Love Is Lost

dbpierrot

Love Is Lost.
Love Is Lost (Hello Steve Reich mix).
Love Is Lost (Hello Steve Reich mix, single edit).

Bowie’s public relationship with love is one of a man who’s never shaken his suspicions. There were times when he’d write a “Letter To Hermione” or a “Be My Wife” in his soul’s winter hours, “The Wedding” to crown a summertime. But the garden-variety love song has rarely interested him, nor has he done them well. A key song remains “Soul Love,” which he wrote when he was 24 and which, seemingly, became the guiding principle for much of his adult life.

Love, in “Soul Love,” is a plague, an infestation, a communal delusion. Love manifests itself, it binds and corrupts, it blinds and weakens. Love is a thing unto itself, not a feeling shared by two people; it’s summoned into existence like a djinn from a bottle, or born like some ill-starred child. It wreaks havoc by doing just what you wish it to. Black magic. How does the line go again? It’s not really work: it’s just the power to charm. Best to keep clear of it.

“Love Is Lost,” one of the great tracks on The Next Day, finds an older man talking up the years to an older self. “It’s the darkest hour,” he begins, mainly hovering on the root note. “You’re 22.” The year when he and Hermione broke up, the year when he wrote “Space Oddity.” When you’re developing as an artist, when “your voice is new,” that’s when love can really fork you off the path, send you off into the woods.

(In 1979, a 32-year-old Bowie told the interviewer Mavis Nicholson that where he’d once fallen in love easily, he now avoided it. If he were to love, he’d do so from “afar.” “But if you then decided to not love from afar, you, as an artist, would have to give up quite a lot of your time for them,” she said. “Yes, and I can’t do that,” Bowie replied. “No, no, love can’t get quite in my way. I shelter myself from it incredibly.” “What are you sheltering yourself from?” “From losing the other eye!”)

bowie-love

The refrain, merely the last bars of the verse, is a spin of words: love is lost, lost is love. Echoes come from everywhere, books (Love’s Labour’s Lost), lost friends (John Lennon’s “Love“: “love is real, real is love”) and, of course, “Soul Love” again: all I have is my love of love, and love is not loving. The last phrase bites the hardest. Love is not loving. Lost is love. Love only exists when it’s absent.

The music deepens the trap. Crouched in a bleak B-flat minor (the key of “Let’s Dance”—recall how much work Nile Rodgers had to do to drag that song onstage), the only movement comes from a descending eighth-note bassline (G#-F#-Eb) and Bowie’s organ, on which he keeps the same hand shape and moves it down the keyboard, keeping to black keys, playing two-note chords.* It’s how Bowie wrote “Changes” and “Bombers” and other piano pieces during his compositional breakthrough of 1970-1971—hold one position, then move around the board like a chessman. See what happens.

And yet more echoes: Tony Visconti “Harmonizing” the tone of Zachary Alford’s snare to summon the loud ghosts of Low. Or Gerry Leonard’s lead guitar, which he wanted to sound like Peter Green on old Fleetwood Mac records. Or the refrain of “Sexy Sadie,” heard in the later verses: what have you done? oh what have you done? (“You made a fool of everyone,” a ghost sings back.)

The first verse was a warning, but the kid paid the old man no mind. So a set change. Now the kid’s in love and Bowie, having used images of refugees, exiles and wanderers throughout the album, recycles them again. (“Hostage, transference, identity,” as he described “Love Is Lost” to Rick Moody.) “Your country’s new, your friends are new.” Being in love as having to live under witness protection, of love being the half-life of an ex-spy or a defector, someone rewarded for their treachery. New house, new maid, new tongue (the way Bowie snaps “ack-scent” into two sharp little syllables), new eyes, new teeth (one presumes). But the same swindled old soul.

