Rock Commentaries Part II Chapter VII (1970-1972)

Part Two: The Seventies


Beatles                                     Across the Universe; Let it Be                    146

Van Morrison                                                                                                149

Neil Young                               After the Gold Rush, Southern Man          149

Cat Stevens                             Tea for the Tillerman                                    152

Bowie                                       The Man Who Sold the World; The Supermen     154

Elton John                              Madman Across the Water; Levon                  156

Zeppelin                                   III                                                                 158

1971                                                                                             161

Lennon Mind Games,                  #9 Dream                               161

The Who                                       Who’s Next                               162

Bobby McGee                                                                              163

Cat Stevens                   Teaser and the Firecat                         163

Jethro Tull                                     Aqualung                               165

Zeppelin                                         IV                                             177

Bowie;                                           Is There Life On Mars ?         186

Alice Cooper                    Be My Lover                                       186

T Rex                                             Electric Warrior                       187

1972                                                                                           190

Deep Purple                                    Highway Star

Elton John                                        Daniel

Mott                                                   All the Young Dudes         190

Bowie                                                 Ziggy Stardust                   191

Uriah Heep                                         Demons and Wizards          200

Supremes                                           Touch Me In The Morning    207

Stevie Wonder                                   Innervisions                   208

The Beatles, 1970: Across the Universe

 The Beatles were about to break up at their peak, and the ravages of drugs and stardom about to claim its victims of the first wave of rock, as Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin would die in the fall of the year. Yet classic rock was only getting started. Jim Morrison would follow in the summer of ’71. Two songs especially show the Beatles at this peak. Wilfred Mellers writes that John thought Across the Universe to be “one of his best songs” because “its good poetry, or whatever you call it, without chewing it. See, the ones I like are the ones that stand out as words, without melody:”

Words are flowing out

like endless rain into a paper cup,

They slither wildly as they

slip away across the universe.

Pools of sorrow, waves of joy are drifting through my open mind

Possessing and caressing me.

Jai guru da va Ohm

Nothings gonna change my world.

Nothings gonna change my world.

Nothings gonna change my world.

Nothings gonna change my world.

Images of broken light which dance before me like a million eyes

They call me on and on across the universe.

Thoughts meander like a restless wind inside a letter box

They tumble blindly as they make their way across the universe.

Jai guru da va Ohm

Nothings gonna change my world

Nothings gonna change my world

Nothings gonna change my world

Nothings gonna change my world

Sounds of laughter, shade of life are ringing through my open ears,

Inciting and inviting me.

Limitless, undying love which shines around me like a million suns,

It calls me on and on across the universe.

Jai guru da va Ohm

Nothings gonna change my world

Nothings gonna change my world

Nothings gonna change my world

Nothings gonna change my world

Jai guru da va

Jai guru da va

Jai guru da va

Jai guru da va

David Bowie also did a cover of the song, in 1975, which helps to see into what the song means. The song is about the wonders of contemplation and the mental experience of writing poetry. He imagines words flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup, which of course cannot contain the overflow from above. The words that might have been captured into a poem simply slither away– across the universe. He is in direct experience of the divine throughout the entire poem. He sees pools of sorrow and experiences waves of joy which drift through his open mind, possessing and caressing him. He sees “images of broken light” in motion before him, “like a million eyes,” so that either these images are of bits of light that can see, or perhaps they glitter like the light reflected in the eyes. These posses and caress or comfort him, as a good inspiration would. Turning from images seen to things heard, sounds of laughter and shades of life ring through his opened ears, as the pools of sorrow and waves of joy drift through his opened mind. These incite and invite him, as the latter possessed and caressed him, leading him on in inspiration across the universe. Limitless undying love, the source of the light, shines around him like a million suns, and calls him on across the universe. So like George, the journey east leads them to a Christian description of the highest things, as they arrive at the metaphysical foundation of the principle of love. Out East, there is much said about the “void,” and Buddhism does find a source of serene compassion, but I do not believe that the description of the highest or most fundamental as Love can be found in eastern texts. So too, when we read the Republic in college, the “Sun King” in the song “Here Comes the Sun King” reminded of the sun as the image of the likeness of the Good, in Book VI, where this too is called “king” of the intelligible, as the sun is “king of the visible.” But to say the Most High is love is not even Plato, but like the Christians and St. John. Plato comes closer to allowing the phrase “the good one,” as Jesus says, “One there is who is good” (Luke 18:19). When we tried to explain what we like about our music, to our teacher, a friend of Bloom, we would say that the image of the sun king is not a good one when Plato employs it, but bad when the Beatles say it. This may have been our best argument. And in truth, the philosophers are the furthest from any prejudice, loving the same wherever it appears, after Jesus, for whom whoever loves his neighbor belongs to the Father, whoever does the word, and hence we read, regardless of their “religion,” whatever the Christian religions teach. My friend’s defense before our teacher was more effective. He simply pointed to Neil Young.

Jai guru da va ohm” is apparently Hindu language, concluding in the ohm which, in meditation is said to harmonize with the cosmic sound at the ground of all things. It is said to be an offering of praise for the teacher da va, punctuated with the sound made in meditation to harmonize with the fundamental sound of the universe. And it does sound very nice in the song. Science was surprised to discover that there is apparently a background noise left over from a Big Bang. The repeated refrain is that nothing is going to change his world. It is a world of the unchanging word that is light, and where it refracts, the world is touched by the unchanging. This recognition of the unchanging word is found to be deeply comforting. When science discovers this, they might be really astonished, and begin to be able to explain why 2+2 is always four, and why any thing is what it is, since the stuff it is made of does not go very far to explain the shape it has come to be in. Why do all these molecules roll together as a ball, when Galileo is testing gravity? It is because these molecules stick to each other? And this tree, this cat, this man? It is the form that makes things what they are, and not the matter or the energy. Science just takes the beings, and figures how they work. We have barely begun to wonder what the working is for.

Let it Be

I understood how spiritual this song is when seeing it performed as a Gospel / Soul sort of tune in the Haiti relief benefit. Lennon the irreverent, near atheistic communist, turner toward the east in rejection of western spirituality, here performs what seems to me like a kind of automatic writing in composing what is like an inspired Catholic hymn, mixed in with a kind of eastern wisdom. “Let it be” means something like what Francis arrives at with his “serenity to accept the things I cannot change.”

I first saw the song performed on the acoustic guitar by a kid, Bruce Hackman, in a fifth grade talent show. It must have been the first year the song came out, about 1970 or 71, so it immediately struck people as spiritual, beautiful and profound. I thought then that the song was much older, it seemed so well known to the elders.

When I find myself in times of trouble

Mother Mary comes to me

speaking words of wisdom

Let it be

And in my hour of darkness

She is standing right in front of me

Speaking words of wisdom, let it be

Let it be…

Let it be…

Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

And when the brokenhearted people living in the world agree

There will be an answer, let it be

For though they may be parted

There is still a chance that they will see

There will be an answer, let it be

And when the night is cloudy

There is still a light that shines on me

Shine until tomorrow let it be

I wake up to the sound of music

Mother Mary comes to me

speaking words of wisdom let it be…

So, did John awake one morning to the sound of music and a visitation by Mary? Mary visits him,­ the character singing the song,­ in times of trouble and darkness, bringing the word of wisdom, which is not to worry or think that much needs to be done, but to let things be. This is the answer for the brokenhearted, together with the hope that they will see, as he is allowed to see even when the night is cloudy, due to the light that shines on him.

And where are the Christian hymns to compare with these last two songs, those written between 1960 and 1980 that are even comparable? And why should this be so?


Woman of Fate: Patti Boyd and Layla, 1970

There is a great story behind Layla, the love of Clapton for Patti Boyd, the wife of his friend George Harrison. He met her on the set of A Hard Days Night, and they were soon married. Harrison had written the song “Something” for his wife, on Abbey Road in 1969. Harrison, too could write the simple and beautiful Beatles love song. Yet he neglected her and was eventually found to be having an affair with the wife of Ringo. Clapton, when he tried to console Patty, fell in love with her. Townshend describes talking to George once while Clapton tried to talk to Patti (Who I Am, p. 168). When, at a party they all attended, George asked, and Eric told him “I’m in love with your wife,” George asked with whom she would be leaving. She stayed with George, and Clapton sunk into heroine addiction. Four years later, in 1974, Patti left George and married Clapton, in 1979. For her, Clapton wrote “Wonderful Tonight,” which makes three great songs inspired by this one woman. Her sister was Jenny Boyd, for whom Donovan wrote “Jennifer Juniper.” Jenny married Mick Fleetwood, until the time of Rumors, one of the three marriages breaking up at the time of this album, released in 1977.[1] Clapton, though, was not faithful in marriage either, and Patty divorced him when an affair resulted in the birth of his son. She wrote a book about her life and adventures. Clapton wrote Layla for her in 1970, and played it for her, though it would be four years before she would leave George to join him. Clapton and Harrison remained friends, spending Christmas together in 1974, the year Patti left. The circumstance may have been even more complicated had Harrison been faithful and in love with her, and we think it surprising that Clapton was not. But these lives are extraordinary, usually with too much wealth and fame for simple marriages. Only Neil Young would be left to write a song like “Harvest Moon.” Clapton wrote the song around 1970, at the beginning of his decline, when he had yet four years to wait:

What will you do if you get lonely

And nobody’s waitin by your side

You’ve been running and hiding much too long

You know its just your foolish pride

Layla, you’ve got me on my knees

Layla, I’m begging darling please

I tried to give you consolation

Your old man had let you down

Like a fool, I fell in love with you

You turned my whole world upside down

Please don’t say we’ll never find a way

And tell me all my love’s in vain

The affair began when she was upset, probably at infidelity, and Clapton tried to console her. Probably seeing the beauty of her pain, he fell in love with her, and by the time George asked them, they were spending time together. The complexity of love and marriage are astonishing, but one unfaithful leaves the other alone, and confusion enters into this emptiness.


Van Morrison 1970 Moondance


…turn up your radio and let me hear the song

Switch on your electric light

Then we can get down to what is really wrong

I long to hold you tight so I can feel you

Sweet Lady of the night I shall reveal you

Lovers with music in the night turn on the light to talk. What the man, if he is noble, does in his love of the princess is reveal her, in her darkness and then in her beauty.

(1970 Caledonia Soul Music / WB Music Corp ASCAP)


Into the Mystic

We were born before the wind

Also younger than the sun

Ere the bonnie boat was won as we sailed into the Mystic

Hark, now hear the sailors cry

Smell the sea and feel the sky

Let your soul and spirit fly into the mystic

And when that fog horn blows I will be comin’ home

And when that fog horn blows I wanna hear it

I don’t have to fear it

I want to rock your gypsy soul

Just like way back in the days of old

Then magnificently we will float into the mystic…

(1970 Caledonia Soul Music / WB Music Corp ASCAP)


Neil Young, 1970: After The Gold Rush


The astonishing thing about this song, and the gem of its transcendent beauty, is of course the image of the rapture in the modern imagination of evacuation by an extraterrestrial spaceship. The song is conceived in the mood of apocalyptic environmentalism, a universal fear for the earth and all humanity. But let us return to the end after looking at the song from the beginning.

Well I dreamed I saw the Knights in Armor come in

Sayin’ something about a queen

There were peasants singin’ and drummers drummin’ and the archer split the tree

There was a fanfare blowin’ to the sun

There was floating on the breeze.

Look at Mother Nature on the run in the nineteen seventies.

I was lyin’ in a burned out basement

With the full moon in my eyes

I was hopin’ for a replacement

When the sun burst through the skies

There was a song playin’ in my head,

And I felt like getting high

I was thinking about what a friend had said

I was hopin’ it was a lie.

Look at mother nature on the run in the nineteen seventies

Well I dreamed I saw a silver spaceship flying in the yellow haze of the sun

There were children cryin’ and colors flyin’ all around the chosen ones

All in a dream, all in a dream

The loading had begun

Flying mother nature’s silver seed to a new home in the sun.

The poem recounts a personal experience that begins with a dream. The dream is like a renaissance festival atmosphere, which was always a poetic element available to the flower movement. The words are beautifully vague, just like one recounting a dream upon waking: “I dreamed I saw the knights in armor come in sayin’ something about a queen.” The peasants, drummers and archers are going about their festive business, and describes a trumpet salute to the sun and “floating on the breeze,” an interesting image for a dream that will become important when the second verse comes round to the same place. Out of nowhere, the refrain line enters “Look at mother nature on the run in the nineteen seventies.”

In the second verse, it is as if he awakens in a burned out basement under a full moon, and then suddenly it is dawn. Is he at an all night music festival? He is hoping for a replacement, perhaps for his role in the band, as though they were to play at dawn. But then the sun rises, and he is up again. He felt like getting high, the line paired with floating on the breeze. Then the line “I was thinking about what a friend had said, I was hopin’ it was a lie” is paired with the out of nowhere line about mother nature on the run, and the conclusion is the suggestion that the statement of his friend has to do not with something personal, but with the fate of the world and mankind.

The third verse is of the image of the rapture.[2] Like the first verse, it describes an image seen in a dream. The silver spaceship is flying in the yellow haze of the sun. Recalling the atmosphere of a medieval festival of the first verse, there are here children cryin’ and colors flyin’ all around the chosen ones, and we see what was foreshadowed by the fanfare to the sun. Though it was, he reminds us all in a dream, the loading had begun. The purpose is that the spaceship will fly the seed of mankind to “a new home in the sun.” The spaceships are a literalization of the expectation of the rapture, with the same meaning as “When the one that left us here returns for us at last.” There was a cult that committed suicide whose myth included the idea that a UFO trailing a certain comet was on its way to pick them up. Yet these could of course not literally fly into the sun, and so the image reveals itself as an image by being impossible in the literal sense. Jung devoted an essay to the modern imagination of UFO’s as a modern myth, which will be considered below, as the image, already familiar from Hendrix and Bowie, re emerges and develops throughout the seventies.

Southern Man

In “Southern Man,” Niel Young answers what began with his CSNY song “Alabama” and turned into a dialogue of quips with Leonard Skynard, one of the preeminent bands of Southern rock. Now, Neil is so far a Northern man that he is not even in the union, but is from Canada. Canada is the garden where we send the few who cannot seem to find a life of Liberty and justice for all within the confines of the fifty states. Northerners do not see the justification for the slavery and apartheid that was somehow not expendable to the course character of those loyal to the Confederate South. In “Alabama,” Neil reflects on the KKK and speaks cryptically of how Alabama is like a car stuck in the mud, and how “the Devil fools with the best laid plans.” Birmingham may have been the worst city, attacking the Freedom Riders and imprisoning King for his Letter From a Birmingham Jail. “How long?” is the perennial cry of the oppressed. Martin Luther King addresses this “How Long?” in Kings Letter From a Birmingham Jail, when he answers those of his critics who say his movement is impatient. Skynard, offended, stood up to attempt to defend the South, just by a string of sentimental images of kin and countryside, enjoyed in a liberty of which many others are deprived. One wonders if Kid Rock had this in mind when he sings of how they sang “Sweet Home Alabama” in their fine Michigan summers. We were singin’ Neil Young instead. Skynard, the band, says they hope Neil Young will remember / A Southern man don’t need him around, anyhow.” Neil then wrote Southern Man:

Southern man

Better keep your head

Don’t forget what your good book says

Southern change gonna come at last

Now your crosses are burnin’ fast

I saw cotton and

I saw blacks

Tall white mansions and

Little shacks

Southern man when will you

Pay them back?

I heard screaming and

Bull whips cracking and

How long! How long!


Lilly Bell your hair is golden brown

I see your black man coming round

Swear by God I’m gonna

Cut him down

I heard screamin’ and

Bull whips crackin’ and

How long How long!


Continuing the line of folk from Dylan, who “saw a white man that walked a black dog,” the rock musicians generally support the Northern argument in the civil rights struggle. This is one of those political questions that are eventually, through persistent effort, decided in favor of one side over the other.

Cat Stevens

Cat Stevens of course converted to Islam in the late Seventies, changing his name to Yusef Islam. His Birth name is Steven Georgiou. Born in London to Greek and Swedish parents, he was raised Greek Orthodox, but schooled Catholic. He established the first government supported Islamic school in Britain. In his biography, he is cited as saying “When I entered Islam a quarter century ago, I found that there were no educational resources young Muslims could relate to, particularly in the West. Nor are there many presentable books about Islam for non Muslims.” He founded Mountain of Light, an educational record label and book publisher, centered in Dubai, UAE. The goal of Mountain of Light is to foster academically sound Islamic schools and educational resources, and Yusef Islam has himself produced a best selling word album Life of the Prophet. One notes that within Islam, there has been a surprising lack of scholarship to meet the heretical extension of the idea of holy war and martyrdom to become indistinguishable from racial and religious murder. We have seen and dealt with religious tyranny in the West before. Education would be the thing most needed. Mohammed taught the Arabs and Persians to believe in one God, as the teaching of Abraham had apparently been lost to them. And in the Acts of the Apostles, Paul is strangely prevented from going into Arabia (Acts 16:6). The word Islam means Peace.

Before his conversion, he was the idol of all the girls the seventies hippies like us loved, and his lyrics are some of the wisest, holiest and most honest of all.


Cat Stevens, 1970: Tea For the Tillerman

Cat Stevens is a combination of the folk and pop strains that emerges as something new, a rare perfection of song. Like Lennon and McCartney, or Simon and Garfunkel, he goes through a period, as the Beatles did, in which like Midas every song he touches turns to gold, and everything he does is somehow very good. He had a few hits in Britain in 67-68, though these are hardly known in the U. S. He renounced the vanity of the life of a star, yet we all wonder how he could ever have renounced, along with the vanity of the rock star life, the things he shows us through his music, as he brings “light to the world.” The first written by him to be considered is “Into White,” off Tea for the Tiller Man.

I built my house from barley rice

Green pepper walls and water ice

Tables of paper, wood, windows of light

And everything emptying into white.

A simple garden with acres of sky

Brown eared dogmouse if one stopped by

Yellow delaine would sleep well at night

With everything emptying into white.

A sad blue eyed drummer rehearses outside, a

Black spider dancing on top of his eye.

Red legged chicken stands ready to strike,

And everything empty’ in into white.

I built my house from barley rice

Green pepper walls and water ice

Tables of paper, wood, windows of light

And everything emptying into white.

One is fortunate to be able to say that the song reminds him of a place they once lived. While writing a dissertation in the nineties, I lived in a shed in Michigan even through the winters, so tables of paper wood, windows of light, takes me there. The frost would grow in the single pane windows over night, and the sun stream trough in the morning, so that it would seem to be built in part of water ice. The specification of water ice allows other possibilities, and this may subliminally evoke a fundamental level of a seeing of earth as a planet in comparison into other planets. I’d step out into a world of diamonds to let the dog do her morning duties and greet the friend’s boarded horse that was my neighbor. The brown eared dog mouse is like our field mice that would visit. Delaine is wool or cotton, so a cloth or light blanket. I’d often take a salad from the garden in the garden after a day of labors. The playful simplicity of the description of the dwelling as built out of vegetables is an indescribable stroke of poetic genius. The key to the song, though, is the connection between tables of paper and the widows of light. Light flooding the intellect is a very old image of the contemplative pleasures of such a life, available only where such simplicity of dwelling appears in its true beauty.

This whole album is a gem, with every song very good. It opens with “Where do the Children Play,” wondering where there will be room for kids to play after all the progress of technology and industry. It is about the industrialized world, and whether there is any longer any place for what its all about anyway, that is, the human life of the future generations. “I know we’ve come a long way, were changing day to day:” the song questions the assumption that planes, cars, gas stations and skyscrapers are progress. “King of Trees” later is written from a similar view of the modern world, as we pave paradise.

A Hard Headed Woman, she can answer when asked why she has come here. The song exalts the quality of practical wisdom or prudence in a woman, against the background of the unspoken qualities usually sought in a woman. Her effect is to help him do his best. And so she is the key, for the poet to a life that is blessed.

Wild World” is again a generosity-in-being-left-by-a love song. A farewell to a lover who is leaving, he cares about what is going to happen to her in the world when she leaves him-a transcendence of the selfishness of love. His mood is almost like one sending a child into the world. “I’ll always remember you like a child” is sweet, and we sense that the warning to this one in particular of the bad in the world is fitting. She may be a beautiful girl, prone to getting by on just a smile.

