David Bowie: "Ziggy Stardust does not eat ice cream"
June 20 2012 at 8:48 PM No score for this post
sam (Login whitecaps) BW Member from IP address 126.96.36.199
Suicide, Cigarettes, And Ice Cream
Hi, in my last exploration, I explained to my audience that cigarettes are used in Rock 'N Roll Suicide as a symbol of the suicidal lifestyle of rock and roll. Today, I'd like to explore the use of ice cream in the song, Five Years.
I think I saw you in an ice cream parlor
Drinking milkshakes cold and long
Smiling and waving and looking so fine....
Here, ice cream symbolizes friendliness and fitting in. The young girl is drinking milkshakes and laughing and waving to her friends. This stands in stark contrast to the narrator of the song, walking alone in the cold and rain, away from home, lost in the crowd, trying to store everything in his brain that "hurts a lot."
It is interesting that at the beginning of the album we see a picture of a girl eating and drinking and waving. At the end of the album, we have a picture of man who cannot eat because he's "lived too long." It is Bowie who is isolated and alone and set apart from society. Bowie has said on many occasions one of his most important themes is "isolation."
Ice cream is a symbol of pleasure, happiness, and always fitting in with lots of friends.
This message has been edited by whitecaps from IP address 188.8.131.52 on Jun 20, 2012 9:07 PM
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I've come to realise that the most common theme through Bowie's work is loneliness. Keeps on cropping up again and again... So, I've always felt that Bowie's music appeals more to outsiders, people who feel alienated, isolated or different from the crowd. Perhaps you could even describe his music as being for solitary contemplation.
In particular the album Space Oddity seems to describe a very lonely person. The title track is about a man so incredibly isolated that he is left to float off into space, drifting in to his solitude.
Or the lonely woman who falls over in the supermarket fearful of being caught, the lovesick young man who wrote a letter to Hermione, the occasional dreamer, the village outsider undetected by the stars. The thinker in Cygnet Committee, who sits alone, growing old.
Bowie even said of Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud: "It was about the disassociated, the ones who feel as though they're left outside, which was how I felt about me. I always felt I was on the edge of events, the fringe of things, and left out.."
One particular lyric from Conversation Piece seems very prophetic "& the world is full of life, full of folk who don't know me, & they walk in twos or threes or more." Bowie knew, even back then, that the people who didn't know him were in groups, were sociable as they walked in twos or threes. So the ones who did know Bowie, the ones who connected with his music, were the loners, the ones who walked on their own.
I think Memory of a Free Festival is the only song on Space Oddity that paints a picture of DB being happy, sociable and enjoying the company of others. Of course, it reflects on the day he performed at the Beckenham Free Festival. Perhaps DB knew that his moments of happiness were to be when performing his music to crowds, people who understood and shared his sense of isolation. Which is ironic!
Understanding the irony of shared feelings of loneliness, in 2004, just before singing Sound & Vision, DB asked the audience not to sing along as it was "hard to convey a sense of isolation when 10,000 people sing along to every word".
When Bowie achieved mainstream acceptance with Ziggy he killed him off. As soon as he hit the big time in the US with Young Americans and Station To Station he recorded an album so uncommercial that his record company asked him to scrap it, he then took solitude in Berlin for 3 years, shunning the excess and extravagance of America. As soon as he became popular he seemed to want to tear it all down.
Bowie laid Space Oddity's Major Tom to rest in the early 80's, with Ashes To Ashes being his epitaph. I saw it as DB returning to Earth. Space Oddity's Major Tom was Bowie. Major Tom's lift off and drift into space was a metaphor for Bowie lifting off from the obscurity of Beckenham into stardom and drug use in the 70's. Bowie lifted off into space to record a decade's worth of great albums, but almost lost his sanity on the way and came back down to Earth after Scary Monsters. Ashes To Ashes sounded like a funeral procession for Major Tom, Bowie was killing him off, thus implying that he was returning to normality after confessing to being a junkie, hitting an all time low. So his momma said to "get things done" & he'd "better not mess with Major Tom".
After exorcising himself of Major Tom with Ashes To Ashes, Bowie was ready to embrace the mainstream, to shed the guise of the outsider. He got the hottest producer he could to make his next album, to be released in '83, a hit. Bowie even took his mum's earlier advice and declared on the opening track of his new album "I know when to go out, know when to stay in, get things done". "Put on your red shoes & dance the blues " Bowie sang on his biggest hit from his new album. He might have been in the mainstream and embracing his new popularity, but there were still signs of unhappiness and anguish in his lyrics. The music was superficially upbeat, but it was in a minor chord.
Let's Dance ushered in a period of mass acceptance and Bowie was placed centre stage, something he never seemed comfortable with. His music went downhill and he just seemed to be going through the motions through much of the 80's. The loner was to return in the future and Bowie would become disillusioned with superstardom. Perhaps the whole point of Tin Machine was that it enabled Bowie to liberate himself of the burden of being perceived as a mainstream artist, shedding his fans in the millions and freeing him from his EMI contract. He even waved goodbye to his hit singles.
He returned to being an outsider in the 90's & eventually the loneliest guy in the 00's. But again, just as he began selling records, having broader appeal and becoming popular once more, he tore it down, but this time in the most dramatic fashion possible. He just stopped.
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