Bowie uses the bridge, as often on this album, as a feint, a false ray of hope. A grand move to E major, escape at last. (The engineer Mario McNulty: “One part he played on the bridge of “Love Is Lost” made me shiver. The chord progression came out of nowhere when David put it down on the Trinity; it was pure magic.“) But the perspective remains back in the safe house; it’s someone looking through the blinds to spy upon the street, or staring into the mirror. Love as an induction, as a maze with no exit; after eight bars, an A major chord sends you hurtling back down to B-flat minor again.

It’s not about a love affair but how everyone has cut down their feelings in the internet age,” Visconti offered, in one of his duller readings of Bowie’s work (but who knows, maybe an earlier lyric had Bowie complaining about Facebook). The last verses, where Leonard’s guitar thrashes into life and Alford moves to his cymbals, retain the spy/refugee imagery but cut in images from an asylum. Love is like being held in an isolation cell, interrogated endlessly, the lights always kept on, no sleep.

And then the voices. Bowie’s love of the grotesque has been a constant of his life, from the Dalek rant of “We Are Hungry Men,” to the gargoyles of “After All” and “Bewlay Brothers,” to the smacked-out mumbler on “Ashes to Ashes” to the bedlam shrieks in the 1. Outside tracks. Here his backing vocals are, as he sings, “the lunatic men,” the goon squad (they’ve come to town—beep beep!) who torture those trapped in love. Say HELLO HELLO! they chant, working the winches (“hello! hello!” a Silesian choir sings, on a record playing in a haunted chateau in 1976). TELL THEM ALL YOU KNOW! and the last rising waves of You KNOW…YOU KNOW! …YOU KNOW! …YOU KNOW!

It’s a hell of one’s happy devising. The old man tried to warn you, but look what you’ve gone and done. No use. Hard stop. Cut lights. Strike set.

lost

James Murphy’s remix of “Love Is Lost,” which Bowie (or at least his financial adviser) considered essential enough to include on his most recent hits compilation, took the song out of its box, lengthened it to nearly 10 minutes.

To a track already freighted with the past, Murphy layered in more callbacks, scribbled more lines upon the palimpsest. Most notably Steve Reich’s “Clapping Music” (hence the subtitle), which becomes the fulcrum of the new beat, and, of course, Roy Bittan’s keyboard line from “Ashes to Ashes,” which appears like a special guest on a variety show, entering at a peak moment to rounds of applause. Murphy reversed the song’s mood-charts. The verses now seem sharper, more aggressive, where the bridge, instead of offering escape, becomes the cold heart of the track—Bowie’s vocal, freed from the major chord underpinnings, is left morosely hanging like a pennant in the air.

The video (for the single edit—the full edit got another one, which appeared to have scenes from a corrupted virtual reality sex program) was yet more attic-clearing. Grotesque puppets intended for “The Pretty Things Are Going To Hell” in 1999 are pulled out of their crates, dumped on the ground, looking like exhibits from an opening that never was, while Bowie stands in the bathroom of the “Thursday’s Child” video. He’s back in somber curator mode, a quiet contrast to the warlock face he makes by using Tony Oursler’s video projectors again (see “Where Are We Now?”)

He shot much of the video himself, reportedly turning a darkened corner of his office into a set and filming the whole thing for $12.99 (the cost of a new USB flash drive). There’s so much of the past racked up now that you can use it nearly for free.

Recorded: (backing tracks) ca. 3-15 May 2011, The Magic Shop, NYC; (overdubs) spring-fall 2012, Magic Shop; Human Worldwide, NYC. Released on 8 March 2013 on The Next Day; the Murphy remix first appeared (in full) on The Next Day Extra (released 4 November 2013) and also issued as a limited edition single (both full and single edits) on 16 December.

* The piano sheet music has the verse progression as Bbm/Bbm7-Ab/Gb5/Gb6. On keyboard, Bowie’s playing Bb-Eb, Ab-Db, Gb-Bb, Eb-Ab. Thanks again to “Crayon to Crayon” for insights.

Top: Pierrot Pierrot; thin white wooden duke.

51 Responses to Love Is Lost

  1. Galdo says:

    One of the tracks I was waiting the most from TND. A great, great song. I like the remix too, It’s a beatiful reconstruction of the track.

