flavour and its own individual gems, and it is ABSOLUTELY IMPOSSIBLE to pick a single song from his 70s career. So cue Jill tearing out her hair, trying to find a song that encapsulates "70s Bowie" and/or "the 70s generally" and/or something emotionally powerful ---- every song is all of those things. shdjksgk.

And then, this morning, I was skimming the tracklist for Diamond Dogs -- which is in my top 3 Bowie records. It is a brilliant, though aborted, attempt to set George Orwell's 1984 to music, and the literary influence runs through every song. Though I can't claim to know 1984 as well as I know Animal Farm, it's a book -- and a genre, i.e. dystopian future fiction -- that affects me deeply. And people play with the concept, Radiohead had "2 + 2 = 5", but Bowie went full-stop fucking CONCEPT ALBUM with it. Winding into the emotional intricacies of the characters, the unsettling atmosphere of the setting, both musically and lyrically, Bowie creates a broken, dusty, yet eminently futuristic mood that carries throughout this beautiful, beautiful album. And it is, ultimately, so 70s: the decade before the year 1984, when the message that Orwell was trying to convey was most pertinent.

Initially, I thought I'd post another unknown (the gorgeous "Candidate," part of a song triptych -- as is the case with many concept albums, the songs on Diamond Dogs bleed into each other). I was preparing my post, mentally, when my eye caught on track 10 -- "Big Brother" -- and I tilted my head, slightly confused...then BAM. It was like I'd been hit by a train. "OH YEAH," I clapped my hand over my mouth. "How did I forget this song?!"

I have no idea.
This is one of my absolute, all-time favourite Bowie songs, and for about three years I've completely forgotten it existed.

Listening to it again this morning, I was overcome with a sense of the sublime. "Big Brother" is everything I love about Bowie: perfect melody and instrumentation; his gorgeous voice shouting and warbling and still so pure, somehow vocally dancing through the poetry that passes for lyrics.
"Oh give me steel, give me steel / Give me pulsars unreal
He'll build a glass asylum / with just a hint of mayhem
He'll build a better whirlpool
We'll be living from sin, then we can really begin.

There are so many stories I have associated with this song and this album, but that first-listen-in-three-years made me so aware of what really strikes me about Bowie -- I love him. Period. He stands alone. I can leave him for ages but, like no other media in my life (except Leonard Cohen), I will come back to him, and he will be as intense and incredible and influential as he was when I was 11, when I was 13, when I was 16, when I was 21.

"Big Brother" continues into the last track on the album -- "Chant of the Ever Circling Skeletal Family." This means that the last "brother" of the song is never sung -- or at least, not within the confines the form dictates. I thought about stitching the two together or posting both, but the fact that this song doesn't actually end -- set aside that it creates that fantastic feeling of being unsettled, incomplete -- says everything I want to say.
[identity profile] cabaretlights.livejournal.com

Bring Me the Disco King [Loner Mix; ft Maynard James Keenan & John Frusciante]
Artist: David Bowie
Album: Underworld OST
Year: 2003
: Strangely, this, more than any post so far, has made me intensely aware of how seasonal my musical tastes are. There were so many fabulous soundtracks I couldn't even look at -- simply because they were the wrong time of year, part of a different me (one living in snow, or new leaves). On the heels of the end of that Waiting Room of a summer, it's time for something quintessentially fall -- and not only fall, but Fall 2003.
I return to that time in my life more than any other. It's when I fell in love with the things that make me me -- I guess, really, it was the first time I started figuring out who I really was. The start of Liberal Arts (which, for all the stress and insanity, were two of the best years of my life), the start of a new life, and everything centering on something I had never felt before -- a kind of freedom, an intensity, an ecstasy that I haven't yet seen matched. But. Vagueness relating to something very specific aside ---

I picked up this soundtrack right before I started at cegep, before I saw the movie, before anything really started. I used to love buying soundtracks, especially to horror movies -- they tended to have at least a few new rock/metal/goth/whatever artists that I'd then start loving. I love that about soundtracks -- that they're mixes, ultimately. For all the ridiculousness of "Underworld" as a movie --- the soundtrack, as a separate entity, is incredible. The flow goes between jarring and mellifluous, but it always works, and the songs themselves -- god! There are 11 (out of 19) tracks which absolutely define that time in my life, which I can't listen to without my heart dropping out.

When I saw the album in HMV, almost exactly eight years ago, I snatched it up immediately and played it on repeat until October. I bought it, though, because Bowie's Reality was being released that September, and this remix [of the last song on what's projected to be his last album] was all that would whet my appetite for new material.

The first time I heard this song, I cried.

I was in the basement in Rigaud, preparing myself for the beginning of all these new steps in my life, and his voice hit my ears with those ethereal strings and synths in the background, and I couldn't function. It was so different from anything I'd heard him do (and it sounds NOTHING like the original version of the song; I'd almost suggest you never listen to the original, actually), and so beautifully intertwined in all the conflict, confusion, and vitality of my life at that moment ------

when the build to the first bridge/chorus starts, at 2:12,
i am back in John Abbott,
sitting in the library, the hallway, outside,
black makeup and this violently raging heart,
i am uncertain and broken and so fucking alive.