“Miles from Nowhere” is the journey he went on from the love that left him in “Wild World.” The line that his body has been a good friend, but he won’t need it when he reaches the end is a very nice statement of faith in the immortality of the soul together with a friendship with the body, born of the sort of honesty as we will see in C 79 and elsewhere. The mountain is the one he has to climb to reach there, the proverbial mountain of the quest. He is the hiker adventurer idol of the earthy seventies, and we can hardly see how he escaped a life in Colorado.

“But I Might Die Tonight” puts into perspective the pressure on the young toward a career. It is always true, that each day might be our last. It is about same experience as Father and son, at the root of his choice of a music career. The Song Music on Buddha tells us that he was satisfied with the choice. The thought on death is said to be the beginning of genuine philosophy.

“Longer Boats” is mysterious and profound. The Longer boats are religious missionaries seen as invading. They’re coming to “win us,” that is, to persuade or convert us. The advice is to hold on to the shore, as in an invasion when the host tries not to allow the invader to land. If they lose the shore, those in the longer boats will be “taking the key from the door” so that we cannot open the door, to spiritual insight. In service to the enterprise of holding the shore, he tells a quasi blasphemous little story. Mary had an affair with a parson. But who knows where the parson, in taking Mary by the hand, goes? After she has dropped her pants, who knows where the parson goes? Love has its own mysteries, and recognizing the subjection of the religious figures to the body prevents the longer boats, again a certain kind of religious missionary, from winning us, or holds the shore. The album appears then to lean away from religion toward philosophy, the life of wondering and wandering and in search of knowledge.

“On the Road to Find Out” seems like the same journey as Miles from nowhere, except here he is returning to a love. The road to find out is the road of how much there is left to know and how little time remains to us to search it out, as Keats feared he would die before…It is the seeker, equal to Townshend, as the freedom of the sixties opens for some into something near to the philosophic quest. This seeker has something of a finding, some honey got from groping through the woods:

Then I found my head one day

When I wasn’t even tryin

And here I have to say

‘Cause there is no use in lying

Yes the answer lies within

So why not take a look now

Kick out the Devil’s sin

Pick up a good book now.

He almost said “the” good book, but he still speaks for everyone, and there are many paths through good books. But learning dispels sin.

   Everyone has themselves held this discussion of “Father and Son,” some from both sides, though here the decision seems like that to strike out on the music production and touring business, or to go to America. Tea for the Tillerman is English rustic or pastoral poetry. It is a credit for contributions to the poetry of the album. The scene is a country feast of gratitude. Tea, steak and wine are to be brought for three who have contributed to the harvest. The tillerman is the one who prepared the soil, the sun of course gets steak, and wine is for the woman who made the rain come, evident in the upper left hand corner of the picture on the album cover. This would be the love that sent him away in Wild World and led to the sorrows and the rain that contributed to the album. The freedom is of the children newborn, whose play is the truer happiness that those enchained to sin cannot know, the bubbling joy of the fountain of the Spirit.


Sad Lisa

She hangs her head and cries in my shirt

She must be hurt very badly

Tell me what’s making you sadly.

Open your door, don’t hide in the dark

Your lost in the dark, You can trust me

‘Cause you know that’s how it must be.

Lisa, Lisa, sad Lisa Lisa.

Her eyes like windows trickling rain

Upon her pain, getting deeper

Though my love wants to relieve her

She walks alone from wall to wall,

Lost in a hall, she can’t hear me

Though I know she likes to be near me.

Lisa, Lisa, sad Lisa Lisa.

She sits in a corner by the door

There must be more I can tell

If she really wants me to help her

I’ll do what I can to show her the way

And maybe one day I will free her

‘though I know no one can see her

Lisa, Lisa, sad Lisa Lisa.

One is tempted to leave this beautiful song without comment, except to note that this is a theme or genre, similar to the Crows song “Around Here.” The compassion of man for a woman in spiritual or psychological distress, and the portrayal of her isolation, mingled with the love of a man for a woman, is the beauty,­ though she could be a sister, friend or love.

Bowie 1970 The Man Who Sold the World

This is Bowie’s first rock album, after Space Oddity and his early folk songs. He had been “sinking in the quicksand” of his “thought,” fleeing “bullshit faith,” and coming near to some very dark influences, in “The Width of a Circle.” These would emerge again in 1974 on Diamond Dogs, as in “We Are The dead,” a saying from Orwell’s 1984. We are surprised that he survived to write Station to Station. But these are two classics off the album, covered in hits by more recent artists:


The Man Who Sold the World

We passed upon the stair

He spoke of was and when

Although I wasn’t there

He said I was his friend

Which came as some surprise

I spoke into his eyes: I thought you died alone

A long, long time ago.

Oh no, not Me

I never lost control

Your face to face

With the man who sold the world

I left and shook his hand

And made my way back home

I searched for form and land

For years and years I roamed

I gazed a gazely stare

At all the millions here

We must have died alone

A long, long time ago.

Who knows, not me

We never lost control

Your face to face

With the man who sold the world


Lulu, who did a version of this song, said she did not understand it, and Pragg reports: “Like most of his work of the period, Bowie has kept counsel about this song.” Pragg compares the crisis of identity in the song to some lines from the Hughes Mearns poem Psychoed: 

As I was going up the stair

I met a man who was not there

He wasn’t there again today

I wish, I wish he’d stay away .

It is, as he said in the Changes-Now Bowie documentary, “a part of myself that I was looking for” and “a piece of yourself that you really haven’t put together yet.” To say this is the man who sold the world means that it is the part of himself that deceived or persuaded the world, perhaps himself as David Jones, who sold the world as David Bowie. “I left and shook his hand,” rather than the reverse, I shook his hand and left) underlines that it is himself.

The part of himself, though is said to have died alone a long long time ago, which would mean that it is something like himself as a young person who is now gone. The man who sold the world may mean the man who deceived the world.

But there is something more to the song. The one we might have thought died alone a long long time ago is Jesus, deserted by almost all the Apostles at the Crucifixion, and the line seems intended to ring with this allusion. To say that He is the man who sold the world means that it was a deception. But then, here he is meeting the man, who, alive, tells him he never lost control. The picture would be mysterious and Docetic, like those who believed that Jesus was not really there being crucified, but only appeared to suffer.

The Supermen

When all the world was very young

Mountain magic, heavy hung

The supermen would walk in file

Guardians of a loveless isle

Who gloomy-browed with super fear

Their tragic, endless lives did heave no sigh

Of Solemn, perverse serenity

Wondrous beings chained to life.

When all were mind in uni-thought

Powers weird by mystics taught

No pain no joy no power too great

Colossal strength to grasp at fate

Where sad eyed mermen tossed in slumbers

Nightmare dreams no mortal mind could hold

Man would tear his brother’s flesh

A chance to die, to turn to mold

Far out in the red sky

Far out in the sad eyes

Strange, mad celebration

So softly a supergod dies.

There is nothing quite like this song, a near Homeric myth of the early age of the world, when not the golden race of men, but the supermen would walk a world without love. Superman was an idea introduced by Nietzsche, though he refers to a rare kind of man imagined to belong to the future, rather than of the past. In this condition, all minds thought as one, and they were not mortal. They entertained the greatest pains, joys and powers, and had terrible dreams no mortal mind would be able to contain. They were so tormented that they would cut their brothers for a chance to be mortal. One is reminded again of Odysseus, who turned down the offer of immortality at the edge of the world to return to his wife, home and mortal condition. It is not death we fear, but misery and bad dreams.

Elton John and Bernie Taupin, 1970-71:

The songs of Elton John make a great deal more sense when we remember that they are written by Bernie Taupin, or that Elton John is only the piano player and front man for a reclusive poet. Tiny Dancer, for example, or Your Song are high heterosexual love poetry, and it always confused us that they should be sung, and sung so beautifully, by a homosexual, since they do not really make as much sense as songs of homosexual love. Their combination of lyrics and melody brought piano into rock, as before there had been electric sounding organ. Piano is a peculiar combination of percussion and strings, yielding measured tones that contain their own rhythm. Organ had been used well throughout the sixties, as by of the Doors, but not piano. When “Take Me To The Pilot” was played at the Troubadour in L. A., something truly new was taking place, and this piano rock would become a strain to dominate the next decade.

Madman Across the Water

Here again we see the image of this shore-water-other shore, only here it is madness that is symbolized by a boat broken on a reef out at sea, or it is himself that the poet sees, and he can see the meaning of this image very well. The song is about the pain of the stigma of madness or apparent madness from those in our world, the isolation and the difficulty of finding love in a way that works with the world, or with the “in-laws.” That the poet can see it very well means that his heart breaks in self-pity at his circumstance, and in madness, this self-pity may not be excessive or derogatory, since it is in truth a grave misfortune to be so isolated, and the madman is not oblivious to his misfortune, but has the same emotions regarding it that any sane person would have.

I can see very well

There’s a boat on a reef with a broken back

and I can see it very well

There’s a joke and I know it very well

Its one of those that I told you long ago

Take my word, I’m a madman don’t you know

Once a fool had a good part in the play

If its so, would I still be here today?

Its so peculiar in a funny sort of way

They think it’s very funny everything I say

Get a load of him, he’s so insane

You’d better get your coat dear, it looks like rain

We’ll come again next Thursday afternoon

The in-laws hope they’ll see you very soon.

But is it in your conscience that you’re after

Another glimpse of the madman across the water.

I can see very well

There’s a boat on a reef with a broken back

and I can see it very well.

There’s a joke and I know it very well

Its one of those that I told you long ago

Take my word, I’m a madman, don’t you know?

The grounds a long way down but I need more

Is the nightmare black, or are the windows painted?

Will you come again next week, can my mind really take it?

Well come again next Thursday afternoon

The in-laws hope to see you very soon.

But is it in your conscience that you’re after

Another glimpse of the madman across the water.

(1970 Dick James Music, LTD.)

Bernie Taupin is the unrecognized genius behind Elton John. The knowing of the madman is like understanding the punch line to a joke that no one else gets. He can see the boat on the reef, and knows the joke, very well. He can see through the images to their meaning regarding the soul, and so is in this respect like one awake compared to those dreaming. The madman is like the court jester or fool in that his low social status allows him to speak the truth, even to the king. His low social status may be the result of seeing the truth, or seeing certain truths. This fool once had a good part in the play, or had a place in the world that would allow him to participate and bring enough of a dowry to persuade the in-laws to give their daughter to him, rather than another. The in-laws come to examine him. One is reminded of Someone Saved My Life Tonight, a song where the potential in-laws try to pull the writer into a life of finance, giving up on his music. He needs more than the ground, and that’s a long way down. “Is the nightmare black, or are the windows painted?” that is, is the world he is seeing really that dark, or is it the darkness of his own perception, his dusk colored glasses, that makes the world look so dark? He ends wondering if his mind can take another Thursday afternoon interview with the in-laws.

This sort of madness is the result of seeing more than we can entirely “integrate,” and is the sort akin to Genius. These potential in-laws would soon be refuted with the stunning success of this very poetry, even according to their measure, of money. But this is a lucky circumstance. What of those for whom no such validation is to occur? Soon, in his song “Rocket Man” (1971) he would compare his activity as a poet and thinker to one who, unknown to others back home, is an astronaut.


Levon wears his war wound like a crown

He calls his child jesus ‘cause he likes the name

And he sends him to the finest school in town.

Levon, Levon likes his money

He makes a lot they say

Spends his days counting

In a garage by the motorway

He was born a pauper

to a pawn on a Christmas day

When the New York Times said God is dead

and the war’s begun

Alvin Tostig has a son today

And he shall be Levon

And he shall be a good man

And he shall be Levon

In tradition with the family plan

And he shall be Levon

And he shall be a good man

He shall be Levon

Levon sells cartoon balloons in town.

His family business thrives

Jesus blows up balloons all day

Sits on the porch swing watchin’ them fly.

And Jesus, he wants to go to Venus

Leave Levon far behind.

Take a balloon and go sailing

While Levon, Levon slowly dies.

And he shall be Levon

And he shall be a good man

He shall be Levon.

Jesus Levon is a Jew born at the outbreak of World War II, to Alvin Tostig Levon, a veteran proud of his service, probably for Britain in World War I. The Christmas day on which he was born seems to be 1939, when Hitler invaded Poland and Britain entered the war. That “God is dead” is of course a saying popularized by Nietzsche in describing Nineteenth Century faithlessness.[3] It was a heading on the New York Times when the war began. The word Levon seems to be related to Levite, the name of the one of the twelve tribes of Israel, the descendants of Levi that would contribute the Levitical priests. The song seems to be about common human things in the life of a young Jewish father and his boy born at this time, looking toward a future shaped by the events that would decide what kind of a world he would live in, and whether the generations would continue at all. The poem is a snapshot of the generations of these Jews living in liberty in Britain. Its wonder is how much it says by simply showing a snapshot. The year must be about 1954-1957, as Jesus Levon has now grown up. He is free to name his child Jesus just because he likes the name, but underneath, there is the question of whether the Child might be the messiah, a sort of paternal Jewish version of the Irish mother’s complex. But the point made by the context is that by defeating the Nazis and preserving the Jews in World War II, the Britons might have preserved the possibility of the messiah. Who knows? Actually, it is most likely that the best reading of the scriptures is that the New Testament teaches that the messiah, having already been born, is now living, and will not be born in the time of the second coming. The Jews, who do not think Jesus is the messiah, still await his birth, though he is to be the descendant of David, and so not a Levite. Yet it may still be true that by defeating the Nazis and preserving the Jews, the Britons have preserved the possibility of the messiah in the world. Who knows?

Tostig is a small time entrepreneur in the cartoon balloon industry, and works out of his own garage of his home by the freeway, though they say he makes a lot of money. Jesus plays about the family business, occasionally letting helium balloons go from the porch swing. His soaring aspiration, though, is to go to Venus, or seek and find love, the impulse of the young toward their future generation. Who knows? He may become a Jewish British Hippie. The dream implies that he will leave his father, as he fades into the twilight of life, declining toward death.


1970 Zeppelin III

The third album is a change of pace in two new ways, and the difficulty is seeing how these elements cohere. One is the acoustic California CSNY sound that dominates the album, and the other is the sudden explosion of the warrior spirit in the Immigrant song. It is as though the two elements of light and heavy, to be joined in Zeppelin IV, are here explored and perfected first in isolation.

The Immigrants Song, one of the most high energy of all rock songs, opens the album. It is an expression of the warrior spirit lost in both Christian and modern times, a part of their inquiry into what it means to be a man. Repressed masculinity and a strength of mind is very much what Led Zeppelin is about, and their fans, as distinct from their groupies, are overwhelmingly male, the younger siblings of the hippies so admired by both. There is no better example of the turn of rock from the late sixties into the early seventies. It is strangely German and Pagan, identifying with the Norse invaders. Its composition coincided with the descent of the band onto England and English music, from a Scandinavian tour, and their transformation from the New Yardbirds into Led Zeppelin. It is the song of an invasion of Norse warriors onto ancient England or Scotland, as seems to have been common from about 900-1100. My ancestors there in the Isles would marry Norse princesses in various deals about that time. (The invasion of the Angles, Hengst and Horsa, invited in by Vortigern in 449 is less a conquest than a scam, at least at first.) It is encouraging that peace and trust can win the day despite all they are losing. The call to Valhalla expresses the warrior’s conquest of the fear of death. Symbolically, the descent from the north is a descent from the land of the intellect, and can be either messianic or diabolical. (Isaiah; 14:13; 31; Jeremiah 4:6, etc.). Rock music, while it has more of a violent tone than the softer music, was until this song, never used as martial music, but was always romantic or spiritual, more akin to religious than military spirits.

Zeppelin I featured the picture of the 1936 explosion of the Zeppelin Von Hindenburg, and the cover of Zeppelin II may suggest a flirtation with German things, but this remains only a barely conscious flirtation. Davis, in his Hammer of the Gods (p. 91), points out the irony of a Zeppelin concert at a place in London called the Lyceum Theater fifty-four years to the day after it had been hit by a bomb dropped in a world war one raid. The Zeppelin bombings were considered an atrocity by the English, and one wonders why the explosion of the band onto British Rock is compared, here and again in the Immigrant song, to the invasion of England by the warriors from the North. Plant seems to be thinking of the Viking invasions of the tenth century, which began with the destruction of the monastery at Lindesfarne. On the next album, there is the influence of some reading about “the Scottish border wars,”[4] likely to be wars with the English, as shown in the movie Braveheart. One wonders whether, at this fringe of consciousness, we begin to see tyranny arise through, or from, rock music.


   Friends seems to be a song about racial segregation and friendship, from the perspective of a child who has not yet lost the sense of the importance of friendship, in contrast with the parents who forbid the children to play together. Just one generation ago, it was common for example for Catholic families children to be forbid from playing with children of Protestant families. It is the hippie Plant over the human tendency from which fascism begins.


Celebration Day contrasts a sarcastic view of a woman, whether the roadie of Livin, Lovin Maid ‘ a lost woman or the lost woman, with the exaltation of joining the band and heading out on the road. Her face is cracked from hiding what it is that soon everyone will know, as her infidelity has become a public matter in their circle. There are obscure references to home security systems, heroine, and what is like a heroine bust, if that is who is breaking down the door. What the addressee will see in the distance, when they ring their hands and moan, is the promised land. They have chosen to walk rather than to come along on the train together with the band, and this makes it seem like she is the lost woman. Will they ring their hands and moan because they could have been there sooner? The train is a theme throughout Zeppelin. It is the train of music and the flower people that he hopes will lead to new age of love and happiness. On the live album, Celebration Day holds a place in the introductory section, indicating that, like “The Song Remains the Same,” it is a capsule of their enterprise. It is also a clue to the meaning of Stairway.

Since I’v Been Lovin You is the culmination of the Zeppelin Blues on the first two albums. Here he works sixteen hour days, only to go home to the blues. He’s been the “best of fools,” the romantic fool being made prey by the trust required by love. In this song, the bluesman himself has one of those backdoor men, meaning one who creeps out the backdoor while another comes home through the front. It is one of the new fangled sort, the most direct swipe at the sexual revolution, and maybe Jim Morrison in particular. So, since he’s been loving her, he’s about to lose his worried mind, as in “Dazed” and “Communication Breakdown.” These blues will reappear one last time, in “When the Levee Breaks,” and then vanish.


Gallows Pole


Whatever relation there is to the hangman of the Tarot, “Gallows pole” has an interesting story behind it that is traced from a deep folk and blues root. The circumstance is that of a young man in prison, or at the gallows, who implores his sister to sleep with the Judge, but the judge then hangs the man anyway. It is the theme of Judy Collins’ “Anathea,” written by Lydia Wood, (Fall River ASCAP) as well as Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure. In the Zeppelin version, the imprisoned man first asks his brother and then his friend to bring gold and silver. His brother is too poor, and his friend then brings everything, which apparently is not enough. And so he asks his sister to “take him by the hand,” and save him from the wrath of this mad man. The Judge then reports on how fine the sister is, and that now he laughs “oh so hard” to see him swinging from the gallows pole. Shakespeare handles the theme best, where Claudio faces death for violating the law against premarital sex, so that the hypocrisy of the judge is the pivot of the play. Claudio asks his sister, the nun Isabella, to go through with it, sleeping with the Judge in exchange for his life. The intention of the Judge is thwarted and made manifest by his wise duke, Vincentio, who brings comedy from circumstances set for tragedy, resulting in a quadruple wedding. The theme of erotic violation of the law is archetypal, which means here that it effects the lovers even if they are not themselves literally in such circumstances. Simon says “I’v committed a crime, I’v broken the law,” imagining that he robbed a liquor store, or identifying with one who did, while she lay there sleeping and dreaming of him, in “Somewhere They Can’t Find Me.” Another great example is “Bohemian Rhapsody.”


Page does not write lyrics, with the exception of “Tangerine,” which we add to our growing collection of the songs written from the one great love of each of the great songwriters. This is his “Ten Years Gone.” “I was her love, she was my queen / And now a thousand years between.” Our guess is that it is the same love as that which inspired all the Zeppelin blues. This would be strange considering how she tortured him, and the things he said about her.

Though the band was disappointed that the album was not as well received as the first two, it is probably superior as a work of art, and a transition to IV, a candidate for the best album of all.


  Shaved Fish #9 Dream

John Lennon achieved some greatness apart from the Beatles. Together with “Mind Games” on Shaved Fish, the dream is a celebration of the mystery rite of love:

So long ago

Was it in a dream?

Was it just a dream?

I know oh yes I know

Seemed so very real

Seemed so real to me

Took a walk down the street

Through the heat whispered trees

I thought I could hear,

Hear, hear.

Somebody called out my name

As it started to rain

Two spirits dancing so strangely

[Ah! bawa kawa, posse posson]

Dream, dream away

Magic in the air. Was Magic in the air?

