00
עדכונים

מנוי במייל

קבלת עדכונים על רשומות חדשות ישירות לתיבת האמייל
יש להזין אימייל תקין על מנת להרשם לעדכונים
ברגעים אלו נשלח אליך אימייל לאישור/ביטול ההרשמה
*שים/י לב, מרגע עשית מנוי, כותב/ת הבלוג יוכל לראות את כתובת האמייל שלך ברשימת העוקבים.
X

פ.י.מ.פ.

Analyzing Bowie: Dodo

<-previous

In July 1973, the world came crashing down for some teenagers, when David Bowie announced the death of Ziggy Stardust. The rest of the world didn't care much, and yet, this was a foreboding time for a lot of other people as well, a time when it felt like their world is not as it was. From May to August, the US Senate held hearings to investigate suspicions that the American government abused its power and sent its agents to spy on and inflict damage upon its political rivals, in what became known as the Watergate scandal. Knowing Bowie, we can assume that he was one of those whose spirits were deeply inflicted. Although he never mentioned it, I will venture to surmise that the mood caused by Watergate lay heavily on his mind when he started to plan his next move, and played a major part in influencing the direction his new project took.

For the counterculture, of course, it came as no shock that the Nixon administration was playing dirty, because they were feeling it for several years now. But in 1973 it suddenly became apparent that these tactics were expanded and turned against people who were in the political mainstream as well, and for some, it was a wake up call that made them realize that even democratic governments might turn dictatorial if we don't keep them in check. It is logical to assume that Bowie, whose latest album Aladdin Sane used American landscapes as templates to paint a frightening vision of the future on, took Watergate as an omen of the world we are headed towards. Until now, he was concerned mainly with the counterculture and the direction that the revolution was taking. In his 1969 record 'Cygnet Committee' he contemplated what would happen if the revolution actually did succeed and concluded that it would lead to a totalitarian society. But by 1973 it was obvious that the revolution failed and a new sort of fear took hold over his work. 'Panic in Detroit' was the first to express it: the revolutionary hero of the song is portrayed as a ridiculous failure, but the havoc he and his cohorts have wrought is enough to give the authorities due cause to take measures, which "followed none too soon". By the end of the song the guitars turn into police sirens, and we can imagine the rock'n'roll revolution ending up in the formation of a police state. Bowie's fear, expressed in subsequent songs and interviews, was that the upheaval caused by the counterculture would only strengthen the existing power structures and make them more repressive.

This, it seems to me, is what was going through Bowie's mind at the time, but as always, he dressed it up in imagery concocted from a mixture of borrowed sources and his own imagination. If Watergate was a portent of the future, then the relevant sources would be science-fiction works that described a future authoritarian state, and first and foremost of those, of course, would be George Orwell's classic novel 1984. Bowie's initial intent, reportedly, was to write an album based on Orwell's book, but difficulties in obtaining the legal rights made him change the plan and write his own story, ultimately resulting in the album Diamond Dogs. The finished product hints at its origin: almost every track on the album contains passages that seem to refer to 1984, but there is a lot more going on in them besides, and it seems that they started out being closely related to the novel but then evolved into something else. 'Dodo', however, did not make the album, and remained in its original form, closer to 1984 than to Diamond Dogs. As such, it provides an important document, a valuable snapshot of Bowie's mind just before it was taken over by Diamond Dogs.

Now we can talk in confidence
Did you guess that we've been done wrong?
Lies jumped the queue to be first in line
Such a shameless design

The first verse throws us into a world where we live in a design created by others, a design based on lies. Furthermore, it seems that we have no freedom of speech, no right to come out and say that we believe this design to be deceitful. We are constantly under surveillance, and we need to find places where we can talk in confidence if we want to say what's really on our mind.

He thinks he's well screened from the man at the top
It's a shame that his children disagree
They cooly decide to sell him down the line
Daddy's brainwashing time

"The man at the top" is a very sixties phrase, and it places the story in the here and now. The rest of the verse, however, reminds us of the world described in 1984, where children are encouraged to rat on their parents if they show signs of discontent and the parents are then taken away and brainwashed to become model citizens. We would like to believe that our world is different, but is it really?

He's a dodo, no no didn't hear it from me
He's a dodo, no no didn't hear it from me

It seems that the first two verses and chorus are all about the same person. In the first verse he is the speaker, and he thinks he can talk in confidence, believing that he is hidden from the authorities; but the second verse switches to a narrator voice that tells us that this man was not as safe as he thought and ended up being turned in by his children; and the chorus tells us that he is now dead. The narrator, fearing the same end, uses a metaphor (dodo, as in "as dead as the dodo") to tell us what's really going on, and denies being the one who says it.

She's quite enthralled with the childhood of yore
When a unit was a figure not a she
When lovers chose each other now the perks are due
Another memo to screw

She's a dodo, no no didn't hear it from me
She's a dodo, no no didn't hear it from me

Now we really feel ourselves in the world of 1984. It is a state where people are not perceived as persons but as units, parts of the machine. Furthermore, it is a state that forbids relationships based on love, and decides for its citizens whom they will marry. And when this woman rebels against it in the name of individualism and true love, she too becomes a dodo. And she's not just dead, but erased – the memos are changed so that her existence is wiped out of memory. In Orwell's future vision, the totalitarian party retains its grip on every aspect of reality by constantly rewriting the past to make it fit with its current doctrines. Anything that doesn't fit is erased from all documents and thus never existed. Thus, there is no truth to rely upon to criticize the situation and offer alternatives – the only truth that exists is what the authorities claim to be true at the moment.

This is all very Orwellian, but I believe that there is also self-criticism here. Wasn't it Bowie who taught us that everything changes, and what is true today is not the same as what will be true tomorrow? Until now he was teaching us how to rejoice in this situation, how to stop looking for an eternal truth but rather live your life in accordance with these changes and be truly free. Now, he sees the negative side of it, showing that it can be abused in the service of exerting dictatorial power. Until now his art criticized others, presenting them with a mirror-image to show them the folly of their ways. Now, he turns the mirror on his own face. If this Orwellian vision will come to pass, he will also share the blame for its formation.

Can you wipe your nose my child without them slotting in your file a photograph?
Can you sleep alone at night wake to find the scorching light of neighbour Jim
He's come to turn you in

Another dodo, no no, didn't hear it from me
Another dodo, no no, didn't hear it from me

The finale brings us back to our world, as the narrator now talks in second-person as if he is addressing us. Basically, he asks us if we are sure that we are not already living in an Orwellian society, spied on at all times and in danger of being picked up by the authorities at any moment.

'Dodo' as we see, remains very close to 1984, but already dresses it in Bowie's unique imagery and turns it into a reflection on the current state of things and on Bowie's own responsibility for it. In the coming months, Bowie would weave some more strands into the narrative, and end up with an entirely original story, known as Diamond Dogs.

The song was debut in October 1973 on the '1980 Floor Show', the first post-Ziggy performance and the first indication of Bowie's new Orwellian direction. Bowie is still in the late Ziggy look, but it will soon change.

<-next

הוספת תגובה

נשארו 150 תוים
נשארו 1500 תוים

תגובה אחת

© כל הזכויות לתוכן המופיע בדף זה שייכות ל אלדינסיין אלא אם צויין אחרת