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פ.י.מ.פ.

.Analyzing Bowie: D.J

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The rise of disco in the late seventies brought a new kind of superstar to the pop scene: the disc jockey. Although there were already star DJs in the fifties and sixties who played a very instrumental role in the rock'n'roll takeover, they were never more than just that: an instrument, a channel for the musicians to bring their music to the ears of the audiences. The DJ in 'Starman' is bringing rock'n'roll to the ears of the kids, but the "hazy cosmic jive" which ends up changing their lives is not created by him but by the starman's music. In disco, on the other hand, the DJ became the creator, mixing records together to create a new musical piece. The DJ was a new cultural hero, the center of the disco culture. But as disco went mainstream, all the darker sides of a pop style at its height started to manifest in it, and the DJ's image was plagued by them. 1979 was the year when disco decadence reached its peak, and Bowie turned its philosophical eye on it. And, as usual with Bowie, his philosophical eye saw more.

I'm home, lost my job, and incurably ill
You think this is easy, realism
I've got a girl out there, I suppose
I think she's dancing
Feel like Dan Dare lies down
I think she's dancing, what do I know?

The record begins with the hero feeling sick of his life, having lost his job and finding the harsh reality of modern existence too hard to cope with. In a throwback to 'Quicksand' he also feels like a superhero that has been subdued, unable to realize his potential. But he knows there's another world out there, a world where people are not preoccupied with things like jobs and reality, but are spending their lives dancing. He feels drawn to that world, believing that there might even be a girl waiting for him there.

One more, weekend, of lights and evening faces
Fast food, living nostalgia
Humble pie or bitter fruit

So he gets swept into that disco world, into an existence of living fast and carefree, of constant highs and shallow relationships. But in the end, he realizes, all that fast food is either humble pie or bitter fruit, nothing really fulfilling.

I am a D.J., I am what I play
Can't turn around no, can't turn around, no, oh, ooh
I am a D.J., I am what I play
Can't turn around no, can't turn around, no, oh no
I am a D.J., I am what I play
I got believers
Believing me, oh

So much has he become entrenched in that world that he became a DJ, worshipped and adored by the dancing multitudes. But as he reflects he realizes that he has no real substance to his life. He is what he plays, his entire existence is made up of records made by others. But he can't turn around: he is bound to this lifestyle, and he must continue playing for the masses.

We are beginning to realize that Bowie is talking about himself, or at least about what he used to be. Like the hero of this record, Bowie also started out from disavowing bourgeois existence and looking for a way of life that would express the superman potential he believed he had. And like the hero he became worshipped and lived a life of constant highs and shallow relationships while creating art from mixing other people's stuff. More to the point, he was also "what he played": the different characters he assumed consumed him. But unlike the D.J. in the record who can't turn around, this D.J. (David Jones) is going to do just that. From here on, when he will invent a character, that character will remain in the confines of a single record and not take over his entire life. He will continue to change, but the changes will not be as radical and he will not lose himself to the art.

Time flies when you're having fun
Break his heart, break her heart
He used to be my boss and now he is a puppet dancer
I am a D.J., and I've got believers

The music changes as the DJ sinks into memories and remembers how much fun his life was. He could just go on from lover to lover, enjoy both men and women, break their heart and not think twice about it, while the man who used to be his boss in his previous life now became just a puppet in his hands as he made him dance to his beat. But again, there is another way to understand this verse. If Bowie is talking about himself, then he is reflecting about all the times that he broke the hearts of his fans as he killed his characters and moved on. And the boss would be that need of his to become a character, a need which he has now learned to master. From here on, Bowie will not become his characters, but will be the puppet master who makes them dance for him.

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