I believe, yes I believe

What more can I say

On a river of sound

Through the mirrors go round and round

I thought I could feel, feel, feel, feel

Music touching my soul

Something warm sudden cold

The spirit dance was unfolding

The poem describes a very mysterious and beautiful experience involving love and rain. The song is said to have come to Lennon in a dream. At first he says he knows, at least that it seemed so very real, but then he admits, that he believes, and what more can he say?

He was walking down the street in the heat, when he heard someone call out his name, and then they met as it started to rain, and their dance was like the spirits dance, as love brings the two to participate in what is like the dance of spirits, within the harmony of things lost from the beginning, in a conjunction of conscious and unconscious mind that is like walking in a waking dream. The harmony can apparently be entered briefly by two in love, and it is this brief contact that makes them both wish that the dance were permanent, and seek to recover the lost harmony in the end. But it is here that for a moment the divided human being can be as if whole, when the two participate in or incarnate the life of the soul which, if it were in one, would be the perfected soul. They are out of their minds, and at the same time more in them than they are likely to be again. Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet dance like the two hands of a praying saint, and it is on this higher perfection that love depends for its magic. The two together and the singular soul are both in turn images of the Most High, or show what it means that the soul is an image of God, since here the overflow of the image allows indirect vision, by reflection. In love, the intelligible enters the visible, and so, some very strange things happen, as is commonly reported.

Who’s Next (1971) is very nearly a “perfect” album, on which every single song is worthily a hit. The song called Baba O’Reily is the title of the song that describes what is occurring in the culture as a teenage wasteland. One wonders if the band is not a bit embarrassed when the crowd thinks that the song is applauding and encouraging their all getting wasted, somewhat as Bowie would feel if he played “Panic in Detroit” in Detroit, and it was mistaken as an invitation to riot. The song laments the wasting of a generation, even in things like going to rock concerts and cheering ourselves for over indulgence. The anti drug message of the Who and of Tommy are serious.

Out here in the fields

I fight for my meals

I get my back into my livin

I don’t need to fight

To prove I’m right

I don’t need to be forgiven

Don’t cry

Don’t raise your eye

Its only teenage wasteland

Sally take my hand

And travel south cross land

Put out the fire, And don’t look past my shoulder

The Exodos is here

The happy ones are near

Lets get together, before we get much older

Teenage Wasteland

It’s only teenage wasteland

Their all wasted!

When the crowd cheers at the last line, they become a part of the artwork, as is also done by Waters of Pink Floyd on occasion. He is out in the fields, a spiritual soldier struggling for sustenance by the effort of his mind. He need neither fight nor be forgiven. By this, he seems to mean that his intellectual liberty is not a sin, if some would hold it to be. He does not seem to mean that there is no sin, nor does he make the tragic statement that he has no sin, as would precede a fall. E. E. Cummings wrote a poem called The Wasteland. Part of the name of this song comes from a combination of the name of Townshend’s guru, Maher Baba. It may well be derived from his teaching, as he surveys the Western youth. Amid the crisis of the teenage wasteland, he attempts to show the kids “This way,” to the exodus, to lead them out of the wasteland.

Behind this song is the science fiction of Townshend’s Lifehouse project. According to Wikipedia, A Scottish farmer is to take his wife Sally to London, attempting to exit a world that has become controlled, where people are born through test tubes and fed entertainment intravenously. In this world, the heroes are savages who had kept Rock and Roll as a primitive force, and had gone to live in the woods with their music. The Lifehouse project is based on the idea that each person has a unique music that can be derived by feeding their information into a synthesizer, which then will produce a sound, and when all the sounds are joined, there would be the perfect note (And hence “There once was a note, pure and easy…” The title combines the name of the Sufi Maher Baba with Terry O’ riley, a synthesizer composer, because the Lifehouse aimed to combine these two ideas. In the story, as on Wikipedia, a guru comes who remembers Rock and Roll, and

speaks of a kind of Nirvana people reached through listening to this type of music. The old man tries to set it up so that the effect can be experienced eternally. Everybody would be snapped out of their programmed environment through this Rock and Roll induced liberated selflessness. The Lifehouse was where the music was played, and where young people would collect to discover Rock music as a powerful catalyst- a religion as it were.”

The idea is a bit like Wikipedia applied to music. The attempt to actually produce the Lifehouse is said to have led to a “nervous breakdown.” But the project was interesting for the attempt to combine spiritual things and computer things through music, as well the political commentary on our world, which begins to look a little sci-fi in fact! Our music does come from the people, but not be mathematical addition, and not by conglomerating each of the many, and not by feeding bits of information to a machine. Music and the soul are related, too, but these techies will never have the patience for the devoted study of the soul required for one of the terms in the spirititual study of music. The physicists and techies would want to go straight to making, in the usual human ignorance about the soul, and so would do better to translate soul into sound by leading the lives of musicians, welching off inspiration.

The song “Bargain” rises to a height above the others on that side of the album, because of its statement of love beyond all. He would give all he had and call it the best bargain. Yet the passion expressed in the song “Behind Blue Eyes” is, maybe, like Stings‘s song about the ring, not entirely a good passion, and even out of character for the wisdom–guided Who. His love is vengeance that’s never free? Is the critical self reflection sufficient to counter or transcend the “I blame you?” “Getting in Tune” identifies music with the harmony of a happiness, getting in tune, and with love, that is tune right in on you,” like Joni Mitchell’s radio. And “Going Mobile” is a good song of the liberty of the open road.

Kris Kristofferson / Janis Joplin 1971


“Bobby McGee” sets the scene for the perennial Joplin songs, with a great nostalgia for a lost and irretrievable love. The song was written by Kris Kristofferson about Janis, released in 1971 and then recorded by her in its most memorable and popular form, though the Kristofferson version is a necessary appendix. Kristofferson broke into songwriting when he landed a helicopter on the lawn of Johnny Cash, got out, and handed him “Sunday Morning Coming Down.” His “For the Good Times” is among the best of all lyrics, considered below. Janis had a posthumous hit with the song in ’71, though it was written by Dr. Kristofferson. That love can be so beautiful, and its hope so rarely fulfilled. Its possibility only makes the usual futility of its mortality all the more wrenching. “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” The line has been cited as a sort of philosophic last word on the sixties understanding of liberty, especially underlined by the 1971 death of Janis. Freedom is useful in searching for one’s true love, but when love is found, freedom is being with one’s love. Otherwise, either love or freedom must at some point be sacrificed to the other, and love gives way to permanence and the family, out of love. One wonders, if she had stayed with Kristofferson, she might have lived. Children will result and must be attended, and so the castle governed, until together they become themselves grandparents and the governors of palaces.


Cat Stevens, 1971: Teaser and the Firecat

“Morning Has Broken” was written by a woman in the twenties, and is an old Church hymn, so it will be considered below (p. 280?). It is one of the few religious hymns made popular, and shows the direction in which Mr. Islam is headed.

The Wind

I listen to the wind, to the wind of my soul

Where I’ll end up, well I think only God really knows

I’ve sat upon the setting sun

But never never, never never,

I never wanted water once

No, never

I listen to my words, but they fall far below

I let my music take me where my heart wants to go

I swam upon the Devil’s lake

but never, never, never, never

I’ll never make the same mistake

No, never, never, never

The wind of our soul is the spirit as we participate in it. The parallel of the lines in each stanza is a clue to the song. He listens to the wind or spirit, taking him god knows where, and in the second stanza this is to let his music take him where his heart wants to go. The two “never” statements in each stanza are, first that he has sat on the setting sun, and never wanted water, and then that he has swam upon the Devil’s lake, but will never make the same mistake. The first reminds of Jesus tempted in the wilderness. Does the second refer to musical inspiration, or how he proceeds according to his heart? Did it once take him over certain waters mistakenly?

In “Changes IV, “living for the one that’s going to last” seems to mean living for the immortal part in us or the best part in us, rather than living for the mortal or worldly part of us, that aims for things that do not last, like money or fleeting romance. Socrates asks Glaucon: Do you suppose that an immortal thing ought to be serious about so short a time and not about all time?” He is introducing the Myth of Er at the end of the Republic. While we cannot know for sure that the soul is immortal the philosophers who think that they and Socrates both know that the soul is not immortal ought think again. Living for the best part in us makes sense whether the soul is immortal or not. But that it does make sense is evidence in favor of the poet’s belief. Living for what lasts is a thing revealed to the lost lover, like a teaching found in the forest that sustains him. Lost lovers learn that the vision and harmony of love do not last, and even in old marriages that are successful, this early love mellows into a friendship and partnership. One way of understanding and criticizing our own priorities is to ask “is this what lasts?” We often see lives that shatter because for example temporary gain was chosen at the expense of relations with friends and family. It is poetic and not literally true, since many brief things that vanish, like a day of contemplation or a lover’s glimpse, are worth more than things like a day spent in long term financial planning. Further, one way of reading the image of Hell is of a bad condition that lasts forever, and if the soul is immortal already, bad things can last, and it is not just lasting that indicates that something is good. But to live for health or the good of what lasts would still make literal sense.

The two songs on either side of Changes IV, “If I laugh” and “How can I tell You” are songs of love’s agony. The latter has an extended comment on the phenomenon of “everywhere I look I see your eyes,” or the illusion in “Coming Back to Me” (p.68 above). In trying to tell her that he loves her, he describes how he’s always thinking of her, but his words blow away, and how he’s always walking with her, wherever he goes, but looks and she’s not there. “like a poem I meant to write,” as Simon says, the illusion flutters away. The lover lives in light of the one loved, not their actual presence, but, through the particular person, in the light of love. Bowie puts this: “Who will connect me with love,” as though what were shown were that the particular one brings the lover into Love in general. And it may be that the immortal part of us is really that beautiful, and only lovers can see it, though it be not what they think.


A moon shadow is of course one of the very light shadows that appear on brightly moonlit nights, such as one would see if they were leaping and hoping about on a clear night of the full moon. “Moonshadow” is a strange and difficult song, when one attempts to think about it. It has three parts. The refrain, repeats that he is being followed by a moonshadow on which he dances, or leaps and hops. Then the stanzas of the body of the song (5) each say that he doesn’t care if he loses a certain body part and its function, since then he will be spared the trouble of having to do each corresponding work. It is reconciliation to the decline of age into death, and the remembering to be happy all the while. The third part is stunning, and I never heard this until I went to write about it: He asks the faithful light if it took long to find him. He seems to invite this light, like a visiting angel (such as came to Abraham) to stay, like showing hospitality to a visitor. It is also possible that the light shows up as a woman, though this seems less likely. Together, the three parts mean that he is content in the decline of age because of his happiness, which is like being accompanied by a moonshadow on which one dances, and this is because the faithful light has found him, or that it found him because he does this. His playing in song or poetry, as distinct from philosophy or words that fall far below, is what he describes as being accompanied by a moonshadow.

I’m being followed by a moonshadow


leaping and hoping on a moon shadow


And if I ever lose my hands

lose my plow, lose my land

Oh if I ever lose my hands…

I won’t have to work no more

and if I ever lose my eyes

If my colors all run dry

yes if I ever lose my eyes…

I won’t have to cry no more

yes, I’m being followed by a moon shadow

Moon shadow–moon shadow

leaping and hoping on a moon shadow

Moon shadow–moon shadow

and if I ever lose my legs

I won’t moan, and I won’t beg

Oh, if I ever lose my legs…

I won’t have to walk no more

and if I ever lose my mouth

All my teeth, north and south

yes, if I ever lose my mouth…

I won’t have to talk no more

Did it take long to find me

I ask the faithful light

Did it take long to find me?

And are you going to stay the night?

I’m being followed by a moonshadow

Moon shadow–moonshadow

leaping and hoping on a moon shadow

Moon shadow–moon shadow

1971 Jethro Tull Aqualung  (Almo Music Corp)

Ian Anderson said, in Ann Arbor in 2010, that he is not “so miserable a bugger” as Roger Waters, of Pink Floyd, by which he means that he is not so dark and moody. In the flute of the woodland elfin type creature, the character of Ian Anderson brings a bit of light and color into the dark woods that makes his world a bit brighter than that explored by Floyd. He is the whistler, who brings us songs of a mysterious, high and beautiful nature akin to Shakespeare and the world of Irish folk creatures of the woods, the fairies and such. He is credited with introducing the flute to rock music. (Eric Burdon and War included flute in “Spill the Wine.”) His art is so profound that it makes us revisit the things said about the flute by the ancient Greeks, through its association with Dionysus and the Bacchae. Flute is not measured in the way that guitar is, and the notes slur or slide from one to another, and yet the piper can be measured. Orpheus too played a shepherd’s pipe, and the Dionysian of a later, corrupted age may have buried the Orphic flute from the mythic past of very ancient Greece. In the hands of Anderson, posing as a troubadour or bard from the Medieval woodlands, the flute expresses the heights of the spirit, and on occasion the spirited fife of Scottish troops, and of the Americans in the revolutionary war.

There is a secret to Ian Anderson, and it is that he is a schoolboy, that is, a scholar and a philosopher, so that his flute, through beauty calls us to the secret wisdom. Nature makes it possible for him to summon these woodland sprites in themes normally associated with Paganism. Sometimes, as in “Ring Out Solstice Bells,” his theme appears English pagan, but the suggestion is that it is folk, like what we find in Shakespeare, from a place that through a folk connection with nature, presents the human and fairy worlds in a way that fits in harmony with the Christian world. In truth this may be a more natural perception of this middle realm, rather than to coat these things with artificial Christian imagery. We think that in the highest place he is very Christian, maybe near to being a saint, though not as the world, or the Church of England, sees. He is also a poet and an artist, and makes a character that is sacred and enigmatic, wise and playful, bringing into the river of the hippie movement an independent tributary like that of the Renaissance festivals that is contemporary, yet through the mists of the English Countryside connected to things very ancient.

   Aqualung the album is like Ziggy Stardust one of the perfect or complete albums, a “work of art,” with nearly every song receiving the recognition of airplay: The album has two very different sides, the latter astonishingly theological for a rock album, the first side is the famous classic perfect album side of Aqualung.

Aqualung the song is a snapshot of an old man living and dying on the streets. Profoundly, it is his death that is occurring right at the lines “and the flowers bloom like madness in the spring.” The first of its three parts introduce us to the character and his wretched street life:

Sitting on the park bench

eying little girls with bad intent.

Snot is running down his nose

greasy fingers smearing shabby clothes.

(Oh, Aqualung)

Drying in the cold sun

Watching as the frilly panties run.

Hey Aqualung

Feeling like a dead duck

spitting out pieces of his broken luck.

Peering out from his misery at the beautiful young things of the world he cannot be a part of, he would be known as an old pedophile, and seems to spend time drying in the sun where he can see such things. The unfulfilled longing of his life is underlined by his tormented pleasure in seeing the beautiful things of the world. At the end of his life, here, he is spitting out pieces of his broken luck like shedding the teeth he doesn’t need anymore anyway. The description of his life on the city streets in the winter continues in the second third:

Sun streaking cold

an old man wand’ring lonely

Taking time

the only way he knows.

Leg hurting bad,

as he bends to pick a dog end

He goes down to the bog and warms his feet.

Feeling alone

the army’s up the road

salvation a-la-mode and

a cup of tea.

He is wandering alone on a sunny winter day, killing time. His leg hurts as he bends down to pick up a cigarette butt. (I was glad to learn that he had not bent to kick his dog, increasing the portrait of his wretchedness with meanness.) His loneliness is punctuated by trips to the Salvation Army warming center, poetically and sarcastically called “salvation a-la mode.” He is then startled by a visitor, the poet:

Aqualung my friend

don’t start away uneasy

you poor old sod

you see its only me.

I cannot suppress the enchanting suspicion that what we are being shown is the songwriter himself confronting himself as an old man. The picture on the album supports this interpretation, apparently showing Ian Anderson with his dog living on the street on one side, and the famous picture of Aqualung on the other. What occurs then in the final third is, again profoundly, that the poet of the song, Ian Anderson, is mentally transported, in the poem, to see himself in the future on the day of his own death. Aqualung, my friend, don’t you start away uneasy. You poor old sod, you see its only me.” While a simpler explanation would be simply that the poet knows or has befriended such an old street person, one is enchanted by the former possibility. The old man starts away uneasy, as he would at the visitation of a presence, or the presence of himself as a young man visiting from the past. The visitor has come to reconcile him to his impending death:

Do you still remember

December’s foggy freeze

When the ice that

clings on to your beard is

screaming agony.

And you snatch your rattling last breaths

with deep sea diver sounds,

and the flowers bloom like madness in the spring.

The visitor asks the old man if he remembers the agony of winter, as he suffered in years past, in agony from the ice that clings to his beard. On sunny winter days, the snot of those exposed is wiped with greasy hands on shabby clothes. He asks the old man if he remembers the pain of winter in order to reconcile him to death, which is the purpose of the visitation. The old man then is shown from inside, hearing his own labored breath like a deep sea diver inside a diving bell, before the flowers bloom like madness in the spring,. A movie called the Diving Bell and the Butterfly conveys a similar image, of a former playboy and fashion magazine owner who was suddenly paralyzed, trapped inside his own body. In the last year of his life, like that, he wrote the movie. He too was able to do nothing but admire the French actresses who come as nurses to teach him to communicate. This last scene, of breathing as though in a diving bell, seems to be where the character gets his name under water breather, or Aqualung. He is similarly like one trapped in his body, isolated by his age and wretchedness, walled off from the rest of the world.

Cross Eyed Mary

Next, we are shown the life of one of the girls our pedophilic old fellow was watching through the railing as their frilly panties ran while they were playing, and the rich man of fortune, who in old age can have what the old street man Aqualung can only lust after. With Aqualung in mind, the song asks:

Who would be a poor man, a beggar man, a thief

if he had a rich man in his hand?

Who would steal the candy from a laughing baby’s mouth

if he could take it from the money man?

How is Aqualung different and worse than the rich man who whores young women like cross eyed Mary, and in a manner that is not even technically prostitution?

Cross eyed Mary

goes jumping in again

She signs no contract

but she always plays the game

Dines in Hampstead village on expense accounted gruel

And the Jack-knife barber

drops her off at school.

The old rich lecher is called a jackknife barber in apparent reference to his mode of lovemaking. His lechery makes him a hack, in contrast with an expert hairstylist, or a lover making love. His victim does not care, as she is not a lover anyway. Having been dropped off at school by her elderly friend with the expense account, she is shown:

Laughing in the playground

gets no kicks from little boys:

would rather make it with a leching grey.

Or maybe her attention is drawn by Aqualung

who watches through the railings as they play.

The themes are drawn together when we see the old lecher broken in fortune looking through the railings of the schoolyard at Cross-Eyed Mary, who might even notice him looking. And she might even pay attention to him in the right circumstance, for

Cross eyed Mary

finds it hard to get along.

She’s a poor man’s rich girl

and she’ll do it for a song.

She’s a rich man stealer

but her favor’s good and strong:

She’s the Robin Hood of Highgate

helps the poor man get along.

It may become clear that he speaks of a college age woman in the veiled terms of pedophilia. Her “favor” is her face, which is not called beautiful, but “good” and “strong.” But we know the hopes of Aqualung are fantasy, and she is like Robin Hood only in that she steals from the rich man, giving only to those poor in money, not in youth.

Cheap Day Return

On Preston platform

do your soft shoe shuffle dance.

Brush away the cigarette ash that’s

falling down your pants.

And then you sadly wonder

does the nurse treat your old man the way she should.

She made you tea, asked for your autograph

What a laugh.

The strange and brief song depicts an old performer in a mental institution or an old folks home, and one wonders what “Preston platform” one of the well known places around London, is. The song may be a crucial clue to the connection between the old man and the poet. “you sadly wonder if the nurse treats your old man the way she should.” He is probably visiting his father, who is in an old folk’s home or asylum lusting after the nurses. Hence, She asks for his autograph. The origin of this song may be similar to the song “Nursey,” written when his father was dying and he journeyed north from Ireland to visit him for the last time. The experience may have led him to see himself as the old rock star Aqualung. A second possibility, that would tie the album together as a whole, is that Aqualung is his father, who was dying on the street when Ian went and got him and put him in a nursing home.

Mother Goose

The poem is autobiographical, switching the scene to the artist as a young schoolboy. He turns mother goose loose, which means he liberated poetry. The foreign student thinks Piccadilly Circus is really a circus with animals. He sees schoolgirls in some common grief, and the schoolgirls, college students, do not realize Ian is a student, probably because, as a bohemian-looking fellow he does not look like he belongs at the school.

