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פ.י.מ.פ.

Analyzing Bowie: Move On

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'Fantastic Voyage', the opening track of Lodger, sets one of the themes of the album: the perception of life as a voyage. 'Move On' expands on the concept.

Sometimes I feel
The need to move on
So I pack a bag
And move on
Move on

Bowie looks back at his life until now, and sees it as a series of moves from place to place. He has made several records about this theme over the years, starting with 'Changes'. But while the previous ones dealt with the ideology and the trappings of the ch-ch-ch-changes lifestyle, this one is more matter of fact: I occasionally move on, because that is what I feel like doing.

Well I might take a train
Or sail at dawn
Might take a girl
When I move on
When I move on

The train metaphor for the ch-ch-ch-changes lifestyle was previously used in 'Station to Station', and there it expressed a crisis of feeling that this lifestyle is meaningless. That crisis is now over. Bowie has found the ethics to ensure that his changes will be meaningful, and that allows him to embrace that lifestyle again and see it as a permanent part of his identity. The train metaphor will no longer be used. Starting from the second line here Bowie will henceforth refer to himself as a sailor, someone who lives on the move.

Somewhere, someone's calling me
When the chips are down
I'm just a travelling man
Maybe it's just a trick of the mind, but
Somewhere there's a morning sky
Bluer than her eyes
Somewhere there's an ocean
Innocent and wild

An integral part of the ch-ch-ch-changes ethics was the idea that you should open yourself to the alien and try to emulate him, because that would take you out of your world and to another place. Here Bowie emphasizes that this process comes naturally to him, because the alien worlds enchant him and call him to explore them and become part of them. Even if he's in a happy relationship with a blue eyed girl, he still hears that siren call and believes there must be something better. He acknowledges it might be a false belief, but he can't help it – this is how his psyche is constructed. The sirens are wonderfully represented by the backing vocals, which begin to draw the listener in with a mystical, beguiling aaa-eeee-yaaa-ooooh call that lasts until the end of the record. It's hard not to be hooked.

Africa is sleepy people
Russia has its horsemen
Spent some nights in old Kyoto
Sleeping on the matted ground

When he talked about changes and explorations in the past, he meant those that take place on the spiritual plane. Here he expands it to the earthly plane as well. The places he mentions here are all places he visited in recent years, and are all places that had a profound effect on him due to being culturally different from the world he knew. Looking back, Bowie realizes that he has kept moving not only spiritually but also geographically, and in a few years he moved his home from London to Los Angeles to Vevey (in Switzerland) to Berlin and back to Vevey again. There's a great big world out there, and every place is different and has secrets to uncover and enjoy.

Cyprus is my island
When the going's rough
I would love to find you
Somewhere in a place like that

Cyprus is where Angie lived when she and David fell in love. By now the two were separated and going through a painful divorce, but Bowie doesn't blame Cyprus for it. He still thinks he can find his true love in one of these distant places.

Somewhere, someone's calling me
When the chips are down
I stumble like a blind man
Can't forget you
Can't forget you
Feeling like a shadow
Drifting like a leaf
I stumble like a blind man
Can't forget you
Can't forget you

Here is where 'Move On' is fundamentally different from Bowie's previous records that dealt with this theme. In the past, whenever he created himself anew he tried to disassociate himself completely from what came before, to be only the character he was at that specific moment. Now, he describes this rootlessness as something negative, as something that made him a shadow carried helplessly in the wind and stumbling like a blind man. He is not going to try to forget the past any more. He is not a phoenix that rises from the ashes and dies each time, but a person that moves on from one place to another but maintains a stable grain of identity.

This embrace of his past is reflected in the record. Bowie was listening to some of his old recordings, and at one time he accidentally played one of them backwards and liked the way it sounded. Before even checking out what the original track was, he replicated the backwards music and recorded it straightforward (that's the reason for the strange pulling sensation of the backing vocals). It turned out to be 'All the Young Dudes', that old anthem of youth rebellion. When he was younger, Bowie enjoyed rebelling against everything he was before and be reborn completely new. Now he thinks like an adult, someone who goes through stations in his life and with each one adds and accumulates to what he was before to become richer in personality and spirit. Along with the movement, there is also growth.

And played backwards it's...

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