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פ.י.מ.פ.

Analyzing Bowie: Blue Jean

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From Diamond Dogs onwards, Bowie's albums usually contain at least one track addressing a woman which he desires. These tracks, however, cannot be called love songs in the traditional sense of the word. They express a yearning to bridge the gulf that separates him from other souls and form a meaningful relationship with another individual, but there's always the feeling that he is unable to achieve it. It is one of Bowie's main themes: the wish for sustainable love, marred by the realization that love doesn't last. They are always pretty tragic records. On the Tonight album, there's Bowie's rendition of the Beach Boys divine ballad for eternal love 'God Only Knows', but he doesn't sound like he believes it when he sings it. The only original track that is about a woman is 'Blue Jean', and it is this track that we should analyze if we want to learn about Bowie's current state of mind on the question of love. Has he managed to find a way to overcome the problem?

Blue Jean - I just met me a girl named Blue Jean
Blue Jean - she got a camouflaged face and no money
Remember they always let you down when you need 'em
Oh, Blue Jean - is heaven any sweeter than Blue Jean
She got a police bike
She got a turned up nose

Well, it is about a woman he fell for, but this time it isn't addressed to the woman. Bowie sounds like a kid who is rushing to tell his friends about the great sexual encounter he had, something he hasn't done since 'Suffragette City'. He doesn't sound like he cares about this woman very much. He actually sounds like he enjoys this life of brief sexual encounters.

Sometimes I feel like
(Oh, the whole human race)
Jazzin' for Blue Jean
(Oh, and when my Blue Jean's blue)
Blue Jean can send me
(Oh, somebody send me)
Somebody send me
(Oh, somebody send me)

The line about feeling "like the whole human race" is probably meant to signify a bad thing, a mediocre level of existence which humans unfortunately dwell in most of the time. But Blue Jean lifts him above it for a while, and thus she becomes his muse for which he wants to write music.

One day I'm gonna write a poem in a letter
One day I'm gonna get that faculty together
Remember that everybody has to wait in line
Blue Jean - look out world you know I've got mine
She got Latin roots
She got everything

His muse has Latin roots, which might be why there's a bit of Latin influence in the music, with the delightful marimba flavoring what is otherwise just an old fashioned rock'n'roll number. Marimbas are also heard elsewhere on the album, adding to the sound mix. As usual with Bowie, it is a unique sound mix that fuses several styles together, but it isn't as effective as it is on his previous albums. 'Blue Jean' is where it works the best, and was the album's only hit single.

So 'Blue Jean' represents Bowie's new muse, and that sounds like capitulation. He used to aspire to something higher, to a love more meaningful and lasting than brief infatuations. This ideal drove him to create sublime music, to always search for something better. Here he sounds like he's accepted that brief infatuations are all there is, that this is the thing that he was always waiting in line for, and that once he found it he should be satisfied ("I got mine"). There's a hint that maybe there's something more out there, that he should write poems that send him to a higher place, but he brushes it off as something he would get to "one day". And so, with this earthly muse, the best he can do is a good but not great record like 'Blue Jean', and he seems to be content with it. Has Bowie given up?

For the video clip, Bowie and director Julian Temple splurged and created a short movie, in which Bowie plays two roles: a London working-class kid who is trying to get a girl and takes her to see a rock star performing, and the rock star himself, a neurotic mess named Screaming Lord Byron. This name is a combination of Screaming Lord Sutch, one of the early British rock'n'rollers, and the romantic poet Lord Byron, the model for any decadent, over-dressed artist. It suggests that the once honest and authentic rock'n'roll has now become overblown and fake, and Bowie's double role is kind of like Bowie's youthful self looking at what he has become and shaking his head in disapproval. Screaming Lord Byron is what 1984 Bowie saw when he looked in the mirror.

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