The bearded lady is the school authority. Then a friend called the chicken-fancier came by to play, the one with the red beard and the weird sister who is a truck driver (the English “lorry”). After this, he enjoys golfing at the putting green, where nearby laborers are digging to earn their wage. His identity through all this remains secret, as he doesn’t think they know that he is “Long John Silver,” or Ian Anderson. The last impression is the seeing of one called “Johnny scarecrow,” apparently a policeman who makes his rounds in a black coat, the British “mac” that looks like it was stolen from a snowman. The song shows, then, the marvel of the poet wandering around campus with his secret identity, as the one who set the fairy tales free, or the new British poet.

Wondering Aloud

This profoundly beautiful little song is a snapshot of the blissful time of new love and new lovers, and might be included among the twenty or so best love songs of all time. The lovers, including the poet, have awakened together after becoming lovers the night previous:

Wondering aloud

how we feel today.

Last night sipped the sunset,

my hand in her hair.

As if out of nowhere, the song instantly breaks through to the meaning of love, which the poet explains as follows:

We are our own saviors

as we start both our hearts beating life

into each other.

The statement is clear especially if we recall the theological theme of side two of the album. If there is a new theological claim of the romantic poets, it is that love is to the heart of the soul as salvation is to the highest part, the mind or spirit, and may set him off on this path. He has seen that love is like salvation, and the two are as if revived in soul as they would be in body if their hearts literally beat life into one another. The lines are inspired, as they are written in the harmony of the analogy between love and the image of God that is man. At the same time, and in order to discover this, the insight is set in contrast to the conventional teaching of salvation.

The final set of verses is a beautiful picture of the sweet sensuality of new love, and the perception of the beauty of the one he loves, in light of the uncertainty of the future:

Wondering aloud

will the years treat us well?

As she floats in the kitchen,

I’m tasting the smell

of toast as the butter runs

then she comes, spilling crumbs on the bed

and I shake my head.

And its only the giving that makes you

What you are.

The final lines mean to speak of “what you are” in the sense of what we truly are, or the immortal soul, and so connect with what was said toward the middle of the poem about salvation. The beating life of one heart into another is another way of saying the same thing, as was also said in another way by Lennon, that “In the end, the love you take / is equal to the love you make.” Anderson’s line is clearer, simpler, and more beautiful. The same is an elementary truth among the teachings of Jesus, that whatever we do to our brother we do to him, and the measure you give is the measure you will receive. We are forgiven only when we forgive (Matthew 25:40; 7:14; 7:1-2). This is the basis of the golden rule: our harming or benefiting one another is in truth our harming and benefiting of our true selves, the selves that leave here after death if anything does. We would live best in the meantime in the same way. What we are is made up of the giving, written in the book of life in the promise that the immortal life lived in this world does not pass away. This is only the obverse of the strange truth about human life, that what we do to others is in truth done to us. This is revealed to the poet in the beautiful scenes of love.

“Up to Me” may describe the breakup of the very same love that allowed him to see the truth, demonstrating that love is mortal. The relation flies apart at a wimpy bar after they had gone out to a movie, and results in Ian cracking some other guy, “Cousin Jack” who apparently has had the girl, since it was one up to him, meaning both a matter of his own choice without this woman and a point scored, or a thing done correctly to one’s credit. Other things that are of his own choice now are whether he buys a silver cloud to ride, how he packs his gear or wears his trouser cuffs, in bell-bottoms. He then sees her again in the winter, when she was riding by on her bicycle and had a flat tire, and he sees her smoking and looking up at him, as though looking up to him, for help.

The last two verses are difficult to read in connection with the whole, but he switches from this scene in which the one he loved is looking up at him from her broken bicycle in the winter to a man telling lying tales in a bar: And if it pleases me, I’ll put one on you, man, when the copper fades away, or when he’s running low on drinking money. It is a tale because he really loved her, and his attitude of “it was up to me” is a way of balming the wound of love, by telling himself that he is pleased with his liberty. The seasons change, and the “day-glo pirate” i.e., himself as Long John Silver the Bohemian campus poet, sinks in the end. He laughed too fast because he loved her, and we now understand the meaning of the laughter that opens the song. He ends the song by returning himself to the balm of self delusion that he is most satisfied with his liberty, writing, “well if I laughed a bit too fast / It was up to me.” He has escaped love with his liberty intact.

Side Two

Three of the five songs on the second side are theological, describing the poet in his regard for the Church of England and conventional religion. Intermixed are two more songs that may be about Aqualung. Slipstream seems to describe a fellow who has not money to pay his bar tab, and Locomotive breath to describe the tragic destruction of a person’s human life, such as might lead someone to die a lonely man on the street, like Aqualung. These would be connected if the poet responding to religion were the same as Long John Silver, and the tragedy of Locomotive breath were the catastrophic destruction of the very same love described on side one, and Aqualung the projection of the poet to seeing himself in the future. This identity may be impossible for other reasons, leading to the conclusion that Locomotive Breath was written about his father. If Aqualung were also his father, who similarly lusts after the nurse, the two sides would fit together, as they do even if it is himself seen in the future, as the father shows him what might become of himself. The father imago binds all the songs on the Album, as our struggles with ancestral custom are related to our struggles with our fathers.

My God

My God demonstrates the use of the rock mode to carry a theme of rebellion against religious convention, a rare example of a “Christian” rock song that is “authentic” or actually works as a piece of music. The poet speaks in defense of the Christ against the people and religion as it appears in the world, and so speaks like a prophet:

People, what have you done?

Locked him in his golden cage.

Made him bend to your religion

him resurrected from the grave.

he is the god of nothing

if that’s all that you can see

You are the god of everything

He’s a inside you and me.

So lean upon him gently

And don’t call on him to save

You from your social graces

and the sins you wish to used to? waive.

This is something different from the turning of the Beatles, Townsend and others to the eastern gurus as teachers. The song is addressed to the people, asking us what we have we done. As usual the people have sought to have the divine serve them, rather than the other way around, as when we pray for our own good fortune. We have made the one resurrected from the grave bend to our religion, rather than the other way around, and our religion, with its beautiful ornaments, becomes a golden cage in which to keep our god trapped like a bird. He is the god of nothing, if the people can only see nothing. The line “You are the god of everything / He’s inside you and me” might be thought to be like the new age claim that we are all gods and goddesses, but the truth may be that this line identifies the poet as a Christian in truth. When the Pharisees were about to stone Jesus for the blasphemy of saying that he is the son of God, he asks them: “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said , you are gods?’ If he called them gods to whom the word of god came…” (John 10: 34-35). Our divinity is that he is inside us, something as he said “the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” (John 10:38). What it is that Jesus said he was is very difficult, but, as Jefferson intimates, he does not require us to know the mystery of the trinity, though it may be important not to think of it in certain ways that are wrong. The Bohemian appearance of the rock troubadour hides the reality of the divine life of the soul, and it is on this life and those who live it that the strength of political organizations depends. Once again we see an instance of the despised liberty of nature appearing criminal to the world, yet being in truth the source of what sustains the church or civilization.

We are asked, therefore, to “lean upon him gently,” rather than “call on him to save” us from social graces and attempt to use the forgiveness offered to “waive” sins. Repentance having a nature, is of course something different, a turning away from our sins, rather than the use on Sunday of a loophole for the past and next Saturday.

The song continues:

The bloody church of England

in chains of history

requests your earthly presence

at the vicarage for tea.

And the graven image you know who

with his plastic crucifix

confuses me as to who and where and why

as to how he gets his kicks.

Confessing to the endless sin

the endless whining sounds

You’ll be praying till next Thursday to

all the Gods that you can count.

We are reminded of the blood on the hands of the church of England, contrasted with the veneer of church social events. Conventional religion is accused of idolatry, and again the voice of the poet is like the prophets, or the ongoing Jewish criticism of the Temple. The plastic crucifix confuses the people, and it would seem that if religious institutions are good at any work, it should, in addition to charity and hospitals, the presentation to the people of the simplicity of faith, for example when the people go to marry, rather than doctrinal confusion. The question is raised as to how the “you know who” fellow gets his kicks,” a possible allusion to the problem of imposing celibacy on those not called to celibacy. If so, this question is connected to the confession of the sins of the people by the priest, and whether the priests are not often corrupted by hearing confessions.

“Till next Thursday” reminds one of the objection of Paul to the Galatians (4:10), “You observe days, and months, and seasons and years!…I am afraid I have labored over you in vain.” In the accusation of idolatry, one would not expect “Gods” to be capitalized. That it is capitalized, if it is intentional, it may mean something like this: that we have made of the one God something that is more like one of the many gods, and even put him over each of our concerns. Had it been a small case g, one would think of the veneration of saints, often questioned by Protestants of Catholics, as idolatrous.

“Hymn 43” continues the prophetic theme, looking across the Atlantic, from Britain to America:

Oh Father high in heaven smile down upon your son

who’s busy with his money games his women and his gun.

Oh, Jesus save me

And the unsung Western hero, he killed an Indian or three

and then he made his name in Hollywood to set the white man free.

If Jesus saves well he’d better save himself

from the gory glory seekers who use his name in death

(Oh, Jesus save me)


I saw him in the city and on the mountains of the moon

his cross was rather bloody, and he could hardly roll his stone.

The prophetic poet calls God to look upon his son, man. He calls man to consider himself in the view of the Most High. Man is about his usual thing, concerned with money schemes, women and guns. “Oh, Jesus save me,” sung but not written on the sleeve, means both to criticize the call of the people to Jesus for salvation while they are doing such things and at the same time to jokingly ask Jesus to save him, the poet, from witnessing the absurdity of man in their religiosity. Attention is directed to the wars of the whites and Indians in America, in the spread of “Christian” civilization.

So, when the poet saw him, Jesus, in the city and on the mountains of the moon, his cross was bloody, since whatever we do to each of our brothers, we do to him. He barely had the strength to “roll away the stone,” which is what he did, apparently, at the Resurrection.

Well the lush separation enfolds you

And the products of wealth

push you along the bow wave

Of their spiritless undying selves.

And you press on God’s waiter your last dime

As he hands you the bill.

And you spin in the slipstream

Tideless, unreasoning

paddle right out of the mess.

This is a difficult song to read and so we will begin from the end. A Slipstream is a whirlpool. The image is one of a fellow in a rowboat paddling clear of a whirlpool. Does he give an usher a tithe and receive a church bulletin? He won’t have money to pay his bill, if it is a restaurant. Money connects the two stanza. The first image is of the rowboat, riding on the bow wave of the larger ship of the spiritless immortals. The wave is the products of wealth. And is the lush separation then that of the surface of the water that separates as the worldly church moves through time and the world?

“Locomotive Breath” is the key. It describes a very common personal tragedy, and yet one wonders if it does not also describe the irreversible course of western civilization, heading toward catastrophe with no way to slow down.

In the shuffling madness

of a locomotive breath

runs the all-time loser headlong to his death.

He feels the piston scraping

steam breaking on his brow

old Charlie stole the handle and

the train won’t stop going

no way to slow down

He sees his children jump off

at stations one by one.

His woman and his best friend

in bed and having fun.

Crawling down the corridor

on his hands and knees

old Charlie stole the handle

and the train it won’t stop going

no way to slow down.

The scene is of a man racing through life like a locomotive, puffing about like a train with great momentum. It may be that his life flashes before his eyes after he reached for the breaks and they were not there. His children leave him one by one, and then he finds his wife in bed with his friend, thus losing both of these at once, like Jim Croce in “Operator.” His life falls apart as if with the same unalterable momentum with which he raced through life. This often happens in lives driven like trains, since the home life is neglected, or not set right from the start. It is as though the handle on the break of the train had been stolen, and there is no way to slow the unavoidable arrival of life’s train wreck.

The final verse is very strange and difficult:

He hears the silence howling

catches angels as they fall.

And the all time winner

has got him by the balls

he picks up Gideon’s Bible

open at page one

It said God he stole the handle and

the train it won’t stop going

no way to slow down.

This is the picture of his train wreck, and again it may be of the sort that led Aqualung and many others to lives on the street because they have lost their families. It is as though he were alone and going mad, since he “hears the silence howling.” His own mind or his regrets make loud his silence. In this silence, he “catches angels as they fall.” Does this mean that he takes the part of fallen angels, or gives way to the bad spirits that would consume ones age in the misery of vengeful thoughts? Something like that seems to be in there. For when he picks up Gideon’s Bible, the one the group called Gideons leaves in hotels and Salvation Armies, he understands the beginning to mean that God, apparently by making man sinful, or susceptible to the fall, has stolen the break. As Paul indicates, this is like the clay saying to the potter “why have you made me thus?” (Romans 9:20-21). Still one wonders that the potter should say to the clay “Why are you thus made?” In the end, though, there is more to man than the created part, the part that is as if molded by the potter (John 1:13; 3:6). Our lives are not necessarily, just usually, like trains headed for disaster when someone has stolen the handle to the brakes. Yet this is the train wreck that lands him in the hospital in Cheap Day Return, and that the poet may foresee leading him to his own death on the street as Aqualung.

The final song on the Album is really in a way the first song, showing what has been going on all along from the beginning:

When I was young, and they packed me off to school,

and taught me how not to play the game.

I didn’t mind if they groomed me for success

or if they said that I was just a fool.

So I left there in the morning

with their God tucked under my arm

Their half-assed smiles and the book of rules.

So I asked this God a question

And by way of firm reply

he said I’m not the kind you have to wind up on Sundays.

While the poet was playing Long John Silver among the schoolgirls and enjoying the secret of his true identity among the craftsmen on campus, he was inwardly tormented by the artificiality of conventional religion at the aristocratic English school. When he left, scripture and rules in hand, he asked God a question directly, and received the firm reply that he is not the kind you have to wind up on Sunday. This comes to him surely, in what way he does not say, as the word of the Lord.

So to my old headmaster (and to anyone who cares):

before I’m through, I’d like to say my prayers.

I don’t believe you: you had the whole damn thing all wrong

he’s not the kind you have to wind up on Sundays.

Well you can excommunicate me on my way to Sunday school

and have all the bishops harmonize these lines

how do you dare to tell me that I’m my father’s son

when that was just an accident of birth.

I’d rather look around me, compose a better song

‘cause that’s the honest measure of my worth.

In your pomp and all your glory you’re a poorer man than me,

as you lick the boots of death borne out of fear.

He foresees being excommunicated for his heretical teaching that religion is real all week long, and suggests that the bishops harmonize his lines, based on the new revelation. The new revelation is that we are not the sons of our earthly fathers. Like what tradition one happens to be born in, these are accidents of birth. The truth, of the divine origin of our true selves, is hidden by the lie that we are sons of a certain family or the creatures of any created religious custom. In place of the lie of custom and its fundamental principle, he will compose his own, better song, and this, rather than how he sings their song, is the honest measure of his worth. They are more impoverished than he, a poor man not groomed by the institution for success. He concludes his understanding of the religion that it is at root fear inspired, and leads to death, in the spiritual sense.


1971 Zeppelin IV


The fourth Zeppelin album is generally recognized as their best, and may be the best rock album of all time. For its title, each player, including Sandy Denny, chose a symbol. Impatient with them, we just call it Zeppelin IV. It contains the whole range of Zeppelin themes, summarizing the now receding blues in “When the Levee Breaks;” the rambling on in “Four Sticks” and “Goin’ to California;” the misty mountains in the heights of Evermore and Stairway.

The lyrics to Black Dog are unclear, so that I heard this song my whole life without ever hearing it. For some reason, I never liked the song, and left it off my homemade workday Zeppelin tapes. The famous opening lines are a call to rock, and even rock dancing, though if anyone remembers trying to dance to it, the starts and stops make this a very awkward ballroom tune. “Watch your honey drip, can’t keep away” is a pretty line. He’s gotta roll, and can’t stand still in quest of love, and hopes to find a woman rolling along his way. Dreams of her fill his head, and his eyes are shining burning red. Red is a recurrent Zeppelin image, to be followed on Zeppelin IV. This is following a blues experience with one that wanted to use him to become a star, and took his money and his car. Perhaps this is the same as she who smoked his stuff and drank all his wine. What he needs is a woman who will hold his hand, tell him no lies, and make him a happy man. The image that guides the blues of Zeppelin is again, paradoxically, monogamous marriage. The wild eros of the song is then inseparable from the lively and unbounded seeking of love in longing for this happiness. In this, the wildness of rock is justified, and fun.


Rock and Roll

After Black Dog, “Rock and Roll” is about returning to rock with nostalgia, and returning to love. The lyrics ask to be carried back, transported to a past of love and music. It is a great song to open the classic Zeppelin concert, as on the live album. Returning to Rock and Roll is a returning to love, and even to tragic love:

Its been a long time since the book of love

I can’t count the tears of a life with no love

and then

…Its been a long time since I’ve walked in the moonlight

Making vows that just can’t work right…

It’s been a long lonely time.

Battle of Evermore

Supposedly drawn by Plant from a 15th century apocalyptic poem, the battle of Evermore may be Zeppelin’s highest piece of poetry, if not their best song simply. What is said in the book Hammer of the Gods about the battle of Evermore is only that “at first it was intended as a sort of Old English instrumental, but Robert had been reading about the Scottish border wars, and the Battle of Evermore was written out as a descendant of the Anglo-Saxon battle sagas.” The author adds that Sandy Deny of Fairport Convention was brought in to sing “the haunting duet playlet…playing the Queen of life to Robert’s Prince of Peace.”

The stunning opening lines of the song are these:

The Queen of Light took her bow

And then She turned to go.

The Prince of Peace embraced the gloom,

And walked the night alone.

On the eve of the apocalyptic battle, the Queen of Light, consort of the Prince of Peace, takes her bow as though she had finished her two thousand year performance, and then deserts him, even as the apostles, with one exception, deserted Jesus the night before the crucifixion. The perspective of the narrator is more journalistic, simply describing what has occurred, rather than Christian. The chorus voices are those of the soldiers and common persons on the eve of the battle:

Oh, dance in the dark of night

Sing till the morning light

The Dark Lord rides in force tonight

And time will tell us all, hoh

Oh throw down your plow and hoe

Rest not to lock your homes

Side by side we wait the night

Of the darkest of them all

I hear the horses thunder [that war is asunder?]

Down in the valley below

I’m waiting for the Angels of Avalon

Waiting for the eastern glow.

It is critical whether the angels of Avalon are angels of “malus” or rather good angels, and in the context they are contrasted with the Dark Lord and his forces. In the Arthurian context, the English approach the defending British from the east, and Avalon, west of Stonehenge, is a British retreat, where the body of Arthur would have been taken. The angels of Avalon might be Arthur and his soldiers, foretold to return. The apples are not like Adam’s apple, that of the knowledge of good and evil but rather the apples of immortality. Since the nature of the apples of Apple island are critical,

The apples of the valley hold

The seas [seeds] of happiness

The ground is rich from tender care

Repay, do not forget. no, no

The apples hold the seeds of human happiness, so that it is something like the liberal arts or the whole cultivation of human culture, as well as agriculture. They are called to repay the preparation of the ground built up over the centuries of cultivation.

Oh dance in the dark of night

Sing to the morning light

The apples turn to brown and black

The Tyrant’s face is red.

The turning of the apples, as at the coming of winter, is difficult to understand. Are they left out in orchard as in a siege? The seeds of happiness are about to fall into the ground like the proverbial grain of wheat that must first die. This would make sense of why the tyrant’s face is red, as though embarrassed, as is the Dark Lord, by the resurrection. If the Dark Lord is the tyrant, then the song is anti-Satanic, and one wonders, here as elsewhere, if Plant did not slip Christian meanings past a poetically less sophisticated Page.

Oh, war is the common cry

Pick up your swords and fly

The sky is filled with good and bad

That mortals never know.