  2. SylvieD says:

    Posted right when I was deciding to stop working, thank you ! But I’m wondering : if love is an infestation, why does the singer sound so wistul to have lost it ? My two favorite songs are the nostalgic ones : Where are we now and this one.

  3. rufus oculus says:

    Chris. Did you mean to say “an older man talking up the years to a younger self”?

  4. David says:

    One of the core pleasures of this blog, are the extraordinary different interpretations of songs, which take on a whole other shade upon reading such fine and articulated writing. It cannot and should not be understated how brilliant and actually essential your essays have become in assessing the Bowie cannon, so my gratitude for what must at times have seemed like an unrewarding slog.

    On a different tack, the song is certainly one of the high notes of the album, a sister composition I always felt to 82’s Cat People, a time when Bowie-on the precipice of his most successful album-he was lost.

    I’ve long held a belief that Bowie has made literal totems of muses,mistresses of his affections and obsessions- ‘the little girl with grey eyes’ always supplanting the love lorn longing of Erato for the cold pallid kiss of Melpomene. For Bowie, its as Nietzsche wrote-“There is always some madness in love. But there is also always some reason in madness.” Love for Bowie then is the inner enlightenment that comes with creative rebirth, the boundless cycle of his current passions, a series of muses that he can discard like ” another girl to weep over the breakfast tray” when it gets too intense.

    In the emotional chronology of his existence, it could be measured as 1967, or 1990, 22 years afterwards when he was a jukebox retreading past glories, but finding love with Iman, or another 22 when this song was being crafted after a period of inactivity when ‘Love’ seemed lost.
    The song then reads as eulogy, or a crumpled love note were the perfume taint has long dissipated, when the tempestuous relationship with his craft no longer seems so seductive.

    It’s also a song that would not be out of place in a Nicolas Winding Refn movie-in fact perhaps he ought to use it in his next outing.

  5. Starperson says:

    I really will have to look for another thrill in my life after you’re done with The Next Day…🙂 The discovery that there’s a new blog online is just the best. Another great write-up of an epic song.

    I hope you’ll share some thoughts when you wrap up. How do you feel about TND as a whole (in the canon)? Has your opinion of the man changed? What surprised, fascinated and annoyed you most? Does it seem like you’ve got to know Bowie better – or just not at all? I’m very curious about your journey and personal experiences!

    Will save the big thank you for later, but this is just a wonderful, selfless project. Readers who think they have ‘rights’ or can complain about your work or opinions are just so, so wrong.

    • col1234 says:

      there will be a “last post” of sorts where I probably will go into that sort of thing. Right now, TND just seems long. There are 12 more tracks to go! Still! It feels like i’ve been doing it for 2 years already.

      and i’ll make more announcements about this later, but there will be another blog next year. It will be different than this one, but similar in some ways.

      People are free to complain about whatever they’d like. And if i’m having a bad day, I might snap back at ’em. But it’s not a big deal.

      • fantailfan says:

        “here will be another blog next year” best news I’ve heard latelyl

      • THAT anonymous guy... says:

        May have been said somewhere on this blog, but, you and the blog are quoted in the Uncut Magazine- NME/MM interview/review “compilation magazine” BOWIE. Check the write-up on Hunky Dory and one Chris O’Leary and PAOTD are mentioned towards the end of the entry. Also, I see you mentioned on Pitchfork, occasionally in Bowie news. The col1234 is a go-to on Bowieology. Congrats. Make art. Aaargh, the world is watching… the papers will want to know whose shirts you wear…

  6. steven says:

    The remix was well received enough to make me worry that James Murphy would be brought onboard fully for the next Bowie LP. I’d hate that.

    I like Bowie’s vocal on this, but more than any track on the album it sounds like him pastiching himself.

  7. Momus says:

    1. Love Is Lost is by far my favourite track from The Next Day, and it was from the first moment I heard it. I like the moroseness, the apprehension, the derangement, the references back to old Bowie. The Low snare, the Iggy guitar chug, the “cockney madman” backing vocals. The chords are good, the backing vocals great.

