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פ.י.מ.פ.

(Analyzing Bowie: Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps

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In the Lodger album, Bowie finally opened up to his past and embraced it as part of himself. On that album this reconciliation sounded quite healthy and jubilant, but now comes the time to deal with the dark side. His past also contains many bad things, and to really reconcile with it he must deal with them. As its title track indicates, this is one of the things that the Scary Monsters album intends to do.

The inspiration for `Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)` is very pop-art: it was a box of cereal which contained surprises for kids, advertised as "scary monsters and super heroes". This spurred Bowie to open the box that was his own psyche, and pull out some of the things that were roaming in there. Needless to say, this stuff is not fit for kids.

It`s the music that does most of the work. Led by Fripp`s anguished, snarling guitar and enhanced by Visconti`s dense mix, the music is a sonic nightmare, over which Bowie sings in several voices that sound like the demons in a schizophrenic mind. This sound already tells more than half of the story. All that`s left for the lyrics to do is to fill in the details.

She had an horror of rooms
She was tired, you can`t hide beat
When I looked in her eyes they were blue but nobody home
She could`ve been a killer if she didn`t walk the way she do, and she do
She opened strange doors that we`d never close again
She began to wail jealousies scream
Waiting at the lights, know what I mean

The subject of the record is a girl who "had a horror of rooms": in other words, she didn`t want to be put in any box. This reminds us of Bowie himself, who would always escape any categorization and invent himself anew. However, this girl is not in control of her life like he was, and her horror of rooms led her to inner emptiness. Bowie did commit himself to his identities, did base every new embodiment on things he really felt inside, while this girl apparently never did and so there was "nobody home" in her soul. On the other hand, her fears did lead her to break new grounds, open doors to new and strange worlds.

She asked me to stay and I stole her room
She asked for my love and I gave her a dangerous mind
Now she`s stupid in the street and she can`t socialize
Well I love the little girl and I`ll love her till the day she dies
She wails
Jimmy`s guitar sound
jealousies scream
Waiting at the lights, know what I mean

Because of her mercurial nature, the singer was drawn to her and managed to hook up with her. With him, the girl felt that she can settle down and love someone, but he took advantage of her. Instead of giving her the chance to build a substantial "room" for herself he steals her style and emulates it for his own style, and instead of giving her love he puts more dangerous thoughts in her head. So now, bereft of identity and incapable of love, she roams the streets lonely and lost. The singer expresses remorse, declaring his love for her, but he doesn`t sound very convincing: a true lover would say "until the day that I die", not until "she dies". However, she did have a profound effect on him, creating something in his subconscious. What she created was…

Scary monsters, super creeps
Keep me running, running scared

The memories of his immoral behavior, and what he got from getting into her danger-seeking mind, keep haunting him. They manifest as scary monsters and super creeps, and they won`t give him rest. The girl is now a reflection of his own mind, wandering aimlessly and disturbed.

What is this self-damning portrait all about? Who is this girl that Bowie has corrupted? I believe she is a metaphor for youth culture. When Bowie started out youth culture was lost, and Bowie tried to show the path. But in the process he also stole from everyone and instilled plenty of dangerous thoughts in the minds of his fans, and now he is riddled by doubt. As we saw in `Teenage Wildlife` and `Fashion`, he finds the new wave boys that came in his wake to be rather tasteless. Trying to be like Bowie, many young kids and new wave musicians adopted dark and weird looks, and youth culture was suddenly filled with Bowie clones. But Bowie, it seems, isn`t very happy of what he spawned. What he sees in the new pop world isn`t a world full of self-expression, cleverness and style. What he sees are just scary monsters and super creeps.

This song is a killer rocker in concerts. It fit perfectly to the style of Reeves Gabrels, and his time as Bowie`s lead guitarist produced many exellent performances. This is from his 1996 performance in Tel Aviv.

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