The Last of the Bowie Posts

Not since I read Chapter 1 of Ray Manzarek's Light My Fire, My Life With the Doors have I had such a sense of "WHOA!!! HEY!!!" upon reading a biography about a rock star. See, Chapter 1 of Manzarek's book - turns out he was born in 1939. Same year as my parents. Cool! Read a little further, he grew up in Chicago! So did my Dad! On the south side! So did my dad! He went to a Catholic school! Will wonders never cease?! My dad did, too! He went to St. Rita's. Manzarek went to a St. Rita's... Huh...that's an odd coincidence...could there be two. St. Ritas'...?? Manzarek went on to describe the Augustinian brothers who taught at St. Rita's - especially Fr. Crawford, the principal who took the boys into the boxing ring to settle behavior disputes. There couldn't be two Fr. Crawfords!! I've heard stories about him since I was but small! "Father! I didn't do it!" "I'll see you in the ring at 3:15." "Father, that's not fair!" "I'll see YOU at 3:20." Heh heh heh.

I had to wait until the next morning (I was reading this at, like, 3AM) to find out if my dad. Knew. Ray Manzarek. OMG!!! Turns out he didn't - Manzarek (actually, Manczarek) graduated a year ahead, but what a small world!! We went to see Ray and his band Riders on the Storm at a benefit for St. Rita's a coupla years ago. Despite there being two of the original Doors in the band, it still felt really like watching a really good cover band. They really sounded good, and had the Doors songs nailed (as they should by now),but nobody can replace Mr. Jim Morrison. Nobody.

"WHOA!!!! HEY!!!" #2 occurred Wednesday night around 8:30 PM, far more reasonable a time than 3AM. I was reading another Rock'n'Roll biography - David Bowie: Living on the Brink by George Tremlett. I had less than 30 pages left, and wanted to FINALLY return it to an eternally patient ButterNugget. On page 330, I believe, the author gave a nod to the song "Loving the Alien."

Cover of the Loving the Alien EP released in 1985.
"Loving the Alien," the single, can also be found on the album Tonight (1984)

Bowie often gave the nod to his earliest fans with songs recalling his Ziggy Stardust era ("Ashes to Ashes," 1980 for example, gives us an update on Major Tom whom we'd met in 1969 in Bowie's early hit, "Space Oddity"), so when I heard the song "Loving the Alien" my freshman year, I just ASSUMED it was yet another in the (very cool) spaceman series. I liked the song, it's very good, but I really didn't understand the lyrics on the radio beyond the chorus, "believing the strangest things/loving the alien." I did ironically own the album Tonight but listened mostly to the hits "Blue Jean" and "Tonight." Tremlett wrote the opening lyrics to the song in his book:

"Watching them come and go/the Templars and the Saracens/They're travelling the Holy Land..."

*insert sound of needle rrrrrrrrrrrripppppppppppppping across an album here*

How did I NOT know what this song was about?? Templars and Saracens?? Bowie wrote a song about the Crusades!!! Now granted I don't understand all the lyrics, and I don't think they're all about the crusades - they seem to be more about his own personal struggle with religion and faith, but Bowie wrote a song with the words Templars and Saracens in it! And it was a hit! Hot damn! Needless to say, I downloaded it from iTunes and listened to it all the way to work two days in a row. It really is hard to understand the lyrics, so I'm not berating myself too much, but I can't believe I didn't learn this before now!

Richard I - Couer de Lion
Statue in a very prominent place outside of Parliament, even though he spent as little time as possible in England. He hated the place. Hence the French nickname.

Salah al-Din ("Saladin"), statue in Damascus.
He will forever be remembered as one of the great, if not the greatest, Muslim leaders.
Loved his people and his country, hence the lack of a French nickname.

Bowie, not a statue, more of a promo piece with a stained-glass motif located on Google Images.
I believe hisblue-painted face is meant to recall the blue color the faces of the Saracens were colored in European paintings and tapestries created during the crusades. The stained glass represents Christianity.
I loves me some good symbolism!

Here are the lyrics. Tell me what you make of them:

Watching them come and go
The Templars and the Saracens
They're travelling the Holy Land
Opening telegrams, oh ho

Torture comes and torture goes
Knights who'd give you anything
They bear the cross of Coeur de Lion
Salvation for the mirror blind, oh ho

But if you pray all your sins are hooked upon the sky
Pray and the heathen lie will disappear
Prayers they hide the saddest view
(Believing the strangest things, loving the alien)
And your prayers they break the sky in two
(Believing the strangest things, loving the alien)

Thinking of a different time
Palestine a modern problem
Bounty and your wealth in land
Terror in a best laid plan

Watching them come and go
Tomorrows and the yesterdays, oh ho
Christians and the unbelievers
Hanging by the cross and nail, oh ho

But if you pray all your sins are hooked upon the sky
Pray and the heathen lie will disappear, oh ho
Prayers they hide the saddest view
(Believing the strangest things, loving the alien)
And your prayers they break the sky in two
(Believing the strangest things, loving the alien)
You pray till the break of dawn
(Believing the strangest things, loving the alien)
And you'll believe you're loving the alien
(Believing the strangest things, loving the alien)
Believing the strangest things (loving the alien)

And below is the video, which I don't even remember from MTV. It's, um....okay it's weird (I've never been much of a fan of his videos). But at about 3:45 he's weilding a Templar shield!


Butternugget said...

I don’t think I realized until this post how hard he was to understand in this one and that I had no idea what he was saying. Sometimes you hear a song and you have no idea what the person is saying because it is so distorted or difficult to understand and you must know so you find the lyrics somewhere. But with this one I thought I knew (or at least was in the ball park) so I never dug any deeper.

Now I feel like I should read the book again, maybe I missed even more!

The one image that had stuck in my head from this video was near the end, with his blue face and the light from inside his mouth and then blue face again lying in bed with headphones on. No idea why but those images always came to mind when I saw the album artwork or heard the song. I remembered a lot more of this video once I watched it again, thank god for Youtube.

Thanks for the Time Out by the way, the dialog between David and Ricky was hilarious and had me giggling to myself on the train. Did you see David on Ricky’s show Extras? It’s really funny, especially the song.


OrangeMoJoJo said...

Season 2 of Extras was just released. I didn't know Bowie was in an episode! I can't wait to see it. It's at the top of our Netflix queue, and there's but a "short wait," so we should have it by the time season 3 is released.

I KNEW I wouldn't have to point out the Gervais/Bowie interview to you! Clever girl! I'm glad you enjoyed it. Thanks again for loaning me that book!