Oh, well, the night is long

The beads of time pass slow

Tired eyes on the sunrise

Waiting for the eastern glow

The pain of war cannot exceed

The woe of aftermath

The drums will shake the castle wall

The Ringwraiths ride in black,

Ride on

Sing as you raise your bow

Shoot straighter than before

No comfort has the fire at night

That lights a face so cold

Oh, dance in the dark of night

Sing till the morning light

The magic runes are writ in gold

To bring the balance back

Bring it back

At last the sun is shining

The clouds of blue roll by

With flames from the dragon of darkness

The sunlight blinds his eyes

Bring it back, Bring it back…

Oh now, oh now…

Bring it back, Bring it back…

Oh now, oh now…

Bring it, Bring it

The setting is that of the final night, or the night before the apocalyptic battle. This is suggested by the outcome, as well as by the line “The sky is filled with good and bad / That mortals never know.” A scene in drama that is comparable is Henry V walking at night among his dejected troops before the Battle of Agincourt in Shakespeare’s King Henry V (IV, i). The song is sung from the perspective of the soldiers. Since the song begins with the Prince of Peace and Queen of Light, and says “the Dark Lord rides in force tonight,” as a report, it seems that they are soldiers in the army of the Prince of Peace on the night of the apocalyptic battle. The Dark Lord is the name of the evil Lord of Mordor, who tries to prevent the destruction of the ring of power in the third part of the trilogy of the Lord of the Rings. The song is about the confusion of the night of such a battle. The Dark Lord is the adversary, and the people leave their work and flee. Soon they are told to pick up their swords and fly to battle, as “war is the common cry.” Rest not to lock your homes” reminds of the apocalyptic “let him who is on the housetop not go down, nor enter his house to take anything away, and him who is in the field not turn back to take his mantle” (Mark 13:15) and also the saying that if the homeowner knew in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have watched and not let his house be broken into” (Matthew 24:43-44). He is waiting for the Angels of Avalon, and the eastern glow of the sunrise which is “apple island,” where Arthur was taken after his death in the final battle with the forces of Mordred. His name is similar to Mordor from the Latin word for death, also the root of Mortal.. As shown in a recent film, The Mists of Avalon, Glastonbury is the site of a very ancient abbey, possibly founded as the place where Joseph of Arimathea fled after providing the burial place for Jesus (and hence the Grail legend). Britain was then the fringe of Roman civilization, and had a Christian nobility from King Lucius in the second through Constantine into the fifth or even sixth century. . The invasion of the English destroyed this early British Christianity. The legend of Arthur surrounds the last defense of the British from about 490 to 532 at Camelot. The British then scattered into the west of the island, to become the Welsh. The Angels of Avalon are identified with the sunrise, which is significant in relation to the later line, when the rising sun blinds “his” eyes, those of the Dark Lord. The poetry of the next four lines is purely symbolic. That is, in their literal meaning, the lines don’t make much sense: The apples of the valley hold the seeds of happiness because these are apples of immortality, as those fetched from the island of the Hesperides at the Western edge of the known world. The song tells them to repay the fertility of the ground from which these are produced. The next line continues the pure symbolism: The tyranny is embarrassed when the apples turn rotten. “The sky is filled with good and bad that mortals never know:” There is battle in the heavens, as shown in an image in the Revelation (12:7). The immortals see this, and it is present though the mortals are usually oblivious to it. It is reflected in the great books, where this has been made a kind of spiritual warfare.

Ring-wraiths are riders who portend the great and final war of the rings. When these are seen to ride it is “a presage of immanent war” (Tolkein, The Return of the King, p. xi). The magic runes are writ in gold to bring the balance back. Runes are the letters of an alphabet used by Germanic peoples from the third to the thirteenth century, thought to be derived from Latin and Greek. One wonders what apocalyptic prophecy was writ in runes.

The conclusion is difficult to read, and very important for the meaning of the song. With flames from the dragon of darkness, the sunlight blinds his eyes. What appears most likely is that the sunlight, having acquired flames from the dragon of darkness, blinds his eyes, that is, the tyrant or the Dark Lord. The song is not Satanic, as common sense knows what a tyrant is. The sunlight is the Prince of Peace.

So we return to the beginning of the song. The Queen of Light took her bow, as after a performance (rather than bow, as in “shoot straighter than before”). The Prince of Peace embraced the gloom and walked the night alone without his consort. The Queen of light is then the Church as mystical bride of Christ. But what is being said here? Does she abandon Him in the final hour, even as the Apostles with one exception, abandoned Him at the crucifixion? And is this the setting of the final battle? The people are left without the Queen of light to prepare for the assault of the Dark Lord.


Stairway to Heaven

The paradox of Stairway is that, while being the number one rock song of all time, no one is able to speak very sensibly about just what it says. It is a kind of automatic writing,[v] and so even the author cannot be sure. The meaning of Stairway is a great perennial question of rock lyrics, and while it is not possible or desirable to solve the mystery, it is possible to read through the song, and put together a consistent understanding of what is going on therein.

The lady is the lady we all know, the lady who rejects our love, for whatever reason, and the song is about her and her mistaken path. She may be the same as the Lady from “Ten Years Gone,” or the lady addressed in “Celebration Day.” She is limited to appearance, the glitter, and attempting to buy her path to paradise or way of ascent, or stairway. Somewhat like a very wealthy shopper, who knows the store owner who has made a killing off her, she thinks she knows that she has a password, such as “Jesus,” that promises her special treatment and will allow her to get what she came for, even if the stores are closed.

There’s a lady whose sure

All that glitters is gold

And she’s buying a stairway to heaven

When she gets there she knows

If the stores are all closed

With a word she can get what she came for

There’s a sign on the wall, But she wants to be sure

Cause you know sometimes words have two meanings

In a tree by the brook there’s a songbird who sings sometimes

All of our thoughts are misgiven.

“Misgiven” is a strange word, because it does not mean mistaken, but full of doubt and apprehension, as in “a feeling of doubt or suspicion especially concerning a future event.” This doubt may grow into a bustle in the hedgerow, or a humming head that won’t go, because she really doesn’t know. The sign on the wall must say something like heaven or paradise. That words have more than one meaning prevents the literal interpretation of anything. For the poet, the two meanings of words are at the center of the choice between the apparent way and the true way. The lady has a teaching of the possibility that words have more than one meaning, but the maxim is held in a way that is itself superficial, so there is a note of sarcasm in the statement “cause you know sometimes words have two meanings.” The song is about the way to heaven, an apparent way and by implication not a way to Hell but a genuine way to heaven. What happens, then, is that the woman arrives and has a sudden eerie doubt about whether the sign on the wall means what she thought it meant. She has in fact arrived in the apparent paradise. The second of the two meanings is represented by the songbird: something like the allure of Mr. Plant or of the muse to a woman who rejects or rejected him in order to adhere to the apparent way to heaven. Her true stairway, as the song will explain, lies on the whispering wind. The songbird is the way of music or of music and the new age, that the woman rejects while buying a stairway to heaven, and this if correct, is the key to the song. What he looks to is shown in the next set of lines, the second of the two meanings and the essence of his vision:

There’s a feeling I get when I look to the West

And my spirit is crying for leaving

In my thoughts I have seen rings of smoke through the trees

And the voices of those that stand looking.

Longing for the West and California always meant the longing for the road and the groupies and parties away from home, but it is also an intellectual height and a high or soaring liberty. What it is he seeks is imaged not by any of these things, but by rings of smoke through the tree seen in his thoughts, and the voices of “those,” something like the watchers or great masters, imagined to stand looking in the lives of us, the creatures of today. This life of things seen in his thoughts, is not only a private vision, but is a general movement. It is whispered that soon, if we all will but call for the new spirituality, “the piper” or the musician will lead us, not to the diabolic or irrational things, but rather to “reason.” This is the life of the imagination that is in harmony with the rational or Apollonian intellect. The same is a teaching about the messiah, that when mankind calls for him, he will return, but as yet we do not. A new day will dawn then, for those who have been patient, and the spiritual happiness of the humans in the new society is described as the forests echoing with laughter.

And its whispered that soon if we all call the tune

Then the piper will lead us to reason

And a new day will dawn for those who stand long

And the forests will echo with laughter

And it makes me wonder

Wonder is of course the beginning of philosophy, as described by Aristotle (Metaphysics, I.16?). What makes him wonder is the whispered prophecy of a new age. And so…

If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow

Don’t be alarmed now

Its just a spring clean for the May Queen

Yes there are two paths you can go by

But in the long run

There’s still time to change the road your on

Your head is humming and it won’t go

In case you don’t know

The piper’s calling you to join him

Dear Lady can you hear the wind blow

And did you know

Your stairway lies on the whispering wind

The next two sets of lines say basically the same thing, and setting them together allows the poem to be read. “If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow” or your “head is humming,” means if you are disturbed or troubled in a fundamental sense, as with the way your life is going, this dissatisfaction is only a spring head cleaning in preparation for the May Queen, since the piper’s calling the lady to join him. The way of music or the May Queen, the piper’s way, is calling with the whisper of the wind, and this is her true stairway, to heaven.

And as we wind on down the road

Our shadows taller than our soul

There walks a lady we all know

Who shines white light and wants to show

How everything still turns to gold

And if you listen very hard

A tune will come to you at last

When all are one and one is all

To be a rock and not to roll.

As we continue on our journey, with our shadows or dark sides taller or more developed than our souls, the lady we all know continues to shine white light, and wants to show how all that glitters is gold. She is now like the Christian Church or tradition, the very Queen of Light from the previous song. According to the poet, she continues to intend to show how everything still turns to gold, as she thought in the first set of lines that all that glitters is gold. This makes it more clear that she is like Midas, and her way the way of wealth. The concluding lines are the most difficult, but it relates again to the piper and the tune of the other of the two paths. If you listen hard, as to the whisper of the wind, a tune, like that of the songbird or piper, in the end will come to her or us of its own. At last, or in the end, the two ways are one, and here there is finally permanence or stability that does not move, ramble or seek. The rock is also the foundation of the church, and here it is the noun or mineral instead of the verb, the rock in the rolling stone.

The followers of the dark way equate the way of light with the way of appearance, not realizing that there might be a way of light that is the way of nature and truth behind the appearance. While there is an artificial way of light, there is also a true way of light, and it is not the way of Lucifer but of that other one who has the morning star, the Messiah, or, as the Christians think, Jesus. But to the Luciferian the real life of the soul or the genuine spiritual life then appears to be found on the dark side, as a shadow made by the artificial light, the man-made law based on the light. The things of love, for example, appear rejected by the lives of the saints, and then the soul’s most immediate or direct experience of the divine appears to be outside the way of light. Strangely, such teachings presuppose the truth of the Christian cosmos, defining themselves in reaction against this, all the while pretending to advocate some rejected or repressed nature or natural drive, as that of the body for sex, or power, when the body has enslaved the mind.

The song is consistent with the Luciferian teaching followed by Page, except that what is said is that this path is the true stairway, to heaven, and not a “highway to hell.” Of course, the Luciferian teaching of Crowley, “do what you will,” could be presented as the way to paradise, but we hold out hope that neither Plant nor the poet of Zeppelin intends such a thing.


Misty Mountain

The opening scene of the Misty Mountain is a California flower era scene and a bust, taken comically. He then asks a woman to look at herself, and notes that “folks down there really don’t care which way the pressure lies.” It is from this world that the poet wants to ascend: “So I’m packin’ my bags for the Misty Mountain, where the spirits go / Over the hills where the spirits fly.” The “Misty Mountain” is lifted from a poem in The Hobbit (p. 27, 38). It is the song of the Dwarfs, as they set off over the Misty Mountain in search of gold. In the hands of Plant, the image calls us away from the strange world on the street, to transports of poetry to follow on the album.


Four Sticks

    Again the poet of Zeppelin is leaving, The river of red in his head is a clue to the flow in the next song, and that to this. He asks the femme fatale’ how she will feel when the owls cry in the night and the pines begin to cry, that is, without love in the windy night. When the rivers run dry is when she has lost all inspiration, as she will from having not received his love. This is the same as the river that has now run red for him, “in my head,” the river of inspiration from his traumatic injury or soul trauma that has him on the way to California a spiritual bloody mess. The inaudible lines at the conclusion are these:

Craze, Baby, the rainbow’s end. Ah, baby, its just a den

For those who hide their love to depths of life

and ruin dreams that we all knew so, babe.

When the Owls cry in the night…

This may be another clue to the “Stairway” lady, especially if it is a sort of Christianity that has led her to not come along with him in love. What has been said is that the image of the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is only a den in which some hide their love away from the deep or significant things in life, similar to the meaning of the Beatles’ Eleanor Rigby.


Goin’ to California


Spent my days with a woman unkind

Smoked my stuff and drank all my wine

Made up my mind to make a new start

Goin to California with an achin’ in my heart

‘Cause someone told me there’s a girl out there

With love in her eyes and flowers in her hair.

Took my chances on a big jet plane

Never let ‘em tell you that there all the same.

The sea was red and the sky was grey

Wondered how tomorrow

Could ever follow today.

Mountains and the canyons start to tremble and shake

Children of the sun begin to awake

Seems that the wrath [hearth?] of the gods got a punch on the nose and its starting to flow

I think I might be sinkin

Throw me a line if I reach it in time

I’ll meet you up there where the path runs straight and high

To find a Queen without a king

They say she plays guitar and cries and sings.

Ride a White mare in the footsteps of dawn

Tryin to find a woman that’s never never been born

Standin’ on a hill in a mountain of dreams

Tellin’ myself its not as hard as it seems.

Leaving the love of the Zeppelin blues, he flies to California in the agony and vision of the hope of new love after the California style. He has heard of a girl out there with love in her eyes and flowers in her hair. He does not speak of the princess, but this is what he has conceived. Joni Mitchell is said to be the occasion, though as we will see, it is no particular woman. As his plane arrives, the sea and sky appear so as to make one wonder if this is not the last day, and as the plane lands, there is an earthquake. This is historical, said to have occurred as he was writing.[vi] The awakening of the children of the sun is the quasi-apocalyptic event occurring in the spiritual realm. That something of the gods (the hearth, an old expression for the core of the family would make sense) seems as though it has received a punch and bloodied nose­ this is the same as the river’s red / In my head.” He seeks a queen without a king, who is said to play guitar and cry and sing. My friend’s friend Judy sang Cohen’s Suzanne in Chicago, and her fingers bled (below). The poet is the prince, by implication, and this is an example of royal poetry or royal speech. The white mare he rides indicates the purity of the spirit which bears him in pursuit of her. He rides in the footsteps of dawn in an attempt to find a woman who has never been born.[vii] At the least, this means such a princess as is not yet incarnate. He rides in quest of her as a knight after the grail. Further, it may that she is to be a child of the sun that begins, like a princess, to awaken. The pursuit of her is related to the pursuit of knowledge: He stands on a small hill amid the mountain of dreams, taking heart against a task that seems overwhelming.


When the Levee breaks

   The old Blues line “If it keeps on rainin,’ the levee’s going to break” would seem to come from blues local to New Orleans, where indeed the Levee did recently break, causing most of the damage from Hurricane Katrina. I was surprised that the rock stations did not play the song around that time. This, however, was from the storm swell rather than the rain. The old blues song on which the Zeppelin tune is based is by Memphis Minnie and Kansas Joe McCoy. What the line means can be translated: If bad stuff keeps happening, the border between the conscious and unconscious mind will be breached, and a flood of madness will submerge the conscious mind. That it is love sorrow or romantic misfortune is evident in the following lines All last night, sat on the levee and moaned…Thinkin’ ’bout my baby and my happy home.” Chris Welch writes:…”the lyrics were ostensibly about the dangers of man-made earthworks collapsing under a river’s flood waters” yet, “they could also be construed as a metaphor for sexual desires giving way to a sustained physical onslaught.”[viii] But only love, not “sexual desire” can threaten the conscious mind with the breaking of the levee.

In Zeppelin, the rock beat, which is appropriate for the excitement of things truly worthy of our great excitement, suited to the upbeat wakefulness of great events, finds a poetic theme that can finally fulfill what it was seeking all along. In service to the right expression, rock can serve to awaken us, to “Rock the ground wheron these sleepers be,” as Theseus calls the spirits to do after the night of the Midsummer Night’s Dream.


Bowie 1971


Life on Mars

It’s a god-awful small affair

To the girl with the mousy hair

But her mommy is yelling no

And her daddy has told her to go

But her friend is nowhere to be seen

So she walks through her sunken dream

To the seat with the clearest view

And she’s hooked to the silver screen

But the film is a saddening bore

Cause she’s lived it ten times or more

Its about to be lived again

As they ask her to focus on Sailors fighting in the dance hall

Oh man, look at those cave men go

It’s the freakiest show

Take a look at the lawman

Beating up the wrong guy

Oh man, wonder if he’ll ever know

He’s in the best selling show

Is there life on mars?

  The girl with the mousy hair is like Jimmy the mod, she sees through the stupidity of humanity. There is a dispute in the household between the mother and father, apparently over whether she should be allowed to go to the theater, where she is supposed to meet a friend. The friend does not show, and so she gets the best seat for a view of the film. The film is a saddening bore because she has lived it, sailors fighting in the dance hall like cavemen, and the lawman beating up someone other than the criminal. The poet Bowie, the girl, or both then wonder if this lawman will ever know that he is in the bestselling show. “Is there Life on Mars” might be the title of the movie he is in, but it also is the title of this song, and means to ask if there is life or intelligent life on Mars, since there is none here, an expression commenting on the stupidity of humanity. It may also repeat the rock theme of “we gotta get out of this place.” As georgy on Songmeanings writes, it means “stop the world, I want to get off.” That is the first part of the song.

The second part might be understood to cohere with the first part. This is:

Its on Amerika’s tortured brow

That Mickey mouse has grown up a cow

And now the workers have struck for fame

’cause Lennon’s on sale again

See the mice and their million hordes

From Ibeza to the Norfolk Broads

Rule Brittania is out of bounds

To my mother, my dog and clowns

But the film is a saddening bore

Cause I’ve wrote it ten times or more

Its about to be writ again

As I ask you to focus on

Sailors fighting in the dance hall

Oh, man look at those cave men go

Its the freakiest show

Take a look at the lawman, beating up the wrong guy

Oh, man, wonder if he’ll ever know

He’s in the best-selling show

Is there Life on Mars?

It is on the tortured mind of America that Mickey Mouse has been commercialized as one commentator, CapNemo, on Songmeanings, notes. The workers have gone on strike to gain fame, and the same commentator notes that there were worker strikes in England at the time. Another notes that the Disney workers had gone on strike to have their names mentioned in the film credits (mnonm on Songmeanings ). These lines somehow parallel the opening of the song in the lyric structure, and so are like the home life of the girl, in an analogy set up by the lyric structure.

The next four lines parallel the girl going into the theater. The poet directs our gaze from Amerika to Britain, to the millions of citizens that are like the million hordes of the mice, from the south to the Northern limits of the realm. The mousy hair means that the girl of the first part is one of them (CapNemo). Mickey Mouse connects with the hordes of mice and the girl with the mousy hair to mean the average citizen made a star. Mickey is not even Mighty Mouse, a hero who appears small but is mighty. That he has grown up a cow requires further explanation. Bewleybro, on the same site, reminds us of the Biblical cow, worshiped by the Israelites at the foot of Mount Sinai. James Madison on Songmeanings recalls that this was once the title of the British national anthem. Rule Britannia is the range of the empire politically, and so, the poet notes, it does not extend to my mother, my dog, or clowns. The range of the kingdom and hence the modern state is by nature limited, prevented from governing the family, animals, and clowns, i. e., fools or madmen. Ask mothers, or even lawyers like Sir Edmund Coke, whether the crown rules inside the family.

As the film is a bore because the girl has lived it, so the politics of the commercialization of the imagination and the effect of John Lennon on the workers is a bore to the poet, because he has written it already, as many times as the girl has lived the fighting of the sailors and the errors of the law. The sailor and the lawman stories are like Mickey Mouse, a commercialization of the imagination. The Lennonist response to the capitalist subjection of the imagination, and the quarrel between the working class and commercialization, is to the poet a godawful small affair, as the quarrel between the parents over the theater is to the daughter. But this story is being writ again in this song, “Is there Life on Mars.” So the poet Bowie looks to the starman or the man who fell to earth in the search for life or for intelligent life, transcending the political realm of Britain and Amerika. So Honkey Dory leads into Ziggy Stardust, and in the images of the starman and the Mars man Bowie will represent the poetic apprehension of that invisible republic, above the caveman world of the modern state, even in its better examples.

1971 Alice Cooper Be My lover

The song again shows the limits of the sexual revolution and the recovery of the meaning of female modesty, or the recollection of the reason for women “holding out.” He presents himself as a rock player from Detroit, and the woman tells him, “If you want to be my lover, take me home, cause its a long way to paradise, and I’m still on my own.” Love Child is a Motown song on different aspects of the same theme. As with “Only Women Bleed,” it is as interesting as the song itself that it comes out of Alice Cooper, demonstrating the soft heart and subtle intelligence beneath the skin deep shock rock exterior of what may be the first “Goth.” We used to like his album Killer, especially for the intricate composition. His blue collar poetry in the Senior anthems “Eighteen” and “School’s Out” would also be worth writing about. While Alice Cooper may not be serious about cross dressing or horror, it is a different question whether what is occurring here, for the first time in the developing rock-fashion, is not serious.

