Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Track of the Week: Cygnet Committee by David Bowie

I have yet to really delve into the whole David Bowie discography, but I doubt anything could top this week's track, "Cygnet Committee." Released in 1972 on the David Bowie (or Space Oddity) album, this epic (and that truly is the best word) clocks in at over nine-and-a-half minutes.

According to LastFM:
During 1969 Bowie and then-girlfriend Angela Barnett lived in Beckenham, where they ran the Arts Lab, trying to encourage young people to be creative. However, Bowie soon quit the Arts Lab, when he realized that most people were coming just to see him perform and not to participate. His disappointing encounter with the hippies during this time is the basis for the song, as he felt he was used and abused by the teens.

Initially Bowie sets the scene of what we learn is a post-revolutionary period. The narrator sounds depressed and Bowie goes into the thoughts of one of the revolutionaries. He feels tossed aside and taken for granted by the people who did not have to sacrifice for the revolution.

But the post-revolution does not prove to be any better and most certainly not a utopia. The desperation is apparent as Bowie's voice grows more strained and passionate. By the end of the song he is literally yelling out "I want to live!"

If you look at the disintegration and fall of the hippie movement of the 60's, Bowie expresses his, and many others, frustration with all that wasn't accomplished. George Harrison heard of the Haight-Ashbury district in San Francisco and was compelled to visit. He was disappointed he what he discovered to be a mass of dirty, sick, poverty-stricken people living in what had been purported to be a new utopia. The movement devolved into violence and bigotry, drug addiction and eventual nothingness. Those who started out to change the world discovered that anything can be co-opted by the selfishness and inhumanity of humanity.

And now I'm tired.



Lyrics
I bless you madly, sadly as I tie my shoes
I love you badly, just in time at times, I guess
Because of you I need to rest
Because it's you that sets the test

So much has gone and little is new
And as the sparrow sings
Dawn chorus for someone else to hear
The thinker sits alone growing older
And so bitter

"I gave them life
I gave them all
They drained my very soul dry
I crushed my heart to ease their pains
No thought for me remains there
Nothing can they spare
What of me?
Who praised their efforts to be free?
Words of strength and care and sympathy
I opened doors that would have blocked their way
I braved their cause to guide, for little pay

I ravaged at my finance just for those,
Those whose claims were steeped in peace, tranquility
Those who said a new world, new ways ever free
Those whose promises stretched in hope and grace for me"

I bless you madly,
sadly as I tie my shoes
I love you badly, just in time, at times, I guess
Because of you I need to rest, oh yes
Because it's you that sets the test

So much has gone and little is new
And as the sunrise stream flickers on me
My friends talk of glory, untold dream
Where all is God and God is just a word

"We had a friend, a talking man
Who spoke of many powers he had
Not of the best of men, but ours
We used him
We let him use his powers
We let him fill our needs
Now we are strong

And the road is coming to it's end
Now the damned have no time to make amends
No purse of token fortune stands in our way
The silent guns of love will blast the sky
We broke the ruptured structure built of age
Our weapons were the tongues of crying rage

Where money stood
We planted seeds of rebirth
And stabbed the backs of fathers, sons of dirt

Infiltrated business cesspools hating through our sleeves
Yeah, and we slit the Catholic throat
Stoned the poor on slogans such as
'Wish You Could Hear'
'Love Is All We Need'
'Kick Out The Jams'
'Kick Out Your Mother'
'Cut Up Your Friend'
'Screw Up Your Brother or He'll Get You In the End'

And we know the flag of love is from above
And we can force you to be free
And we can force you to believe"

And I close my eyes and tighten up my brain
For I once read a book in which the lovers were slain
For they knew not the words of the Free States' refrain
It said:
"I believe in the power of good
I believe in the state of love
I will fight for the right to be right
I will kill for the good of the fight for the right to be right"

And I open my eyes to look around
And I see a child laid slain on the ground
As a love machine lumbers through desolation rows
Ploughing down man, woman, listening to it's command
But not hearing anymore
Not hearing anymore
Just the shrieks from the old rich

And I want to believe
In the madness that calls, 'Now'
And I want to believe
That a light's shining through somehow

And I want to believe
And you want to believe
And we want to believe
And we want to live
Oh, we want to live

We want to live
We want to live
We want to live
We want to live
We want to live

I want to live
I want to live
I want to live

I want to live
I want to live
I want to live

Live
Live
Live

Sample
Cygnet Committee by David Bowie


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2 comments:

  1. Space oddity released 1969 !

    jeff

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  2. Check out Station To Station and Scary Monsters for the best David Bowie material. His discography is full of gems but his full albums can be somewhat choppy. Alternately you can't go wrong with the double-disc Best Of collection.

    Also: that LastFM anecdote is fascinating!

    ReplyDelete