from the album “The Next Day”.
“They know god exists for the devil told them so”
Here’s Bowie yet again, one of my all time favourite lyricists and this song is crammed with great lines like this one.
It had been ten years coming, though, for us to once again know the genius of Bowies words. TEN YEARS, between this record and his last one, the fabulously underrated Reality from 2003.
What a wait.
Some of us, including me, never thought we’d hear new material from him ever again, he seemed to be completely over this whole business.
What it was that exactly had made him snap, we don’t know, and we will never know for sure. The heart attack? The money-grabbing antics behind the scenes? Just basically working your ass off for over thirty years and needing to just live your own life outside being a celebrity? Maybe everything combined.
I think we were all disappointed and saddened, but we all respected it.
It was no surprise, really, and let’s be frank here; he would have very respectfully bowed out on top rather than faded away into obscurity or desperately tried to cling along to the latest fads and trends until he became laughable. It would have been respectable, commendable, even.
So, needless to say, it was a bit of shock to say the least when he returned from the shadows all of a sudden in january 2013 with a brand new single, and the news that followed was that a completely new album was also to come.
Nobody knew! And in the world where everything is constantly about PR, and the public image, and how to best sell your face, in a world where the person who shouts the loudest wins, the silent route that Bowie took seemed to ultimately be the one that was listened to the most.
This was definitely, to all Bowie fans sweet relief, one of the best and most rewarding albums of 2013, and for me, one of the most interesting songs from that record was the title track that once again proved what a lyrical genius we were once again dealing with.
He might be older now, but still proving to all of us that he’s not rusted. At all.
To me, a lot of the album, and above all, the single released before this one (“The Stars (Are Out Tonight)”) dealt with modern celebrity life, and how we all view, adore and worship famous people, and how quickly that can escalate, and the real reasons behind it. For me, this song extended on that topic, as well as giving the catholic church a good trashing.
“They whip him through the streets and alleys there
The gormless and the baying crowd right there
They can’t get enough of that doomsday song
They can’t get enough of it all”
You really don’t need to look that hard to picture Jesus Christ and his walk of torment on Golgotha. Maybe. But to me, it’s also how we bring celebrities down from the high praise the once received, and how harshly we do it. They make a mistake, and suddenly, we can’t get enough of that “doomsday song”, we just can’t get enough of getting our sweet revenge on the people who have it all, the people who have the life that we all so secretly desire for ourselves – serves them right, you know, they should’ve appreciated what they had and not do stupid things! Shame on them!
“First they give you everything that you want
Then they take back everything that you have”
Oh, if this isn’t someone from the inside bitterly and with slight resentment (yeah, you can just hear Bowie grinding his teeth into this particular line, can’t you?) telling us how it really is, I don’t know what is. It’s like, we expect more from these people. If they are to receive all these riches, all this praise, and our adoration, they better please us, and they better behave. God forbid they should ever be human, for we would all just feel betrayed by our Gods.
And I guess the same goes for religion, in a sense. Maybe it’s just wrong to put people on pedestals, full stop?
“They can work with satan while they dress like the saints
They know god exists for the devil told them so
They scream my name aloud down into the well below”
And back at religion, once again. They know God exists, because the devil told them so. The devil here being the people in positions they shouldn’t be in, the people who abuse their powers and the somewhat naïve faith of others. They work with Satan but they dress like saints, indeed. And you know what? It’s not just in religious areas of life. Not to sound paranoid here, but.. they’re all around us, man.
I can rave and rant about how lyrically wonderful this song is, what clever double entendre I think it is, and how great Bowie sounds in it – more forceful than in 20 years time! “NOT QUITE DYING!” you know! – but the best thing about it is the video itself, where Bowie doesn’t shy away in the slightest from the subject of the song, even though he alienated some people in the process by doing so, because, well, you should never have an opinion on religion and you shouldn’t oppose in public against it, apparently (and here I thought we had freedom of speech? Obviously you don’t have to like it at all, but turning against a singer for expressing an opinion in a song/video is just denying somebody’s right to raise his voice), and also.. it has to be the best thing, because it has Gary Oldman in it.
And not just Gary Oldman (you guessed it – he’s one of my all time favourite actors), but Gary Oldman as a dirty priest.
It seriously does not get any better than that.
Enjoy. And enjoy the comeback of a master at work. And not just talking about Bowie there either!