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פ.י.מ.פ.

Analyzing Bowie: Fill Your Heart

`Fill Your Heart` is a cover of a song written by singer-songwriter-comedian Biff Rose, and recorded by him in 1968. Rose was known for his flower-power anthems, and this song is no exception. But why would Bowie cover it? And how does it fit in Hunky Dory?

Let`s start by taking Rose`s lyrics apart, and see what we can make out of them.

Fill your heart with love today
Don`t play the game of time
Things that happened in the past
Just happened in your Mind
Only in your Mind
Forget your Mind
And you`ll be free

This is vintage Hippie ideology: live the moment, because it is the only thing that is real. Yes, you have bad memories, but memories represent events that do not exist any more, so you can treat them as things that actually never existed in reality, just a content of your mind. You can then dismiss them as bad dreams or figments of your imagination, release yourself of their pain, and become happy. Thinking about the past or the future is "playing the game of time", while true and happy living is when you free yourself of this game and live the moment.

The writing`s on the wall
Free-yea`, and you can know it all
If you choose
Lovers never lose
`Cause they are Free of thoughts unpure
And of thoughts unkind
Gentleness clears the soul
Love cleans the mind
And makes it Free.

Instead of all those bad thoughts, comes love. Love is not a content of the mind but of the heart, and your heart should be the thing that guides you. This is a different kind of knowledge from knowledge of the mind - this is knowledge of how to be happy. And unlike knowledge you obtain with your mind, which will never lead you the final truth, in knowledge of the heart you can "know it all". And then you can "never lose".

It`s the old mystical maxim, which the Hippies adopted: you should let your spirit guide you, not your mind. Your spirit has the ability to be at one with the world (a state of "Love"), and once you obtain that loving state, you need no further knowledge. Trying to figure out the world by using your mind (through science, philosophy etc.) only separates you from it, and will never lead to true happiness.

Happiness is happening
The dragons have been bled
Loveliness is everywhere
Fear`s just in your Head
Fear is in your Head
Only in your Head
Fear is in your Head
So Forget your Head
And you`ll be free

In the second verse we are already in that state of pure happiness. But we still have fear in our head, fear that we will eventually lose this happiness. Once again, we must release ourselves of this content of the mind, since this fear is groundless. The happiness found through love is eternal.

So this is what Biff Rose`s song says. Does Bowie change the lyrics to say something else? Not really. He changes a word here and there, but these changes are insignificant. We can say his version has the same meaning. Or does it?

Nah, it has the opposite meaning.

It`s all in the way he sings it. It sounds like he is trying to imitate Rose`s almost childish naivety, but he also adds a little bit of theatrical affectation, just enough for us to realize that he is satirizing the whole thing. This Hippie-dippie ideology is exactly the thing that Bowie was attacking in all his 1969-1971 albums, and here he does it by displaying just how silly this ideology sounds when you sing it out loud. We know he opposes everything this song says: the idea that you should "forget your mind" is debunked in `All the Madmen`, the idea that you can forget about time is shown as impossible in `An Occasional Dream`, and the idea that joy can be eternal is put to rest in records like `Space Oddity`, `Memory of a Free Festival` and others. Bowie`s rendition of `Fill Your Heart` is lovely enough to show that he acknowledges the beauty of such sentiments, but he ultimately mocks it as incompatible with reality.

The final insult to the song comes in its place in the album. It opens the B side as if it is an important statement, but its final saxophone chord is chopped to pieces that wake the listener up from this sweet dream and puts him right in the artificial world of `Andy Warhol`, the next track. From here on, each subsequent track deconstructs the Hippie dream even further.

Biff Rose`s original version:

Bowie`s version:

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