Eight Line Poem

March 31, 2010

Eight Line Poem (LP).
Eight Line Poem (BBC, 1971).

Or “Trio for guitar, piano and voice.”

Mick Ronson gives his most beautiful performance on the record—his minute-long intro, where he moves through all of the song’s chords (starting and ending in the home key of C) is studded with little melodies (take the gem-like trios of notes he plays at 0:30 or 0:40).

Bowie has a new face for each line he sings, from fledgling soul crooner to speech coach to plastic cowboy.

If Bowie is the experiment, Rick Wakeman is the control: for much of the track, he plays the same piano line, like a tide crashing upon a glass beach.

“Eight Line Poem” complements the track it follows on the LP, “Oh! You Pretty Things”—its opening F chord resolves the earlier song, while its lyric reverses the image: where the singer of “Pretty Things” looked out his window to watch the world dissolve, here he’s watched in turn, by his cactus and his cat—the great doings of the universe replaced by the arid emptiness of his apartment.

William S. Burroughs: “Well, I read this ‘Eight line poem’ of yours and it is very reminiscent of T.S. Eliot.” Bowie: “Never read him.”

Recorded June-August 1971; rarely performed live (Aylesbury on 25 September 1971 or the BBC four days earlier).

Top: David Hockney, Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy, 1970-1971.

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