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פ.י.מ.פ.

Analyzing Bowie: Speed of Life

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Every opening track in Bowie`s seventies album describes a current crisis in his life but also contains grains of solution to that crisis, grains which the rest of the album then develops. The opening track of Low is no exception. `Speed of Life` is a reflection of the fast life he was leading in the past few years, moving rapidly from place to place, from identity to identity, from station to station. The previous album already expressed a feeling that all of this movement and change made him lose sight of the truth, lose himself, and `Speed of Life`, with its hectic pace, bustling sound and sense of disintegration, captures this feeling again and intensifies it. So, once again, the opening track presents a crisis. But there is one big difference between this and previous opening tracks: this is an instrumental.

Which is also the beginning of the solution. If being tangled up in identities and narratives caused Bowie to lose sight of the truth, then the way to find a new truth would be to seek a different language. In his previous album Station to Station, and in The Idiot which he just produced for Iggy Pop, he used synthesizers to create machine sound and display loss of humanity. Here he uses synthesizers to reflect life in the big city, the kind of life that produced this crisis. In the following tracks, he will go deeper into the electronic sound, in search of a new humanity, a humanity that can find harmony in this urban environment.

Also of note is the fragmentary nature of the piece, fading-in at the beginning and fading-out at the end. The feeling is that this is not a whole piece but just a snippet of the endless music that goes on under the surface of fast modern life, and Bowie is opening the trapdoor and letting us hear it for a moment. It is a peek into the soul of the city, the soul of modern life. Now we have to venture and go beneath the surface, to explore that soul.

`Speed of Life` was performed at the 1978 Stage tour:

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