Black Star Man January 12, 2016Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, Shield of Beauty, The Dead, The Journey, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
Tags: David Bowie
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“. . . I am going to put a shield of beauty
over the face of the earth to protect us.”
— Sun Ra
They are the gods we the godless have invented to replace the old inventions, the godly models we follow and when they die a piece of our souls leaves with them. We are that much closer to the darkness and our sadness for the great ones is not abstract and remote, an ancient crucifixion or a one-shot starlet’s moment. It is a priceless fragment of our Adamic world the god clock has ticked off the list.
Damn the darkness. We must burn brighter.
The Man Who Sold The World September 15, 2007Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, Dancing Bear, New Orelans, New Orleans, NOLA, Remember, Toulouse Street.
Tags: David Bowie, Nirvana, Prometheus
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This 1970 David Bowie classic has always touched me in a way I never clearly understood. Perhaps it was just the Lovecraftian otherness of a chance meeting with a mysterious other overlaid on such a simple melody, its almost-a-story of a chance meeting that opens a portal into an entirely new world. I hadn’t heard this song in perhaps 30 years until the Nivana cover of it popped onto the radio a few weeks ago. Suddenly, upon hearing it again, I saw the lyric in an entirely new light, understood at last the relationship between the man of the first verse and that of the second.
Who was the mysterious stranger on the stair? An immortal? One of the forgotten gods of the distant past? Or just an image of the artist in a passing mirror?
It need not have been a god. What were gods without the men who sung them, without whom the gods would have been merely immortal. The singers made them larger than life, larger than the world through which they strode. The speakers of their names were the makers of the gods, the artisans of their world. Homer begat Hesiod begat Aeschylus, through the Romans and all the way to the Romantics of two centuries ago: the story and its telling are the real immortality of those gods and Titans.
Who then is the man who sold the world? The devil of the Old Testament? Or the Satan of Milton, rebellious Prometheus with the gift of fire? Sold the world at what price, to what gain? I had always like to think that he stood outside that dichotomy, an agent neither of the old god or his antagonist, someone or something at once beneath and behind the stars, one who has traded Maya for–what? Something those who have not passed that point cannot understand.
Hearing this song again at this point in my life, I feel I have entered into it at last. I have followed the enigmatic stranger of the first verse into the perilous journey. I have left behind the world as American knows it, have sold it gladly in exchange for the chance to come home, into the mystery of New Orleans: the strangest and most comfortable place I have ever known. In surrenduring to that irrational instinct I have become that stranger, become the person of the end of the second verse and chorus: the man who sold the world.
This insignificant post in cyberspace is my own chance to close the circle, to circle back and play the stranger of the first verse , to pass a spark of the flame to another, perhaps to lead them here. Listen: there is no price on the world, no thing to be accepted in exchange, and so everything to be gained in the transaction. As Don Juan’s disciple discovered, at the face of a precipice the choice is not binary, to step back to safety or to fall: one can jump.
We passed upon the stairs,
We spoke of was and when
Although I wasn’t there
He said I was his friend
Which came as a surprise
I spoke into his eyes — I thought you died alone
A long long time ago
Oh no, not me,
We never lost control,
You’re face to face,
With the man who sold the world
I laughed and shook his hand,
I made my way back home,
I searched for form and land,
Years and years I roamed,
I gazed a gazely stare,
We walked a million hills — I must have died alone,
A long long time ago.
Who knows, not me,
I never lost control,
You’re face, to face,
With the man who sold the world.
Here’s Bowie’s acoustic version:
and Nirvana’s excellent cover of the song (embedding not allowed by publisher).