The Who and “I’m A Boy”

“The Seeker” is not the only philosophically tending lyric on the album, Meaty, Beaty, Big and Bouncy which, like all genuine art, is a deep and honest psychological exploration. It is a collection of earlier singles released as an album in 1971. “I’m a Boy “is drawn from a newspaper article in which a boy had been kept as a girl by his mother, sung from his perspective. Repressed masculinity is somehow charged to society, perhaps to the effeminacy said to be induced by Christianity. The song is strangely related to the gender identity thing that was to emerge in rock with The Kinks, New York Dolls and Alice Cooper. These were the first to make long hair drag. With a few exceptions, the effeminate dress of the glam rockers is a British thing, called Glitter rock, imitated in America by the high heeled boys of the seventies. Lou Reed did “Walk on the Wild Side.” The Kinks were among the first to move toward super long hair, and would later do Lola, about an accidental encounter with a transvestite. The change in this direction began unconsciously with the Beatles and others moving from the Opey cut or crew cut hair of the fifties to the Beatles haircuts. The Kennedy’s before them had a bit more hair than their predecessors from the fifties. Society is somehow like the mother in “I’m a Boy”in a symbolic or poetic analogy that may be only vaguely recognized by the musicians. If one were to ask them what they are doing, as Lennon asked of Bowie, it is likely that even they do not know. Bowie’s answer, “John I’m only Dancin” became a record. “She turns me on,” he adds, as is sometimes camp for “he.” But Bowie himself is a lover of women, as was shown, and the gay side of his androgenous personality was either mere promiscuity or simply an act. Did he ever have a “Boyfriend?” It is foreign to the hippies and, for example, the California hippies, like Neil Young, would not understand it. Still, the hippies were hated for the effeminacy of long hair, and mistakenly thought to be gay because of long hair. As in Seger’s “Turn The Page,” the rednecks used to beat people up to suppress effeminacy. The same occurs in Euripides Bacchae, to one Pentheus, who after beating down effeminacy succumbs to it, identifying with his own shadow-anima. It is a thing in art that is less often serious,[9] though the art depends on the fans taking it seriously. The occurrence in music is related only accidentally to the contemporary gay rights movement, and was not an intentional outing for equality. It may be done intentionally to shock the conventional insistence upon gender-indicating fashions, if not the Mosaic prohibition against cross dressing (Leviticus, 22:5), and to raise certain questions about individual liberties. Money poured in to these shocking things, assuring their promotion. Why were the kids, then, fascinated by this? There is also an integration of feminine traits which, while not masculine, are part of the complete human. But this barely begins to address the questions raised by what is occurring

1971 Electric Warrior

Marc Bolan, Mickey Finn and T. Rex were very big in England at the start of what came to be called glitter rock, and have lots of British hits from 67-70 that we in America have hardly considered. The musicians themselves respect T Rex even more than the people do, with honorable mentions by Pete Townshend and Bowie (“Oh, man, I need TV when I got T. Rex”).

Electric Warrior is shocking for the beauty and height of spirituality amid the wild liberty of the suddenly half-out effeminacy of the glitter rockers. “Mambo Sun” kicks it off with what is just a fun song, with some strange and decent love poetry: Beneath the Mambo Sun, he wants to be the one, and beneath the bebop moon, to croon, with her.

My life’s a shadowless horse

If I can’t get across to you

In the alligator rain

My heart’s all pain for you

A shadowless horse is something like a bodiless spirit, so he is somehow less real in the world without her. (For “alligator rain,” though-we’re on our own). The rest of the song just describes the effects of love, but as the cosmos, in peculiarly Marc Bolan terms: He’s “got wild knees,” his wigs “all pooped,” he’s “feelin’ weird,” with “stars in his beard,” and he’s howlin’ like a loon. This is another way of saying “New feelin’ inside / I can’t explain.” Cosmic dancer, his finest piece of lyric poetry, then suddenly astonishes:

Cosmic Dancer


I was dancing when I was twelve

I was dancing when I was aaah

I danced myself right out the womb

Is it strange to dance so soon

I danced myself right out of the womb

I was dancing when I was eight

Is it strange to dance so late

I danced myself into the tomb

Is it strange to dance so soon

I danced myself into the tomb

Is it wrong to understand

The fear that [dwells] grows inside a man

What’s it like to be a loon

I liken it to a balloon

I danced myself out of the womb

Is it strange to dance so soon

I danced myself into the tomb

And [but] then again, once more

I danced myself out of the womb

Is it strange to dance so soon?

I danced my self out of the womb

It is a song about the musician and his relation to music, but the description becomes deeply mysterious, using the word in one of the proper senses pertaining to the mysteries. He begins to say that he has been dancing all his life, and then with “aaah,” he falls into a reflection on just how long it is that he’s been dancing. He danced himself right out of the womb, in fact, and is it strange to dance so soon? He was dancing then when he was eight, and is it strange to dance so late? Since eight is not literally later but earlier than twelve, the sense of time is shaken up, and we have to begin to think in order to make sense of what is being said. And “soon,” what is soon? In an enigmatic mixing of past and future tenses, he says he danced himself into the tomb. Reincarnation would be one thought to help make sense of how his dance into the tomb could be called soon, and rebirth is another. Framed by womb and tomb, in the structure of the song, we arrive at the center.

In the center of the song, the music becomes more still or quiet again, as in the beginning, and he asks if it is wrong to understand the fear that dwells inside of man. The dance of the cosmic dancer, the dance of rebirth, is what makes it possible to understand this fear, the fear of death. This understanding is, as it is for Bernie Taupin, like being a “loon.” In the previous song, he was “howlin like a loon,” or mad with love. And what is this like? He likens it to a balloon, as a balloon that takes us up “High in your fields above earth.”

Coming out of these central lines, he repeats the first part of the song with a few changes. He pairs “out of the womb” and “into the tomb,” which in the first part were the elementary ideas each introduced in their own stanza. Womb and tomb rhyme in English for the poets, though few can use the rhyme with understanding. The entrance into the tomb precedes the dancing out of the womb of rebirth.

Jeepster is another fun love song, with the exemplary line “You’v got the universe reclining in your hair,” the cause being that she is his love. There next occurs a classic of the ancient rock girl-car comparison: Just like a car, your pleasing to behold / I’ll call you Jaguar if I may be so bold.” This is similar to what for example Ferdinand says in The Tempest when he sees Miranda and wonders if she is a goddess (I, ii, 424), or when he calls Prospero’s apparitions “spirits” (IV, I, 118). And it is especially similar to a line of the song of Solomon, “I compare you, my love, / To a mare of Pharaoh’s chariots” (1:9). The playful Bolan parallel is Jaguar, a really cool car. The other car-girl lyric, in “Get it on” also rises to glittery poetry: “You got a hubcap / Diamond star halo.” The vampire part, though, he could keep, and seems to mar the song, unless some sense of humor here escapes us.



The throne of time

Is a Kingly thing

From whence you know

We all do begin

And dressed as you are, girl

In your fashions of fate

Baby its too late.

Shallow are the actions

Of the children of men

Fogged was their vision

Since the ages began

And lost like a lion

In the canyons of smoke

Girl its no joke

Monolith is again serious, like Cosmic dancer, and very mysterious. The throne of time, from whence we all begin, is a kingly thing. It seems to be too late because he falls in love, and it is fate. The second part of the song can be understood in light of the first. By contrast to the lovers, fated from the kingly throne of time, the actions of humans, the “children of men” are shallow, and their vision fogged, so that they are “lost like a lion in canyons of smoke.” This is not the last time on the album Bolan will contrast the heavenly vision with the earthly reality.

On side II, there are first a couple Bolan love songs, beginning with his only big hit in America, “Get it on.” “Planet Queen” rises to the UFO myth setting for the perchance dreams or mind blowing transports of love:

Well its alright

Love is what you want

Flying saucer take me away

Give me your daughter

What is alright is the mental explosion that makes him have to remind himself that the world is the same, and it is he that is different from the influence of the one he calls the planet queen.

In Girl, love begins to turn tragic, and this is the most glaring of the songs contrasting the heavenly vision with the earthly reality.



Oh God

High in your field above earth

Come and be real for us

You with your mind

Oh yes you are

Beautifully fine

O Girl

Electeric witch you are

Limp in societies ditch you are

Visually fine

Oh yes you are

But mentally dying.

Oh boy

Just like a boat you are sunk

But somehow you float you do

Mentally weak

Oh yes you are

But so much you speak.

The song opens like a glitter church hymn of transcendent beauty. “Come and be real for us” is profound and beautiful line, something like “What if God was one of us / Just a stranger on the bus.” If it is not a part of Kabbalah, it ought be, the call of mankind for the divine to descend and dwell or walk among us. Jung writes that God wanted to become incarnate in man (Answer to Job). The girl, called an “electric witch,” is limp in societies ditch, visually fine but mentally dying. The identification of the spiritual with the mental is profound and unusual for this time, which usually wanted to identify the spiritual things with “feelings” or any faculties other than reason. Notice that the inspired poetry does not do this, but speaks of light and intellect. The same is said of the boy, who is mentally weak, and the other way of describing this is that he sunk like a boat but somehow still floating. Despite being mentally weak, the boy talks a lot. The last section may refer to himself. Summing the whole song, the poet first ascends to address God, calling him to come down and be real for us, but then turns to the boy and girl around him, the typical ones, and sees a spiritually depraved condition. The three part logos is based on the image of God that is man and woman (Genesis 1:26) accessed not through the biblical tradition, but directly, in the vision of poetry or the mind of the poet.

After another song of admiration, “Motivator,” which does seem to be written regarding another male, and has some very nice lines, the poetry of the album concludes with “Life’s a Gas.” It is a song about deciding to stay in the world and enjoy life despite the misfortune of an unrequited love, finding gratitude in the sorrow of the regret for what might have been:

Life’s a Gas

I could have loved you girl

Like a planet

I could have chained your heart to a star

But it really doesn’t matter at all

No it really doesn’t matter at all

Life’s a gas. I hope it’s gonna last.

I could have built a house

On the ocean

I could have placed your love

In the sky

But it really doesn’t matter at all…

I could have turned you

Into a priestess

I could have burned your fate in the sand.

But it really doesn’t matter at all…

He could have loved her like a body not of earth but of the heavens, and in binding their love, could have secured her immortality. In addition, and perhaps now that they are successful musicians, he could have built her a house on the ocean, and made her love immortal by singing it, making it famous, placing it in the sky. His love could have turned her into a priestess, one set aside and a mediator between the other humans and the divine, giving her a fate or a way of life or path with meaning, rather than the life she will lead otherwise. The one loved does not know that the true lover holds the key of life.

1972 Deep Purple Highway Star

This is one of the great girl-car songs, and a great highway song for either car or bike, one of the highest energy of all rock tunes. It has three levels, car, girl, head, which are like the three parts of the soul, appetites, passions and reason. Liberty pertains to all three, and assumes the right to property:

Nobody gonna take my car, I’m gonna race it to the ground

Nobody’s gonna beat my car, It’s gonna break the speed of sound

Ooh, its a killer machine, it’s got everything

Like a drawing power, big fat tires and everything

I love it, I need it, I bleed it

Yeah, its a wild hurricane

Alright, hold tight, I’m a highway star

Nobody’s gonna take my girl, I’m gonna keep her till the end

Nobody gonna take my girl, she stays close on every bend

Ooh, she’s a killing machine, She’s got everything

Like a moving mouth, body control and everything

I love her, I need her, I seed her

Yeah, she turns me on

Alright, hold tight, I’m a highway star.

Nobody gonna take my head, I got speed inside my brain

Nobody gonna take my head, Now I’m on the road again

Ooh, I’m in heaven again, I’v got everything

Like a moving ground, throttle control and everything

I love it, I need it, I seed it cylinders all mine,

Alright, hold tight, I’m a highway star

Nobody gonna take my car

I’m a highway star.

(Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC)

This is one of the greatest rock tunes, with the highest energy, a girl-car song like Queen’s “I’m In Love With My Car,”   T. Rex “Jeepster.” Then he adds head to girl and car, crowning the picture like a hubcap-diamond-star halo.” It is a love song, because he’s gonna keep her till the end.” In the lyric structure, “throttle control is in the same place as “body control.” The material is adult, but given his subtle way of speaking, nobody’s gonna take his right to talk among the boys, either! It is the masculine spirit, suppressed now in our culture, that is at the root of the bikers and metal heads love of the thrill of going fast, and our military depends on this spiritedness. But the best is his free mind, and this shows the meaning of the bikers and metal heads. “Speed” is here literally the thrill of going fast, though it is a good song, too, for study as mental cruising, as with caffeine and liberty. “Ooh, I’m in heaven again. I’v got everything” is the self-sufficiency of the free mind cruising at the heights. It is of course not self sufficient relative to heaven, but to the rule of other humans, and its cultivation is dependent upon heaven or the high things. So it is three levels: car, girl, head: body, heart, mind. It is precisely the point that the girl is not treated as body, despite the talk, but is distinct from the body as the passions are distinct from the appetites in the Greek understanding of the soul. He holds on to his adrenal high life like he holds on to his car or his girl, the things most truly one’s own.

1972 David Bowie and Mott the Hoople: All the Young Dudes

Bowie offered Mott this song and Suffragette city, and Mott chose this one. The song became the glitter anthem, marking the difference between the Sixties hippies and the new high heeled boys of the Seventies.

Billy rapped on all night about his suicide

How he’d kick him in the head when he was 25

The Speed jive

Don’t wanna stay alive when your twenty-five

Wendy’s stealing clothes from Marks and Sparks [U. S.: unlocked cars]

[Billy’s got zits and’s pickin up the scars on his face]

Freddie’s got spots from rippin off the stars on his face

funky little boat race [boy face?]

Well, the television man’s gone crazy

Sayin’ were juvenile delinquent wrecks

Oh, man, I need T. V. when I got T. Rex

Hey brother, you guessed it, I’m a dude

I’m a dude, man

All the young dudes

Carry the news

Boogaloo dudes

Carry the news.

Jimmy looks sweet though he dresses like a queen

But he can kick like a mule, its a real mean team

But we can love

Oh, yes, we can love

And my brother’s back at home with his Beatles and his Stones

Never got it off on that revolution stuff

What a drag

Too many snags

Now I drank a lot of wine and I’m feelin fine

gonna race some cat to bed

Is that concrete all around, or is it in my head?

Billy talked about how he planned his own suicide when he reached the age of twenty five. Is it speed that makes him suicidal, or rather that makes him talk such jive? The suicidal, leaping and occasionally criminal teens are called juvenile delinquents by the television man, who cannot help them. But “Oh man, I need T. V. when I got T. Rex.” The parallel line, in the second stanza, is even better: “Is that concrete all around, or is it in my head?” Their critic, the television man, is blind to the concrete world, and speaks as though it were not a problem. Theirs is a response to the concrete world of the television man that is different from the “revolution stuff” of the Beatles, Stones and his older brother. In “Cygnet Committee,” on Space Oddity, Bowie makes a character that is an old, bitter sixties revolutionary teacher. In the song, he shows how, if it continues left, the slogan of love turns into a tyrannical imperative. “We can love” means that they continue the teaching of love in a certain way, despite presenting themselves as violent fems. The combination of effeminate dress and martial arts indicates another difference from the peaceniks.

Bowie said in an interview with Rolling Stone in 1973 that the news carried by all the young dudes is the same as that of the news guy in “Five Years.”[10] “All the young Dudes is a song about this news. It is no hymn to the youth as people thought. It is completely the opposite.” He too is critical of things the youth are spending time on, as in those stealing cars and clothes and the pursuit of dermatological concerns, but he can help them. These are the same as the dudes who are to carry the news. He means to tell these to get up, leave that stuff, and come carry the news, the news of love, and the fragility of the human world, into the Seventies.


1972 Bowie: Ziggy Stardust

This Album holds together as a unit more than most, telling a single, unified story regarding the tragedy of the rock star. It is for this reason said to be one of the first “concept albums.” The first side is not a tragedy, and at first seems unrelated to the story of Ziggy Stardust the rock star on Side Two. The key to the unity of the album is the connection. Side One is not a tragedy, but has the structure of comedy, the structure of an ascent. This is more remarkable since Side One begins with the news that the earth has only five years to continue. There is no Ziggy on Side One. The character is Bowie himself, and he avoids the tragedy of the rock star, in part by the lesson of rock tragedy studied on Side Two. He appears briefly in each of the first two songs, where the lyric speaks in the first person of “I,” and then more fully in Moonage daydream, where he tells us who he is. The last two songs on Side One are about his activities. Side two is then the tragedy of the rock star Ziggy.

“Five Years” has the dramatic setting of the day that mankind learns that there are very surely only five years left to the earth and humanity. The particular disaster is not mentioned, since this is not what is important. Nicholas Pegg (p. 78) cites Bowie as saying he imagined that the earth was running out of resources. Yet it is as though the news were that there were some unavoidable astronomical disaster, as an asteroid collision, or an inevitable shifting of the poles known to be coming in exactly five years. That his brain hurt like a warehouse recalls the warehouse eyes of Dylan in “Sad Eyed Lady.” Plato’s Socrates, in one theory of knowledge, compares the mind to an aviry (Theatetus). The difference between folk prophesy in “Hard Rain” and in “Five Years,” just five years later, shows the result of the transition.

Pushing through the market square

So many mothers sighing eyes

News had just come over

We had five years left to cry in

News guy wept and told us

Earth was really dying

Cried so much his face was wet

Then I knew

He was not lying.

I heard telephones, Opera house, favorite melody

I saw boys, toys, electric irons and T. V’s

My brain hurt like a warehouse, it had no room to spare

I had to cram so many things to store, everything in there

And all the fat skinny people

And all the tall short people

And all the nobody people

And all the somebody people

I never thought I’d need so many people

Girl my age went off her head

Hit some tiny children

If the black hadn’t have pulled her off

I think she would have killed them

Soldier with a broken arm

fixed his stare to the wheels of a Cadillac

Cop knelt and kissed the feet of a priest

And the queer threw up at the sight of that

I think I saw you in an ice cream parlor

Drinking milk shakes cold and long

Smiling and waving and looking so fine

Don’t think you knew you were in this song

And it was cold, and it rained, so I felt like an actor

And I thought of Ma and I wanted to get back there

Your face, your race, the way that you talk

I’ll kiss you, your beautiful

I want you to walk

We’ve got five years

Stuck on my eyes

What a surprise

Five years, stuck on my eyes, we’ve got five years

My brain hurts a lot

Five years That’s all we’ve got.

The specter of the end sets off the colors of the world in their painful, transitory beauty. It also sets him to a feverish mental activity, as later in “Moonage Daydream,” when he is bustin’ up his brains for the words. The stanza of his seeing “you” in an ice cream parlor makes “Five Years” also a love song, and this is the ultimate addressee of the album. It also draws attention to the line of the illusion between imitation and reality. She is in the song the day she was waving, without knowing it. She also may not know she has only five years.

Soul Love

This song is like a snapshot of what he sees when he said “never thought I’d need so many people.” It continues the theme from five years of looking at life and humanity from the apocalyptic view of a time when we knew we had only five years. The song surveys three different kinds of love, the mother, the young lovers and the priest, then summarizes them in a general statement that shows how all three are somehow the same thing, love. A fourth kind of love, that of the poet, is alluded. I once sent this song to a philosophy professor in demonstration of the argument that there is something more than swarmy love present in this popular music.

Soul love

She kneels before the grave

Her brave son

Who gave his life to save the slogan

That hovers between the headstones

And her eyes

For they penetrate her grieving

New love

A boy and girl are talking

New words

That only they can share in

New words

A love so strong it tears their hearts to sleep

In the fleeting hours of morning

The first stanza opens on a mother grieving for her son, a fallen soldier. He gave his life to save the slogan that hovers between many a headstone, but the poet penetrates what is not a mere name, in her eyes and her grieving. The compassion of Bowie is phenomenal, and the theme distinguishes his topic from the antiwar focus of the hippies. Her love smites her with almost unbearable grief, which leads to the reflection on the accidental and painful carelessness or irrationality of love, which seems to descend upon us defenseless mortals without reason. The refrain is:

Love is careless in it’s choosing

Sweeping over cross a baby

Love descends on those defenseless

Idiot Love would spark the fusion

Inspiration have I none, just to touch the flaming dove

All I have is my love of love

And love is not loving.

