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פ.י.מ.פ.

Analyzing Bowie: Let`s Spend the Night Together

Ever since 1955, the birth year of both rock'n'roll and the birth control pill, rock'n'roll and the sexual revolution went hand in hand. The throbbing rhythms, wild dancing, ecstatic singing, titillating lyrics and explosive sound of rock'n'roll provided the fuel for the revolution, the weapons to bring down the walls of sexual repression. By the early seventies, however, a large number of rock musicians took themselves "seriously", and "serious" among other things meant cerebral and not sexual. Glam rock was a reaction to that, aiming to take rock'n'roll back to its roots, and part of it was a return to sexuality, personified in that bi-sexual demigod Ziggy Stardust. By the end of 1972, Ziggy ascended to the top of the rock'n'roll ladder, and was regarded as the new stage of the sexual revolution. It was only appropriate for him to adopt one of the anthems of this revolution, the Rolling Stones' 1967 raunchy hit 'Let's Spend the Night Together', and bring it back to life.

A lot has changed in six years, though. When the Rolling Stones sang it, it was risqué enough to be censored in some quarters. By 1973 it sounded sweetly innocent, and the Spiders had to rock it harder and add futuristic sounds to recreate the same air of sexual excitement. Does it work? Not to my ears. To me the Stones' version sounds like it is sung by a virgin who feels the thrill of the first time, while Bowie's version sounds like someone who has done it many times, and tries desperately to bring back that thrill.

Not that it isn't thrilling. It is still a strong rock number, combining sexuality and futurism in true glam style, and it sounded great live. When Ziggy sang it on stage, he was inviting his fans to an orgiastic event, and the spoken passage he adds – "they said that we were too young / Our kind of love was no fun / But our love comes from above / Let's make LOVE! – is a manifest of the sexual revolution. On the other hand, there is also a warning here – our love is real, but temporary. Let's enjoy it tonight, because this Ziggy thing will not last forever.

These are the original Jagger-Richards lyrics, which Bowie doesn't change much:

My, My, My, My
Don't you worry 'bout what's on your mind (Oh my)
I'm in no hurry I can take my time (Oh my)
I'm going red and my tongue's getting tied (tongues' getting tied)
I'm off my head and my mouth's getting dry.
I'm high, But I try, try, try (Oh my)
Let's spend the night together
Now I need you more than ever
Let's spend the night together now

I feel so strong that I can't disguise (oh my)
Let's spend the night together
But I just can't apologize (oh no)
Let's spend the night together
Don't hang me up and don't let me down (don't let me down)
We could have fun just groovin' around around and around
Oh my, my
Let's spend the night together
Now I need you more than ever
Let's spend the night together

Let's spend the night together
Now I need you more than ever

You know I'm smiling baby
You need some guiding baby
I'm just deciding baby; now-
I need you more than ever
Let's spend the night together
Let's spend the night together now

This doesn't happen to me every day (oh my)
Let's spend the night together
No excuses offered anyway (oh my)
Let's spend the night together
I'll satisfy your every need (every need)
And now I know you will satisfy me
Oh my, my, my, my, my
Let's spend the night together
Now I need you more than ever
Let's spend the night together now

The incomparable Rolling Stones, thrilling even when they're performing with playback:

A measure of the original record's naughtiness can be witnessed in the infamous Stones performance on the Ed Sullivan show, where they were forced to change the lyrics to "let's spend some time together" as the true lyrics were too hot for prime time American TV. Here's a snippet:

Bowie's version:

Let's spend the night with Ziggy:

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