    2. I like the James Murphy remix even better, with its references to Steve Reich and Kraftwerk, its dry, sweet funkiness and expert build. In fact (sorry, Steven!), I wish the whole album had sounded that spare, lean, knowing and sussed. More disco, less rock. That would’ve been my ideal Bowie return: a whole new Bowie album produced by James Murphy. For 2017, perhaps, and the 70th birthday?

    3. I can actually buy Visconti’s explanation that it’s partly about a thinning out of experience in the internet age, or, rather, a general disappointment with people and the smallness of what they settle for. Bowie has always been interested in the “hollow men”, the “sons of the silent age” who “come and go on easy terms” and “make love only once but dream and dream”. He’s deeply disappointed by how soulless and thoughtless it is to click through thin dissipations and instant gratifications, but he’s been disappointed for quite a while. And he can also perhaps find some grim satisfaction in seeing normality as a schizoid condition akin to his own.

    4. The refugee theme running through the album reminds me of Auden, for some reason. Something like his poem Refugee Blues, which is about Jewish refugees escaping Germany and finding that — as Brecht said — a human being is a good deal easier to make than a passport. I always think of the humanism that enters Bowie’s work in the late 1970s as “Auden-like”: the stuff about “documentaries on refugees”, the decision to move towards identity politics themes (the feminism of Repetition, the anti-homophobia of Scream Like A Baby). I usually imagine that Coco and her Berlin circle had something to do with this realignment, which is a shift to the left after the semi-fascist imagery of Station To Station. Out go Crowley and Hitler, in come Brecht and Auden.

    5. But I do agree with Chris that it’s ultimately a Hermione song. Breaking up with her seems to have been perhaps the defining event of Bowie’s life. It’s odd how it surfaces on The Next Day so strongly. There’s the winking reference to Hermione in the Where Are We Now video, of course (the Song of Norway t-shirt). As Chris notes, the 22 year-old Bowie lost her love — and reportedly briefly became a junkie as a result, a fact which spawned both Space Oddity and Ashes to Ashes, his establishing and consolidating hits.

    6. The words in the Rick Moody interview response are fascinating: hostage, transference, identity. I’m particularly interested in “transference”, because it’s the technical word that psychoanalysts use for love, a word which emphasises the delusional nature of love as a kind of projection, a (in the jargon) “cathexis”. It’s seen as an unhealthy over-investment in another person, an investment which is sure to be lost, replaced by an overwhelming emptiness, an aloneness which only drugs might have the power to fill.

    7. Why was Bowie thinking about Hermione in the Next Day writing period? Has he been in analysis himself (he does, after all, live in New York, which replaced Vienna as the world capital of psychoanalysis)? Has Hermione come up as an important topic? Has he perhaps re-established contact with her? She’s said to have married a doctor and disappeared off to Papua New Guinea in 1972, but there’s one interview quote in which Bowie says he subsequently met up with a person likely to be Hermione, and “boy was the feeling not there”. Yet certain rumours I’ve heard suggest that Hermione may be a little closer to Bowie’s circle these days.

    8. When I covered this song for my 2014 Bowie cabaret concert I mashed it up with Sister Midnight (search “Momus Love Is Lost” on YouTube to hear it). It was the little chugging Iggy-style guitar that first gave me the idea. Iggy’s vocals became a refrain, making young Jim the addressee, a headstrong “idiot” who isn’t listening to old David’s advice, and will probably stay “a breakage inside”, dreaming lurid dreams about sleeping with his mother and being hunted by his shotgun-wielding father.

    9. I’m fascinated by this theme of terror of love and love’s capacity to engulf the self, to take over and destroy identity, to lead the subject into a vortex of drugs and denial. I’m fascinated by the supposed coldness and damage love wrought in the young Bowie, and Angie’s line about how “he won’t talk to you — he’ll talk in songs and interviews, but he won’t talk to you”. Because Bowie’s work is actually so very passionate, so gushingly emotional to those of us more keen to listen than talk.