Love is this thing that descends upon our circumstances, in our relations, as over a baby, when the parents begin to love it, and idiot love, unable to speak and give an account of itself, proceeds unknowingly or without foresight, yet as in the case of the new lovers considered next, it sparks the fusion, joining humans in all sorts of relations. But for himself, the solitary poetic observer of love, he has no inspiration, except to touch the flaming dove, or divine grace, as soon becomes apparent in his description of the Priest. He is not a lover, except of love, and so writes of three or four kinds. The Zen-like saying that “love is not loving” becomes apparent in the priest, and is the lover’s own conclusion for himself. There is a point where erotic love contradicts itself. The most loving thing for the lover to do is to transcend eros, into agape.

The second kind of love is the new love of boy and girl talking new words that only they can share. Love tears their hearts to sleep as morning slips away.

The final set of lines is the most astonishing:

Soul love, the priest that tastes the word

and told of Love

And how my God on high is all love

Through reaching up my loneliness evolves

By the blindness that surrounds him


The priest that, as in the Eucharist, tastes the bread of life that is the word, has told of love, and “How my God on High is all love (I John 4:7, 16).” That God is love is the scriptural, and especially the New Testament message. The Greeks apparently never conceived of such a thing, but wrote of philia or friendship, as distinct from eros. In the writing of John Donahue on Beauty, the anum kara is translated “soul love” or “soul friend.”[11] It is in conversation with the friend that we are understood, and so at home. As noted by Pegg, the priest is a character carried over from the scene in “Five Years,” when he saw a cop kneel and kiss the feet of a priest, and a queer throw up at the sight of it. His loneliness, which at first appears the opposite of friendship, opens him to a fourth kind of love, evolves by the blindness that surrounds the love of the celibate priest. The emptiness of the lost lover is filled by Love that is divine, as he is guided by the priest. Philia is the word used by Plato in describing the “friend of God.”

Moonage Daydream suddenly bursts electrified into the peak of the comic side of the album, and the live version shows it to be one of the six or eight best songs of Bowie. The electricity is a love call, for the one loved to enter into the rock vision. At the same time, should she take up his invitation, the goddess of the beloved is like an alien visitor, as the sci-fi myth replaces the divine with space aliens: “Put your ray gun to my head ? Press your space-face close to mine, love.” She is lured to come play along. Is the woman here the space invader? The rock star as space invader captures the imagination of the fans. I remember the girls dressing up for the early Bowie shows. Nothing has yet been said of the starman. The first lines say he is an alligator, a mother-father calling to you. He is the space invader and will be a rockin’ rollin’ bitch for “you.” So far his message has been the beauty of the humans and the significance of love against the background of the mortality of the human world. He is all the characters on Ziggy stardust, the alien, the tragic rock star and dude, who brings the same news as the news guy. The coherence of the album centers on the dual meaning of “star.”

…So keep your mouth shut

Your sqaulkin’ like a big monkey bird

and I’m bustin up my brains for the words:

Keep your ‘lectric eye on me, babe

Put your ray gun to my head

Press your space face close to mine love

Freak out in a moonage daydream

Oh yea

Don’t fake it, Baby

Lay the real thing on me

The church of man, lover,

Is such a holy place to be

Make me baby,

Make me know you really care

Make me jump into the air.


Keep your ‘lectric eye…

I for one am willing to hear “the Church of Man, love, is such a holy place to be.” Mankind is the bride of the Lord, and given the things said in Soul Love, it is not impossible that this is intended. The three themes of the album meet in these lines. For her to come along and give her genuine love is to enter into the church of man. But does he also mean man-love? Does he mean to say this too can be a holy sort of love? That would be the question, whether love of this sort works the same way to connect us with Love.

   Starman continues the transcendence begun in Moonage Daydream, but suddenly changes to acoustic guitar, changes the pace by shifting the perspective to that of the terrestrial music fan who suddenly comes into contact with the space invaders:

Hey, now, look out low!

I didn’t know what time it was, the lights were low

I leaned back on my radio

Some cat was layin down some rock and roll

Lotta soul he said

Then the loud sound did seem to fade

Came back like a slow voice on a wave of haze

That were no DJ, that was hazy cosmic jive

The contact with the heavenly beings is through the radio, or through this modern music. They may have heard Moonage Daydream! The starman story joins the rock star and the space alien in an analogy based on how the poet actually does connect the fan with the intelligible meaning of higher things.

There’s a starman waiting in the sky

And he’d like to come and meet us,

But he thinks he’d blow our minds.

There’s a starman waiting in the sky

And he’s told us not to blow it,

’cause he knows its all worthwhile.

He told me, let all the children lose it,

Let all the children use it,

Let all the children boogie.

Look out your window, I can see his light

If we can sparkle, he may land tonight

Don’t tell your papa, or he’ll get us locked up in fright

This is how the Gospel message can be presented in pop art, in images that reflect the intelligible on a lower or visible level, as is done by C. S. Lewis, Tolkien, the Arthurian myths, and elsewhere. It is of course central to the Credo that He, Jesus, “will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” In other words, “There’s a starman waiting in the sky / And he’d like to come and meet us / but he thinks he’d blow our minds.” This cannot be presented in popular art directly, as in Jesus Christ Superstar, but it can be presented playfully through the analogy of the images. There is no indication of a savior in “Five Years.” Bowie’s description of the ecological demise of the earth, from a lack of resources. The place of a savior is to be held by the Star Man, who can, and Ziggy who cannot, bear the image.

There is a diabolical imitation of the divine, and a natural imitation, as the soul itself is an image of God. Whether the imitation is right or perverse depends on the logos or the meaning, which can of course only be accessed by reading the image. Here, the poet is not the star man himself, but has heard his new message from the star man first hand. The message is: “Let all the children boogie.”

The story of Ziggy is different from “Space Oddity,” as here in Ziggy, the spaceman is not an earthling, but one from the stars. In “Space Oddity,” a terrestrial astronaut is likened to the modern seeker-poet who leaves his fellow humans, and the whole atmosphere, like the rocket man that is Bernie Taupin. Though there is nothing about the star man at all on side II, the intention seems to be that contact with the star man has made Ziggy Stardust a star. Carl Jung suggests that in the phenomenon of UFOs, we see a myth in the process of formation.[12] UFOs are seen sometimes by more than one person, with both with the eye and on radar, or seen by pilots. Apart from the question of what they are, the phenomenon of the UFO allows for the projection of material from the collective unconscious, much as modern art, by being unintelligible, calls up contents from within. The conscious circumstance of modern man is one of collective distress. Jung (p. 414) writes: “Yet the dominance of science leaves us without a living myth.”

No Christian will contest the importance of a belief like that of the mediator, nor will he deny the consequences which the loss of it entails. So powerful an idea reflects a profound psychic need which does not simply disappear when the expression of it ceases to be valid. What happens to the energy that once kept the idea alive and dominant over the psyche? A political, religious, and social conflict of unprecedented proportions has split the consciousness of our age. When such tremendous opposites split asunder, we may expect with certainty that the need for a savior will make itself felt…between the psychic opposites there is generated a “uniting symbol” at first unconscious…Should something extraordinary or impressive then occur in the outside world, be it a human personality, a thing or an idea, the unconscious content can project itself upon it, thereby investing the projection carrier with numinous or mythical powers. Thanks to its numinosity, the projection carrier has a highly suggestive effect and grows into a savior myth whose basic features have been repeated countless times.

In this circumstance, the unconscious compensates by fulfilling the need for a savior. The secular mind imagines according to the principles of our modern view of the world, and the astonishing unknown objects become the occasion for the imagination, all apart from the question of the truth of the matter.

Ziggy too is especially adapted to the Moonage, when science fiction has been preparing us for decades for things like space travel, which then become realities. In this image, our imagination of the physical outer space expresses our religious imagination. The connection between these two, the visible and the spiritual, is a perennial question. It may be the most common living myth today, in the sense of Jung, as when the collective unconscious is projected outside. Jung took the imagination of UFO’s very seriously, and the myth is literally believed in various forms by many, from evangelical Christians like Jack Van Impe to cults like those in California who committed suicide in expectation of meeting the aliens in this way, to those who believe themselves to have been abducted for various reasons. Given the serious versions of the modern myth, Bowie’s version in art, or play might be welcome, and many fans were quite taken up by the whole thing. At the same time, there is a serious intelligible teaching presented through the image. This is that we are in circumstance where the end of humanity is possible in various ways, and the music coming through the radio does connect the listeners, through the musician, with an intelligence that is like a starman.

My favorite line of the whole album may be “If we can sparkle, he may land tonight.” The glitter of the kids, their participation in the celestial twinkling, is what may call the starman to earth, when he no longer fears that he would blow our minds. In any case, he has told the poet to let the kids lose it, use it, and boogie. And do not blow it, ’cause he knows its all worthwhile!

The final song on side one, “It Ain’t Easy” is an arrival, through the ascent of side one, at the tops, from where it is possible to view all the possibilities of life. The song was written by Ron Davies, and selected because of where it fits in the whole story:

When you climb to the top of a mountain

Look out over the seas

Think about the places we have for a young man to be

And then you jump back down to the rooftops

Look out over the town

Think about all of the strange things circulating ’round

It ain’t easy

It ain’t easy to get your love when your going down.

The poet then takes us to jump back down to the rooftops and look out over the town and think about all the strange things circulating around, a kind of political study. This is the ascent of philosophy and the return to the human world. The starman is the rock poet who has ascended to a comprehensive vision from the mountaintop. The first side of the album has been an ascent that began in the anticipation of immanent apocalypse, ascended through degrees of human love to a mythic level, and the teaching of the starman.

Side Two

This serious level means also that the musician is in danger of identifying himself with the starman when he becomes a star. Side two is a tragedy, the tragedy of the rock star that Bowie avoids. By writing the album, he shows the way through. The two sides aim toward a conjunction of comedy and tragedy. Interestingly, in Jung’s essay on the modern myth, he considers a dream in which the UFO was described as a metal spider, and had a voice (p. 352). He writes : “Spiders, like all animals that are not warm blooded or have no cerebro-spinal nervous system, function in dreams as symbols of a profoundly alien psychic world. So far as I can see, they express contents which, though active, are unable to reach consciousness” (p.353). There is a danger of the identification of the ego or conscious personality with the “self.” In Jungian psychology, both the starman and the UFOs would be called symbols of the self, which is the divine or the image of God in each. Contact with the archetypes leads to an inflation, where the ego attributes characteristics of the self to itself.

   Lady Stardust is said to remind of Iggy Pop. Make up, long black hair. Animal grace, bright blue jeans, Songs of darkness and disgrace. There may be a bit of Marc Bolan in the character as well, who is however primarily fictional. But his Song went on forever, he was awful nice, quite paradise, and sang all night long

Fans emerge, “Femme fatals,” women of fate, and he, observing “smiled sadly for a love I could not obey.” He sighed when someone asked if he knew who the singer was. There is not a trace of Homosexual love in the first side of the album, and it enters here in his admiration for the strange musician.

   Star The next two songs invite us to participate in the excitement of taking off with a successful rock band to catch our sympathetic participation in the tragedy. “I could make the transformation as a rock and roll star.” The dreamer thinks he could fall in love alright and fall asleep at night as a rock star. Notice these are the things we really want– to fall in love and fall asleep at night. Then the last line, “Just watch me now,” leads into the great jam “Hang Onto Yourself.” This is just what was happening to Bowie, when the song Starman propelled him from a one hit musician to a superstar.

   Rock and Roll Star is the dream that sets Ziggy off on his tragic journey, the dream of becoming a rock and roll star so that he can sleep at night and fall in love alright. It ends “Just watch me now,” and we are captured by the fantasy.

Ziggy Stardust

Ziggy himself is a rock star who played guitar left handed, like Hendrix, but made it too far. Hendrix called himself a Voodoo child” in the song of that name. The snow white tan and other elements remind of Iggy Pop, especially the “like a leper…” He became the special man, and then they, the Spiders, became Ziggy’s band. Pegg relates various elements of Ziggy to the various rock stars, and writes: “The point is not who he is, but the fact that he is a construct of rock’s archetypes.” He “played for time,” and would jive them that they were voodoo, or, he developed a spiritual teaching according to which they were not real, or illusory. Does “play for time” mean that he is teaching illusions in order to extend his run as the Nazz, though this cannot last? The kids, their fans, he would disdain as crass, while:

…He was the Nazz, with god given ass.

He took it all too far

But boy could he play guitar.

The Nazz, as Oliver Trager relates, is a word for hipster from a novel by Lord Buckley, and the name of the band of Todd Rundgren from 67-69. There may be some connection in the origin of the word to the Nazarene, Jesus. And where were the spiders while the fly tried to break their balls? With just the beer light to guide them, they could only bitch about his fans and consider maiming his special ass hands. And Bowie’s psychological account of the rock star syndrome:

Making love with his ego, Ziggy sucked up into his mind

Like a leper Messiah

When the kids would kill the man, I had to break up the band.

The patient of Jung who dreamed of a spider in his attic was in danger of a “pathological inflation,” unable to distinguish, in one of Jung’s books, between the ego and the self, the latter referring to the “supra-ordinate totality” of conscious and unconscious. This is an attempt to get at and avoid the tragedy of the rock star. What occurs is unfortunate, because while the rock star is not what he thinks he is, he is something special that might have been developed had he been able to hang on to himself. Jung thinks a Jewel is hidden in the symbol of the spider in the attic, though it is unlikely that the content will reach consciousness.

Suffragette City

The Suffragettes were women who demonstrated for the vote around the 1920’s. In our school days, many fine ladies were advocates of these ladies things. The whole band comes apart when Ziggy falls in love with a liberated woman, somewhat as if she could be his “Yoko Ono.” The scene, as Ziggy clears out the droogies (A term for comrades, from A Clockwork Orange) is like the way a man clears out his friends when he falls in love. Like the friends of Romeo, they feel slighted, but give way. But is not “Wham, Bam, Thank you ma’am” a playful dig at the feminists, or is he not being playful with one? The attitude of a man who might master one? (We’d call ‘em chicks, and like it when it pissed them off­, more mod than liberal! Gulls is gulls, a bird a bird!) This means that the story of Ziggy ends without a rock catastrophe, as occurred in many actual cases. The tragedy is replaced by Suffragette city and then Rock and Roll suicide.

Rock and Roll Suicide

The song begins with a man like Aqualung, an old decrepit man who was once a rock and roll person.

As the poem finds him, he slowly lights a cigarette, then almost gets hit by a Chevy as he crosses the road, stumbling home near dawn. He has no appetite, because he has lived too long. It is to him first, since he thinks he has reached the end alone, but also and especially the music listeners who heard the starman on the radio, that he sings the farewell stanza:

Oh no, love, your not alone

You’ve got your head all tangled up, but if I could only make you care

Oh no love, your not alone, no matter what or who you’ve been

No matter where nor where you’ve seen

All the knives seem to lacerate your brain

I’ve had my share, I’ll help you with the pain

Your not alone.

Just turn on with me

And your not alone

Let’s turn on and be wonderful

Give me your hands

Cause your wonderful

Oh give me your hands

One thinks back to when Bowie saw him, as his star was rising, and “smiled sadly” for a love he could not obey.” Now he is there, like a presence at the end of his life, his Aqualung moment, to tell him he is not alone, no matter what or who he has been. The forgiveness of Bowie is holy, and turns out to be related to his avaunt guard acceptance of the strange. He can reach anyone where they are most alone because he has made freakishness open fashion. A similar intention to reach the lost is behind the Pink Floyd song “Hey You.” His androgynous persona is central to this openness. This is somehow one of the great suicide prevention songs,­ a genre of its own, with REM’s “Hold On.” The message touches everyone in despair. The great compassion of Bowie demonstrates that, what ever his noted contact with things “occult,” he is a spirit that is quite good. His great love for the people whose lives he touches, as well as the playful heart of Bowie shown in a song like “Kooks,” show him to be an extraordinary sprite. One effect of the androgen y and Campy stuff is to open forgiveness: “No matter what or who you’ve been,” “Your not alone.” Just turn on with me, and your…wonderful,” and then like a dramatists at the end of a play, asks give me your hands.” One suspects that here the spaceman, in some eight lines, has used his “stardom” to enter into the souls of millions, and prevented thousands of actual suicides. From the heights that concluded the first side, he has reached deep into the human world, under the rooftops. And from the apocalyptic background that set off the significance of human love from low to high, ascending, and launched the star man, he has returned to earth in something like the recognition that if we did get the word that we had five years left, what we do is the same: comfort those in despair, whether we are able to reach thousands or only our own love.


1972 Uriah Heep: Demons and Wizards

One of the earliest heavy metal bands, Uriah Heep may be the most underrated of all the bands of the early seventies. Their most popular songs are “Stealin” and “Sweet Lorain.” They also had a hit with “Look at Yourself,” after their greatest hit of all, the perennial “Easy Livin’.” For height of spirit and goodness in their lyrics, they must be considered among the best. While not explicitly Christian, their songs could be sung with great effect by any of that strange breed, the Christian rock band, since here the mode is invoked to describe things that are exciting or revelatory. Stealin is about a song in the spirit of the blues and the Wild West, about a sinner who discovered the root of the law. The connection between fornication and thievery is astonishing for a poet of our age, in which these truths are generally obscured. “Look at Yourself” is a philosophically spiritual song that actually works as a rock song because the theme is worthy of the intensity of the mode. For anyone who knows Socrates and seeks the liberal arts poetry, it is a piece of the Delphic oracle in music.

Uriah Heep, and Mr, Hensley in particular, are in touch with the white wizard, as was Townshend, and the first song on the perfect album side I of Demons and Wizards is titled simply The Wizard. For these poets, as Townshend, Plant and Hensley, their contact with philosophy and the analogical meaning of magic is in the same English tradition as that of Tolkein and Arthurian legend. It provides a source for high spiritual imagery which is not directly Christian, but because it is in accord with nature, is not in conflict with the Christian understanding. Like Townshend’s, or Tommie’s wizard, Hensley’s too “Had a cloak of gold and eyes of fire.” Traveler in time is another great liberal arts poetry song, for the college age youth when they first come near to philosophy. “Easy Livin’ ” is a song about falling in love, but is also, or especially, about Christian conversion at the same time, by analogy carrying the higher meaning in the human meaning, finding God and love all at the same time. “The Poet’s Justice” is a song of love and loss in the spiritual Journey, where the loss leads the poet to the finding of Love. Finally, and most profoundly, “Circle of Hands” is a poetic commentary, from a pinnacle of insight, on Music or culture generally, and the confrontation with evil, and concern for the future of mankind. The lyrics are printed on the album cover:

The Wizard

He was the wizard of a thousand kings,

and I chanced to meet him one night wandering

He told me tales and he drank my wine

Me and my magic man kinda feel fine

He had a cloak of gold

And eyes of fire

And as he spoke I felt a deep desire

To free the world of its fear and pain

And help the people to feel free again

Why don’t we listen to the voices in our hearts

‘Cause then I know we’d find we’re not so far apart

Everybody’s got to be happy

Everyone should sing

For we know the Joy of life

The peace that love can bring

So spoke the wizard in his mountain home

The vision of his wisdom means we’ll never be alone

And I will dream of my magic night

And the million silver stars that guide me with their light

One night in his wanderings, the poet meets, and parties with, the wizard, though he is a very important wizard, in touch with or serving a thousand kings. As later appears, they have retired to the mountain home of the wizard, or, the wizard has taken the poet home with him. The wizard tells the poet stories, while the poet feeds the wizard wine, together making up an evening. His golden cloak shows the splendor of his wisdom, as does the golden, full length beard of Tommie’s wizard. His eyes are of fire, as are those of the Christ seen in the vision of John (Revelation 1:14). The effect of the speech of the wise man is to instill or give rise in the poet to deep desire for the good of mankind, “To free the world of its fear and pain / And help the people to feel free again.” The Wizard is here the source of the teaching of the hippies of love and liberty, the joy of life, and the peace that love can bring. The vision of the wisdom of the wizard means that we will never be alone, or alienated, as we might be without Love. He will remember the experience of the evening with the wizard and dream of it, seeing as in a dream and inspired by it as by a vision, which is to be guided by the light of the million silver stars. For Heep, as for Townshend and a few others, their wizard is a prophet of love, or the relation between wisdom and love. This may be the pinnacle of the hippie vision, as high as this goes while remaining recognizably hippie or “freak.” This principle is not without content, but unfolds through the album across a journey, from this beginning, through a love, to something like an apocalyptic vision. But we must travel before we can arrive:

Traveler in Time


Every day I have to look to the sun

To see where it was that I have come from

I have a feelin that there must be a time

When I’ll get a chance to go home

‘Cause I’m so tired of bein’ here alone

But I’m just a traveler in time

Tryin’ so hard to pay for my crime

If I could go back the same way I got here

And see the people that I once felt so near

I’d do my best to find an answer for you

But first I must wait till I’m set free

And I don’t know how long that’s gonna be

‘Cause I’m a man with a whole lot on his mind

Just out there somewhere traveling in time

Traveling in time

I’ve tried for so long to find some way of helping mankind

The poem is like a love song written on the road to one left at home who misses him. Our journey through time includes the mission of paying for our crime, as in the fall of Adam. He will be able to return to love when he is set free from his retributive journey. His journeying through time becomes like time travel, or like philosophic flying, and it is related to the things on his mind. For from his conversation with the wizard, this desire has arisen in him to free the world of fear and pain, and help the people in the joy of life and liberty.