I often wonder what aspects of our past play significant unconscious roles in our present. "We could dance dance dance through the fire" --- I am inclined to think that's a big one, for me.
This song is a big chunk of my heart. Much as 2003 was a mess of heartbreak and heartstopping beauty, ultimately so perfect -- so is this.
Bring me the fucking disco king!

[also: i know this is the third time i've posted a bowie song, but what's stranger is that i haven't posted more than that up to now. i can't even start to say how definitively he underlies my musical sensibilities, haha]
[identity profile] cabaretlights.livejournal.com

Under Pressure [ft Gail Ann Dorsey; Live Reality Tour DVD]
Artist: David Bowie
Album: A Reality Tour: DVD
Year: 2004
: I was seventeen when I laid eyes on the love of my life. It was December 13, 2003; my father and I had just braved the cold outside the Bell Centre and traipsed inside, to our beautiful industry-connected seats, and David Bowie walked onstage. The rumblings are that A Reality Tour was Bowie's last, and I can't express how happy I am that I at least saw him once. It was perfect: the entire arena exploded into cheers, the like of which you kind of hear in this recording, but can't begin to be replicated. Robyn fans got nothing on Bowie fans.

If you judge music by its fans, as you sometimes can't help but do, Bowie is everything and everyone. That night I saw a tottering 80-year-old man, teenage goth chicks (myself included), metalheads, teenyboppers, bros, middle-aged women with lightning bolt makeup and/or high heels ---- everyone. Bowie brings people together; we all stood there, mouthing the words, grinning at each other, social boundaries nonexistent.

But -- the more shows I go to, and it's really thanks to you that this realization has come to pass at all -- it's not just Bowie that transcends the boundaries. It's live music itself -- to feel that solidarity! Some of my favourite moments of this year have been at concerts (generally involving one of us gripping the other's arm, hah); you connect to something absolutely beyond reality. Zebra-suited hipsters or no: the moment the music hits you, there is a freedom/power/explosion/beauty inarticulable to anyone, even yourself. You're aware of everyone's presence and no one's -- and all that matters is how flawless the notes are.

So, back to 2003: when this song began -- the audience went wild. Gail Ann Dorsey, the incredible female vocalist -- her voice this rich, powerful creature -- had been Bowie's bassist since his Outside days. I freaked because I'd loved her for ages, but everyone knew this song, so well, and to have this beautiful new twist to it destroyed the entire audience. The entire Bell Centre was on their feet, ecstatic, sticking their fists in the air and thumbing their noses at being confined, at being under pressure. When Gail cried "Why can't we give love?", the sound was deafening.

Solidarity -- beautiful.
[identity profile] cabaretlights.livejournal.com

New York's in Love
Artist: David Bowie
Album: Never Let Me Down
Year: 1987
: There is a period of David Bowie's career which, even among dorky uberfans such as myself, is generally swept under the rug and left undiscussed (even Bowie himself is embarrassed). "Are you sure he released an album after Labyrinth? Like ARE YOU SURE, because I don't think that EVER HAPPENED."

It did happen.

And it is glorious, magical, ridiculous, godawful 80s pop.

There is no trace of Aladdin Sane, Ziggy Stardust, or the cocaine-addled Thin White Duke on this album; no brilliant poetry or intelligent composition; no slow instrumentals or heartstopping brilliance. Yeah, no -- the only way you'd know this is Bowie is that unmistakable and undeniably gorgeous voice (honestly, about 1/3 of my heart is devoted to love of his voice). The timbre of his voice in the 80s is my favourite, and it comes out in full force on this album -- rich, vibrating, accented, wow.

So this album was one of the first I bought when I rediscovered my love for him in grade 11 and frantically sook out his entire discography (spring 2003; I'll never forget it -- without any exaggeration, that period of my Bowie obsession kickstarted the rest of my life). I was coming home from a karate symposium in London, ON, and my partner and I stopped in a secondhand CD shop before getting on the train. It's hard for me to consider the songs as separate entities because this entire album sounds pretty much the same, and I giddily listened to it for seven hours straight as we hurtled along the Windsor Corridor. There are two songs, however, which stick out like sore thumbs covered in hot pink bubblegum.

One is "Beat of Your Drum", and one is "New York's in Love", and it took until about five minutes ago to actually decide which one I was going to post. I probably prefer "Beat of Your Drum" -- it's got the kind of hook I love, and the lyrics are a bit less inane than the rest of the album (though...still pretty inane) -- but "New York's in Love" is pure springtime. BUT, since it's disgusting outside and I'm looking for something to remind me of summertime, and since I love the undeniable emotion at 0:49 ("New York's in loo-ve") ------

It's pretty bad. The "koo-koo-koo-koo-koo-koo"s are especially ridiculous, and it's hard not to giggle at how terribly of its time it is, but something about it works. How he rolls his 'r's, how you can picture him dancing like a crazy person, how easily it makes you dance down the street to it (especially a city street: there have been many March/April struts down McGill College to this song, on my part, as sad as that may be to admit!). NEW YORK'S IN LOVE! You can see bad 80s fireworks (or maybe just cans of neon hairspray) exploding everywhere.

Plus: "Nothing left here but a raging blaze" is kinda keeping me going right now. Bowie has a habit of doing that -- 70s genius or not, hah.


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