    10. I’m reminded of Auden’s line about Yeats: “mad Ireland hurt you into poetry”. I think mad Hermione hurt Bowie into song — really effective emotional song, rather than hippy ditties about Buzz the Fuzz — and I think Love Is Lost takes its place in a lineage of great songs that seem to grow from the terrible (and yet undeniably fruitful) wound that she inflicted.

    • Momus says:

      Just noticed that the Bowie label copy misspells Hisham Bharoocha’s name (“Hishan”). He’s part of the James Murphy “clapping chorus”, but — as a past member of Black Dice — would be a prime contender for production duties if Bowie ever wanted an edgier sound.

  8. Mike says:

    A brilliant song. Pity the remix (yawn) has become the better known version.

    • HFR says:

      I *despise* the remix. The clapping is an irritating, tasteless gimmick, and calling back to ‘Ashes To Ashes’ just seems an audio version of the old ‘Best Since Scary Monsters!’ cliché.

    • Anonymous says:

      Amen, brother. It reminds me of when Trent Reznor’s version of “I’m Afraid of Americans” supplanted the (in my opinion) far superior album version. Mostly because Trent was hip, I think. Just as with James Murphy. I like a lot of LCD Soundsystem stuff, but this remix is overly long, overly precious, and sucks all the life out of the song.

      In point of fact I’m hard-pressed to think of any Bowie remix that’s really worthwhile. And don’t get me started on that Pet Shop Boys abomination.

    • ragingglory says:

      Totally agree. Most remixes are superfluous.

  9. Mr Tagomi says:

    Fantastic song. Up there with his best. A bit of a late-70s Iggy period feeling about it, without it being evocative of anything specific.

    The lyrics are a bit ambiguous. One alternative reading suggests itself to me – a scenario where a naive “beautiful girl” is lured into a life of inescapable corruption in a new country. Wouldn’t be a million miles from other scenarios he’s used.

    Not as interesting a reading as offered above though.

    • Dave L says:

      I initially thought the song was about a naive beautiful girl lured into or driven to suicide. Sort of a Don’t Fear the Reaper update. But I now agree with the interpretation on this blog, which makes me appreciate the song even more. One of his best.

      • Mr Tagomi says:

        Yeah, Chris’s interpretation is far more convincing. It also means that “Love is lost, lost is love” means something very substantial.

    • Galdo says:

      I forgot when I listened this song back in 2013 I thought it was about a girl leaving her country without many choices and the starting of a new life in a new country (or a new career in a new town?). Reading that Mr. Tagomi comment made me realize I had forgot my first point of view completely.

  10. Trevor Mill says:

    Wow. Great and effecting post and responses.

    The only thing to add is cut a third of the songs out and The Next Day is a good record.
    Which songs you ditch are up to you.

  11. s.t. says:

    Great write up and, yes, a great TND song. Perhaps the only one requiring no qualifications. Probably my favorite.

    Instead of Iggy, I hear 70’s Wire in the music, along with the nuevo-motorik hypnosis of Stereolab. Love the tense slashes of guitar.

  12. Deanna says:

    I like how this entry and Momus’s comment touched on the theme of Hermione in TND. It made me really sad when I made the connection between the T-shirt he was wearing in the “Where Are We Now?” video and her play. I doubt it bothers him now so much as it simply became another muse to use, but it would be indescribably tragic if somehow, after all these years, what happened with their relationship still hurt. That’s such a painful idea.

    Anyway, in regards to the song at hand, I always think of it as “love is lost” = “you’re really goddamn lonely”. I think this song might be him reflecting on how terrifying things were when he was becoming famous. Whereas “The Stars (Are Out Tonight)” is a general, impersonal song about fame, this is a very personal one about his early experiences with it. I don’t see this one really being about love in any way beyond the lack of other people close to him (in 1969).

    “There’s so much of the past racked up now that you can use it nearly for free.” I love that line. You could make an entry with all your super profound one-liners.