Easy Livin

This is a thing I’ve never known before

It’s called easy livin’

This is a place I’ve never seen before

And I’ve been forgiven

Easy livin’ and I’ve been forgiven

Since you’ve taken your place in my heart

Waiting, watching

Wishing my whole life away

Dreaming, thinking

Ready for my happy day

And some easy livin’!

This then is the explosion of joy that comes upon finding one’s love, or when the soul finds the Lord. It is similar to the Monkey’s line, “Then I saw her face / Now I’m a believer.” The music is the rush of energy upon being healed of the division, as though the traveler, in the previous song, had been forgiven his debt for his crime. This is what both the birth of love and the birth of the soul out of the world that is salvation, are like. In the music, it is a symphony of heavy metal church organ upon finding salvation, or as the soul awakens to the discovery of love. The analogy is the same as that in the Monkees’ tune “Now I’m a Believer,” and is in the nature of things. In the Monkees’ song , it is joking and mostly unconscious, though we contend that it is less so, or more conscious for Hensley, or that he knows what he is saying

“The Poet’s Justice” is again a love song of loneliness away from love, and of the poet brought to his knees by love. One sees the circumstance described in the song “Paradise,” on side two. Her love for him dies, but he is a survivor, and trudges on toward paradise. But the poetry of the Poet’s Justice is exceptional. The first four lines set the scene of a true love:

Cold winds and cloudy skies

Turned to sweetness in her eyes

Fantasies I realized

Came to life to my surprise

The next four lines describe, in equally succinct form, the loss of his love and his surprising salvation through this:

Rain came and took her away

Just when I thought she was here to stay

Sun gone I was left high and dry

Love came by and touched me

And kissed me so long

The next four lines describe his hope to return to her from this having been found by Love:

Shine hard October moon

Eagle take me to her soon

Run swiftly silver stream

Find my love or let me dream

The shivering beauty is the scene of his love being sent out as on an eagle along the moonlit streams. The fourth set gets at the principle of love, or why the lover would wish either to find his love or continue in the dream on his longing. He recognizes the principle of his own lack of self sufficiency. At the same time, in this very recognition is the seed of the self-sufficiency of wisdom:

Half of me is all of her

I’d be much happier if I was whole

All my words and wisdom fall

The poet’s Justice leads me to my goal

“Circle of Hands” begins from the pinnacle of an ascent, where the poet finds himself in a trance-like state, viewing the true spiritual circumstance of mankind. It seems to be about the threat of Satanism in music and culture, which the poet apprehends. It is, at least, somewhere in this direction that we must go to follow Mr. Hensley. There is something profound here that we cannot get at:

Circle of hands

Cold spirits plan

Searching my land for an enemy

Came across love’s sweet cost

And in the face of beauty

Evil was lost

The clouds are parted with the music around the epiphany of the line in which evil is dissolved in the presence of beauty. To follow out the difficult lines: there is a circle of hands that is like a seance, a planning council of cold spirits. Yet the poet, when searching his land for an enemy, encounters not these but rather the sweet pain that is the cost of love, the death that leads to life. He then returns to consider those planning:

Sky full of eyes, minds full of eyes [lies]

Black from their cold hearts, down to their graves

murdered the dawn, spreading their scorn

Cursing the sun of which love was born

These are those who would murder the dawn, and the image is of the perpetrators of the crucifixion. The Christianity of Hensley is muted so as not to be confused with what appears, but he is or is akin to a Christian white magician. These curse the sun “for which love was born.” This is an original form of the image of the Good one and his offspring. Now the sun can both be an image of the highest good or worshiped idolatry, but here, it is an image of the good. He knows that these of blackened hearts curse the source of love, and he means this as a romantic poet, and he means to imply that Love is cursed, and not upheld, by the Satanists, who sometimes present themselves as the advocates of eros, as desire, from its fetters of convention. The poet concludes with a warning:

We must keep them away

Or pretty soon we’ll pay

And count the cost in sorrow

Sacrifice, the future has its price

and today is only yesterday’s tomorrow.

The poem then is a subtle encouragement of difficult opposition to the diabolical influences on culture and music, in the interest of the future. We must keep them away, or soon we will suffer all the harms that come to mankind from those of cold heart. The interpretation is supported and broadened by the theme of the first and last songs on side II, “Rainbow Demon” and “The Spell,”. The Spell is like an apocalyptic operatic dialogue between Satan and Christ, as though they were dark and light magicians. It would not seem out of place in Jesus Christ Superstar. The poet struggles, though the end is a warning that is not encouraging. In the dialogue, the participants are something like the poet and the adversary. He opens with the discovery of the cold spirits plans, mentioned in “Circle of Hands.” It is something like that discussed by Nietzsche as a revision of all values, turning what was once thought evil into what comes to be thought best. The world though, should be not so much upright as round. Those looking for prophesies of a pole shift, though, may as well have this one.

Poet:   What do you think I am

Do you think I’m dreamin

Don’t you know I know

What it is your schemin

Who’d you think gave you the right

Hidden by the dead of night

To take the world and turn it upside down

When it should be round

Luckily, the poet, our hero, has arrived just in time to save the youth of today from the impending corruption, by reason and poetry. Together with Plant’s Piper, this is a reference to reason in connection with the white wizard, indicating a liberal contact with the mysteries of philosophy.

Seems I made it just in time

To use my reason and my rhyme

To save us from the evils of your mind

The conjunction of Philosophy and poetry was the achievement of another great wizard from the alchemical, rather than the Merlin-ist branch of the tradition of English poetry, Shakespeare’s Prospero. So it is not immediately clear which participant should be given the lines:

I will cast the spell

Be sure I’ll cast it well

I will light a fire

Kindled with desire

The poet too casts a spell, and lights a fire with the desire that brings us into enchantment of beauty, before which evil is lost. It seems to be in response to the spell of the poet that the adversary threatens:

Adversary: I’ll fill you with fear

So you know I’m here

And I won’t be treated like a fool

Sn’o good your pretending

There’ll be no happy ending

I’m alive and darkness is my tool

Poet: But when the night is over

And daytime steals your cover

The goodness of the morning sun

Will warm away what you have done

And leave you cold

The poet, if not the Christ, attempts to persuade the adversary by pointing out that all his efforts are fruitless, and this is so too of all human endeavor, destined not to last. One wonders if anyone will ever say these things to him, and what he would respond, knowing that his efforts only secured his capture and defeat. But here the adversary answers something like that he is an eternal or perennial principle:

I have no need for moonlight

You’re wrong to trust in sunlight

For I exist not just in storms

But in life itself in so many forms

to leave you cold

I will leave you now

But you won’t defeat me

You had best beware

When you come to meet me

The poet won’t defeat him or be rid of him, at least in these terms. He is well advised to beware, and the adversary threatens him that he will come to meet him, or he may be damned. It is not by our own power that we can counter the adversary, in part because it is something like chaos, a semi-permanent principle or characteristic of our world. In storms, there is a vortex, and this would seem at its core to be empty. As with black holes, though, these empty spots are of varying sizes and strengths, as can be seen from the matter that swirls around them. The poet then appeals to perennial principles in response, becoming one in expression with the Messiah:

Love and truth will follow me

An army of reality

Brought from every corner of the world

The one followed by the army of being or reality is the Christ. That these are gathered from every corner of the globe is the prophecy, from the gospel of Matthew (24:31). The adversary answers that the messiah will not be able to break the spell, because, as he thinks, the fires of hell are a superior power:

You will never break the spell

I’ll summon all the fires of hell

And this is my advice for what its worth

He is wrong, of course, though this has not been demonstrated, as the conflict for the souls of men in modern culture has not yet been decided conclusively

The concluding lines then are not written on the album cover, but are:

Let us not begin

This fight we cannot win

Be sure your watching me

Cause all through your life

Every day and every night

You should know that I’ll be watching you

The warning reminds us of the end of “Sympathy for the Devil.” The end is not conclusive, because it is a warning for our time. Evil is overcome not at the end, but in the middle of the album, when “Evil was lost.”

1972 Mercury Record Productions, inc. All music and Lyrics c. 1972, Sydney Bron Music, Ltd., London, England. All rights for the U.S.A. and Canada controlled by Bron Music (ASCAP). Lyrics reprinted there by permission of Warner Bros. Music.

Motown was influenced by the popularization of lyric depth, so that an epiphany of poetic and popular soul music is produced in the early seventies. At its peak, Marvin Gaye does “What’s Goin On,” against the grain of the record company, which feared lyrics with political meaning. But the poetic lyrics I am thinking of only begin with songs like Michael Jackson’s “Got To Be There” and the Supremes “ I Hear a Symphony.” with “Love Child” and I’m livin in Shame,” “Aint No Mountain High Enough” some very nice lyrics are written for the Supremes.Touch Me In The Morning” is about a terrible moment in love, the same as occurs in the Kristopherson song “For the Good Times” and “Angel of the Morning.”


1972 Touch Me In The Morning (Ron Miller and Michael Masser; Jobete Music Co, Inc.)

Touch me in the morning

Then Just walk away

We don’t have tomorrow

But we had Yesterday

Wasn’t it me who said

That nothing goods gonna last forever

Wasn’t it me who said let’s just be glad for the time together

It must have been hard to tell me

That you’d given all you had to give

I can understand your feeling that way,

Everybody’s got their life to live

But I can’t watch love go in the cold of the night

….morning light

We’ve seen how love can grow,

Now let’s see how it dies

If I ’v got to be strong,

Don’t you know I need your help tonight, till your gone

Till you go I need you

To hold me

Until the time

Your hand reaches out to

Touch me in the morning

Then just close the door

Leave me as you found me

Empty like before

Didn’t we take each other

To a place where no one’s ever been

Now I need you near me tonight,

Cause you’ll never take me there again.

Your hand reach out and

Touch me in the morning

Then just close the door

Leave me as you found me

Empty like before.


There is something to be said for letting love go in the cold of the night, that is, it would be better if she did not need him so, and compassion of the listener for this weakness is the cause of the wrenching emotion of the song. As with the songs of Stevie Nicks, one wonders what dumb or insensible loved one could leave such a lover.

In 1972, two songs of despair became big hits, when Harry Nilsson did a Badfinger song from 1970, written by Peter Ham and Thomas Evans. Without You and Alone Again Naturally by Gilbert O’ Sullivan express a suicidal romantic despair that is unlike anything before or since. “Without You” may be the only song in which a lover tells the one loved directly that they cannot live without them:

No, I can’t forget this evening

On your face as you were leaving

But I guess that’s just the way the story goes

You alweays smile, but in you eyes your sorrow shows

Yes it shows

No, I can’t forget tomorrow, when I think of all my sorrow

How I had you there, but then I let you go

And now it’s only fair that I should let you know

What you should know

I can’t live, if living is without you

I can’t give, I give anymore…

Love takes the lover to the limit of mortality, which is the death of the mortal soul. The pain is intolerable and seems permanent, though if Romeo would be patient, the intolerable pain will not last. Here the souls do not have access to the higher things by experience, since if they did, the beloved would not literally hold the significance of “life itself.” But the lover, by definition, does not have direct experience of the highest things, since if they did, they would not invest the beloved with such significance. Love is, as we have said above, the first direct experience of the intelligible, or the only intelligible thing permitted visible reflection. But this, loves idolatry, occurs quite natural, all by itself, or involuntarily. It is a passage through which there is indeed danger of suicide. Love calls for a sacrifice, symbolically, in penance (Romans 6), and not literally in suicide.

Strangely, it is impossible for the one loved to respond, and the lover places them in an odd spot. What are they to say, I will stay with you so that life is bearable for you? So that I am not responsible for the result? It is in a way a holding the beloved hostage, though this is not the intention. So it is not quite fair to let the one loved know, except as a more innocent expression of how much the one means to another.

A writer on the Songmeanings website, GTony, has noted some subtlety in the first four lines, and suggests that perhaps she is dying, or that the leaving is involuntary. But then, she may be sad in part to consider all the sorrows to which she now leaves him. It does seem that it is that he let her slip away, a bit like Orpheus and Persephone.

That life itself is identified with giving is an interesting point, and may show that the lover might find his way through. The lover can be consoled by the continuing of love itself, and the possibility of love such as the love they bear. The lover knows that love is real. And like an open wound, it will not always feel so bad.

The next song of despair is even worse, and deeper. Again as a writer on Songmeanings notes, the upbeat rhythm hides the sorrow, because we are alone with it, as the one in the song is left alone by the church guests. The strange combination of upbeat rhythm with despairing lyrics reflect the macabre circumstance of daily human life.

The singer tells us:

In a little while from now

If I’m not feeling any less sour

I promised myself to treat myself and visdit a nearby tower.

And climbing to the top

Will throw myself off

In an effort to

Make it clear to who

Ever (wonders) what its like when your shattered

Left standing in the lurch

In a church where people saying

“My God, that’s tough, she stood him up

No point in us remaining

May as well go home

As I did on my own

Alone again, naturally.

He says that he will throw himself off the tower in an attempt to communicate to whomever it may concern what it is like when one is shattered. “Cut into little pieces” is another image. To explain, he exhibits his circumstance to common sense and  human conscience: He was stood up at the altar, and in the most last minute, publicly humiliating way. To Romantic destruction and public humiliation is added religious despair, since the scene occurs in a church. The people introduce the name of God, saying, “My God, that’s tough, she stood him up…” The people who make up the church, and have come for the reception, then leave him alone. A writer on Songmeanings, GTony, says that if Gilbert were his friend, he would say he knows of certain bars, and the first sixteen rounds are on him! The one thing we can do about such sorrow is to be there, and not leave people alone, as the Friar leaves Juliet in the crypt of Capulet. Robert Plant says, “I will share your load.” And Bowie says “Your not alone / Just turn on with me / Lets turn on and be…wonderful….” But there is more

To think that it was only yesterday

I was cheerful, bright and gay

looking forward to- who wouldn’t do

The role I was about to play

But as if to knock me down

Realitry came around

And without so much as a mere touch

Cut me into little pieces

Leaving me to doubt

Talk about God in his mercy

How if he really does exist

Why did he desert me

In my hour of need

I truly am indeed

Alone again, naturally.

It seems to me that there are more hearts broken in the world

Than can be mended

Left unattended

What do we do?

What do we do?

If God exists, why did he desert him in his hour of need? Jesus himself was forsaken, on the cross, and this is in a way the truth of the human condition by nature, that we are ultimately alone by nature. The theology of the song, though, is a profound atheism supported by the poet’s mathematics: there are more hearts broken in the world than can be mended. And there is more:

Looking back over the years

In whatever else that appears

I remember I cried when my father died, never wishing to dry the tears

He was sixty-five years old

My mother, God rest her soul

Couldn’t understand why the only man

she had ever loved had been taken

despite encouragement from me

No words were ever spoken

When she passed away

I cried and cried all day

Alone again, naturally.

At first, I thought that it was his mother left to doubt why God would desert her. The conclusion of this man, sanctified by sorrow and without thwe comfort of faith, is to set about to tend the broken hearts in the world.

1972 Superstition Stevie Wonder

“Superstition” is beyond soul, creating its own ganre or gospel-soul-rock-funk fusion. Funk in the seventies was influenced by rock and the hippies, becoming psychedelic funk, a sort of pre-disco. The Black Cherry song “Play That Funky Music” relates the history of the poet’s conversion from rock to Funk, in quest of a dance music. There is nothing like the beat for dance, even while the message implies a Christian criticism of occult superstitions, as the “baby “ who is superstitious suffers superstition: The dance is gospel music, and this is a window into why Stevie Wonder is so great. The words are a good example of lyrics we have heard all our lives but never listened to, nor evern knew what they were:

Very superstitious

Writings on the wall…

Ladder’s bout to fall

Thirteen month old baby

Broke the looking glass

Seven years bad luck

The good things in your past

When you believe in things

That you don’t understand

Then you suffer

Superstition ain’t the way

Very superstitious

Wash your face and hands

Rid me of the problem

Do all that you can

Keep me in a daydream

Keep me goin strong

You don’t want to save me

Sad is my song.

Superstition brings dance music to classic rock from Motown, carrying on the funk line. Stevie wrote the song with Jeff Beck in mind, or, thinking of the fusion of funk with the new folk blues. It may be an effort to bring the wisdom of soul music, or the wisdom of Wonder, to the occult tendencies of rock and roll. One imagines that it is sung to a woman who is superstitious. The particulars are so strange that one expects they are drawn from experience. Superstition is suffered, or it harms the person. It is a wrong kind of “faith,” of believing in things we don’t understand. It is not that he knows the particulars are false, but that superstition replaces the concern for the salvation of others. At work, we say it is bad luck to walk under a ladder cause a guy like me might be working on top of it! He’s probably up there thinking about music. “You don’t want to save me” may mean that he turns away from the woman because she cannot love him.

1973 Innervisions Golden Lady

Looking in your eyes

Kind of heaven eyes

Closing both my eyes

Waiting for Surprise

To see the heaven in your eyes is not so far

That I’m not afraid to try and go it

To know the love and the beauty never known before

I’ll leave it up to you to show it

And Golden Lady, Golden Lady, I’d like to go there

Golden Lady, I’d like to go there

Take me right away.

Looking at your hands

Hands can understand.

Waiting for a chance

Just to hold your hand


To see the heaven in your eyes is not so far

That I’m not afraid to try and go it

To know the love and the beauty never known before

I’ll leave it up to you to show it

And Golden Lady, Golden Lady, I’d like to go there

Golden Lady, I’d like to go there

Take me right away.

There is a moment in love where the hand and touch of the one loved appears in astonishing beauty. “The heaven” is what is seen in her eyes, and it sets the lover on a journey that is an ascent. It is a way of the soul upward, and requires courage, to which his love inspires him. She is called golden lady, in the sense of the highest element in the soul, not just what glitters. Hence the song is, to say the least, aristocratic, and this is what a princess is. We do not know if she was persuaded to come along, but the obverse of Golden Lady is the sad song “All is fair in Love.”



[1]    The Encyclopedia of Rock, p. 280.

[2]    It is not clear from the Bible just how we are to imagine the rapture, but the places to begin thinking about this are Matthew 25, Luke 21 and I Corinthians 15: 42-56. It is surprising that there is not more of an explicit presentation of the rapture in the Revelation, and the ordering of events in Chapter 20 gives rise to various understandings. The clearest presentation of the issue I have seen is by the preacher Jack Van Impe, though his presentation of the rapture in chapter 4 is probably incorrect.

[3]    Freidrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra.

[4]    Davis (p.129) cites an example chronicling The Battle of Brunanburh, from about 940.

[v]    Davis, p. 151.

[vi]   Davis, p.

[vii]  See Jung, Symbols of Transformation, p. 306; “He is looking for her,” 308.

[viii] Chris Welch, Led Zeppelin: The Story Behind Every Led Zeppelin Song

[9]    Jung, Symbols of Transformation, Plate X is a painting of Franz Stuck called “Sin.” The lust of a man is feminine, the cruelty masculine. So beneath lust is cruelty, which otherwise would not seem related. Cruelty depends upon the prior erosion of the morality of love. While not all homosexuality is evil, evil is homosexual. Androgyny can characterize either the divine or the diabolic, as angels are without gender. So androgyny has something to do with the trans-human, or, gender differentiation refers only to the human or mortal part of our souls. Hence, they do not marry in heaven. Evil takes on the shapes of the divine because the spiritual is trapped in the animal. While there is great variety in nature, and primate nature, the animal principle cannot account fully for human homosexuality.

[10]  Nicholas Pragg, The Complete David Bowie, p. 21.

[11]  From an interview by Christie Tippit on National Public Radio, January 29, 2012.

[12]  Jung, Civilization in Transition, p.

2 thoughts on “Rock Commentaries Part II Chapter VII (1970-1972)

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