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פ.י.מ.פ.

Analyzing Bowie: Nightclubbing

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Co-written and produced by Bowie, this Iggy Pop track is a perfect showcase of Bowie`s late 1976 musical direction. The influence of German electronics is abundant, as the record is a perfect example of the motorik style with its steady beat and synthesizer automatism. Earlier that year Kraftwerk released the album Radioactivity, their first album to be totally electronic, and Bowie was hooked. Kraftwerk portrayed a world in which humanity and technology coexist harmoniously, transmit on the same wavelengths and produce novelty and beauty. Bowie adopted this vision of humanity-technology fusion, but not the naïve optimism of Kraftwerk. The music he devised for The Idiot shows technology taking over and erasing most of what we consider human, with Iggy playing the idiot who is roboticized in the process. `Nightclubbing` is one of the primary examples, beginning with beats that sound like a heart pounding in terror and continuing with menacing synths that take us into the nether regions of the subconscious. All that`s left is for Iggy to deliver the suitable vocal, and he, as always, does not disappoint.

Nightclubbing, we`re nightclubbing
We`re what`s happening
Nightclubbing, we`re nightclubbing
We`re an ice machine
We see people brand new people
They`re something to see
Nightclubbing, we`re nightclubbing
Oh isn`t it wild?

Iggy Pop, the wildest rocker ever, sings another song about nightlife of wild partying. But there`s nothing of the ecstasy and mayhem of his old records. All the partying, fucking and doping has left him numb, and he sounds tired of it all. We used to be cool, but now our coolness has turned us into an "ice machine", a robot that just goes through the motions of partying without really enjoying it. This is what the rock`n`roll lifestyle, once the epitome of vitality, had deteriorated to: an anaesthetized form of humanity.

The word "wild" brings the onset of a wild guitar solo, as if trying to bring back the ecstasy, but it`s all in vain. It doesn`t manage to break through the ice coldness of the synths, and ultimately sounds like jerking off. 

Nightclubbing, we`re nightclubbing
We`re walking through town
Nightclubbing, we`re nightclubbing
We walk like a ghost
We learn dances, brand new dances
Like the nuclear bomb
When we`re nightclubbing
Bright white clubbing
Oh isn`t it wild?

Iggy`s vocals are now doubled, making him sound twice as frightening. The lyrics remind us of sixties rock`n`roll, when youths would walk through town like peacocks and learn brand new dances every week. But now they walk like ghosts and the dances they learn have macabre names that symbolize death. The nightclubs have turned into discotheques with bright white flickering lights that erase the dancers` humanity and make them look like robots. Overall, it sounds like something that is being sung by a pack of zombies. The guitar tries again, but nothing can change the uniformity of the record – it just stomps its way mechanically to the end, symbolizing what will probably happen to our lives if we continue with the rock lifestyle.

Bowie and Iggy, then, are taking the electronic music of Kraftwerk and using it to deconstruct rock. As on other tracks on the album, the lyrics are rock lyrics that celebrate fun, but setting them against the cold synthesizers turns them into an ironic comment on the state of rock, showing that it isn`t fun anymore. Numerous fledgling new wave bands were listening and learning, and within a couple of years would turn this stance into several new musical genres.

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