  13. Steve M. says:

    I haven’t read it but didn’t Paul Trynka track down Hermione and interview her for his Bowie bio?

    Agree with the general consensus that this is one of the better TND songs, and also with Momus that the remix is better. I do wish this whole album was more sonically interesting and didn’t rely so much on old rock tropes.

  14. Bob Whiting says:

    Another great entry Chris. Having been reading the blog since about Young Americans (and I of course went back and caught up!) It’s really sad to know that the end is in sight! But I want to say it’s been spectacular and a great read, as is of course the book and the inevitable future one (s?).

    Love is Lost is undoubtedly to me the best song on this album, (which I do like, but perhaps not as much as I’d hoped when I initially listened to it the first time). Both this song and “You feel so lonely…” are the real stand outs to me, that hasn’t changed since the beginning.

    It’s a shame we never got the “Pretty Things” video.

    As a Scott Walker fan, I’m also really looking forward to the entry on “Heat”, the previous 2 Scott entries were your best work and I can’t wait to hear your opinions on some of The Drift and Bisch Bosh material (especially your description of that bit in “The Escape!”)

    • Deanna says:

      I agree, I’m also really looking forward to “Heat”. I personally think Bowie is at his best when trying to channel Scott Walker. I love the deep voice he uses, the coldness, the dark imagery.

  15. dm says:

    “Pyongyang”, the obvious highlight of blur’s latest album, “The Magic Whip”, borrows fairly heavily from this in the verse instrumentation. If you haven’t given a listen it’s pretty uncanny.

  16. King of Oblivion says:

    The best Next Day song and another great analysis. It’s funny, among the many reasons I’m hoping for another new Bowie album soon is so that Chris is forced to get back to work here!

  17. Dave L says:

    It’s heartbreaking to think that Bowie is still heartbroken. All these years later.

    Hope Iman doesn’t read this blog.😉

  18. SoooTrypticon says:

    One of my favorites from this album. The “what have you done!?!” ending is probably the first truly spooky moment I’ve had with a Bowie song since the end of “Low.”

    Which brings to mind the fact that this song actually ends. One of my frustrations with Bowie’s songs- especially his more contemporary “powerhouse” numbers, is that they just keep going until they fade out. No drama in the ending. Just a fade, like you’re walking out of the room, away from the song.

    This works for some- but others would greatly benefit from ending with a punctuation mark, or a slow breakdown, instead of a radio friendly fade. I’d point to “God Bless The Girl” as a good example of a song that rolls to a fade, when it needs something a bit stronger- making it hard to sequence on the album, and not ending with much of a statement.

    In the case of “Love Is Lost” the song ends beautifully- and benefits from some of the most thoughtful sequencing on the album. After that rough ride, we arrive at the calming, if a bit sad, “Where Are We Now?”

  19. crayontocrayon says:

    Definitely one of the strongest TND tracks and the remix is also really enjoyable. The way the song builds whilst not diverging from it’s pretty simple structure is a real testament to Bowie’s singing, especially the backing vocals.

    Lyrically this song reminded me of Forster’s ‘A room with a view’. I can remember that book having an ‘oh what have you done!’ along with some vaguely similar theme’s of young love.

    Normally I don’t much care for remixes on bonus editions but this is an exception. This song works really well when given space to breathe and when the ashes to ashes tinkle comes in it’s impossible not to smile.

  20. Maj says:

    Oh I love, (no put intended), you mentioning the way Bowie sings “accent”, Chris. Might actually be my favourite moment in the song.

    A song I quite like. It’s like a slightly sonically updated version of the better songs on Hours. (*ducks from the incoming tomatoes and eggs*)
    The remix…well the video looks like he did it himself for under 13 dollars. Mission accomplished.😉
    I don’t mind the clapping on the remix, reminds me of Pet Shop Boys’ brilliant Discoteca, and I do like the prominent synth line in the first third of the track. Which makes me realise that Bowie (or Visconti) rarely go for the minimalistic on the past few albums (or ever…? but when they do it tends to count!)
    But at the same time I can’t say I prefer the remix to the album version. The album version is more insistent, and tense.

