God Knows I’m Good

God Knows I’m Good.

Oscar Wilde’s quip that “all bad poetry springs from genuine feeling” (often misremembered as “all bad poetry is sincere”) applies to rock songs as well. A case in point: Keith Christmas, one of the guitarists on the Space Oddity LP, recalls Bowie weeping uncontrollably while listening to a playback of “God Knows I’m Good.”

A poor old woman in a modern supermarket (the kind that has “cash machines” that are both “spitting” and “shrieking”—surprised they aren’t “vomiting” as well) shoplifts a can of stew. As she goes to the door, a security officer nabs her. She cries out “God Knows I’m Good!” (repeat 50 times) and falls to the floor. To hammer the point home, we also get some snide asides about all the “honest people” who smugly walk past her unknowing, and of course the backdrop of our tale is the Horror of Modern Consumer Society—soulless machines, roaring money, that sort of thing.

It’s all cheap, adolescent sentiment, with the lyric focused on a pathetic paper figure intended to generate sympathy—Bowie even made the old creature deaf to make her more woeful. Where “Conversation Piece” (a vastly superior track this thing might’ve knocked off the LP, as the two songs have some similarities) has richness and restraint in its character study, “God Knows I’m Good” just makes empty, loud demands and soon wears down its listeners’ patience. The chorus is appalling, and the 20 bars or so of guitar busking at the end complete the illusion that a three-minute track has lasted as long as an entire LP.

Recorded ca. August-September 1969; on Space Oddity.

Top: William Doherty, “Belfast Children,” 1969.

2 Responses to God Knows I’m Good

  1. Scott says:

    I think the reviewer missed the point, the “whirling wooden floor” captures so beautifully the realness of this gem and I perform it live all the time to crowds both bewildered and amazed.

  2. leonoutside says:

    Great Scott! I agree with ya, the reviewer doesn’t “Ken” as in Scottish for “know”, what did I say?) God Knows I’m Good. And Gosh, this reviewer really has much, much better to offer. In fact there’s none better, in my opinion. Mr. Reviewer: Chris, can we appeal? Entry in book is quiet different. But still, well, I side with the opposition: God Knows Im Good is a great track. But last “grim protest naturalism” til Tin Machine…what about “Day In Day Out”?

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