    Lyrics-wise, thanks for your interpretation, Chris. I sort of struggled to come up with my own, as I sometimes do with his DBness.

  21. MC says:

    Albumcentric as I usually am, rightly or wrongly, I generally feel that the version of the song on the album is the “real” version. I do think, though, that Murphy’s remix of Love Is Lost is quite special, probably the best DB remix to date. And what a video…

    I was thinking about the more traditional love songs Bowie has written over the years, and it’s true, even the more conventionally celebratory love ballads have a tinge of parody (Lady Grinning Soul, Without You, The Wedding Song) or they’re riddled with feelings of unease or doubt (Amazing, Miracle Goodnight, Can You Hear Me?) or they simply aren’t very good (The Prettiest Star). The 2 grand exceptions might be Heroes and Absolute Beginners, but their epic grandeur sets them apart from the rest of the canon. I agree that DB’s depictions of love are typically more fraught, including the song that seems the true prequel to Love Is Lost, Something In The Air. I think another commenter compared the two, and I’m surprised the earlier song hasn’t been brought up again. What’s amazing about the later track is how well it succeeds at being more harrowing than its precursor. It’s like time has eroded the singer’s melancholia at the end of a relationship, leaving only the stark, dark-night-of-the-soul terror behind. Gripping stuff.

    Oh, another great piece, btw. Chris, however much of a slog these TND pieces have been to write, it’s certainly not reflected in the writing. They’re as engaged and insightful as always.

  22. spanghew says:

    I can’t imagine why anyone needs to prefer the original or the remix. They’re very, very different songs – each one brings an entirely different mood and feel.

    I find when I’m listening to the remix that I miss crushing harmonic density of the original, that sort of black-hole darkness (in addition the chords Chris describes, and Bowie’s chord-complicating two-note keyboard, there are two slightly-off guitar chords later in the track which I haven’t yet analyzed that add even more harmonic information/complexity…).

    But when I’m listening to the original I miss the emptiness and despair of the remix: that starkness makes the track more moving in a, well, human way…the original is nearly apocalyptic, metahuman, in its foreboding.

    So I say: both!

  23. Jane says:

    Makes me think of “The man who fell to earth” with the new accent, maid, and eyes. The fear of losing his family. Just after that, moving to Europe all these things where true of him in real life.

    • Sam Benton says:

      Spot on – this is certainly what led it to being used in Lazarus!

    • leonoutside says:

      Me too Jane at least in part. “1985: Icarus descending.” The wonderful first section of The Man Who Fell To Earth, closes with the words, “..as old as the world”.

      • leonoutside says:

        And by the end of ch.10, all the things in that verse had just happened in the book: new house, new maid, new accent, new country…

      • Jane says:

        Well spotted leonoutside. I read it a couple of weeks ago and the line seemed vaguely familiar, but I read on, and didn’t put the two together!

    • leonoutside says:

      He had not come here to exchange ironies (to quote Nathan Bryce), but, the line is reflected back again, at the close of MWFTE: “His Smile Seemed As Old As The Moon” towards the
      end of 1990: Icarus drowning.

      • Jane says:

        And it did too. Reading the book helped me realise both how well cast Bowie was as Newton and how well he acted the part. His best acting I think apart from Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence (where there may have been a high degree of empathy for the role too).

  24. todd says:

    It’s about him I think, a sad song, lovely though, the 80’s connection is superb, it’s autobiographical, two good songs of next day, like a rocket man being the next, can’t get blackstar, not best bowie, but, I’m 70’s guy, todd

  25. Zardoz says:

    Really, you guys think this song is about Bowie? I think this song totally recounts Iman’s journey to America. She moved to America when she was about 20 and was popping up on Vogue when she was about 22. Love is lost because she’d divorced her first husband. She was adrift in the fashion world surrounded by all of these old men with nobody to confide in.

    That’s always been my take on it, anyhow.

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