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There are places in the universe that simply are Way Out There: dark, cold, lonely. And these places are embedded in our hearts. They can grow to engulf all of our light, all of our energy, like a black hole in life. And the soundtrack for traveling through these places is David Bowie’s “The Bewlay Brothers.”

The music is simple: acoustic guitar and a piano with a timbral color from the palette of foreboding. Bowie’s delivery is devoid of emotion, and the lyrics are dense, echoes of meaning instead of meaning, as real as a dream but as sharp as an icicle:

And so the story goes they wore the clothes,
They said the things to make it seem improbable:
The whale of a lie like the hope it was.

“The whale of a lie like the hope it was.” That feeling we get when our world morphs from granite to the ash at the end of a burning cigarette. We are three lines into the song and our blood is running thicker. Our heart is colder. Our hands are clammy.

I was stone and he was wax
So he could scream and still relax:
And we frightened the small children away.
And our talk was old and dust would flow
Through our veins, and lo! It was midnight …

Midnight. We have lost the evening without knowing it. There is no time left on our clocks.

And the solid book we wrote
Cannot be found today.

What is solid is careening away from us. The song whirlpools slowly into the void, drawing us along with it with lyrics about “real cool traders” who were “so turned on/you thought we were fakers.” Space — real space — is a dark place, especially inner space, and that’s where we travel with the Bewlay Brothers:

Shooting up pie in the sky,
The Bewlay Brothers.
In the feeble and the bad,
The Bewlay Brothers.
In the blessed and cold,
In the crutch-hungry dark
Was where we flayed our mark.
Oh, we were gone:
Kings of oblivion.

The Bewlay Brothers, kings of oblivion. Sometimes, they reign over our nights. Sometimes, we are their subjects. This is their theme song.

Cross-posted to: (Pop Underground)


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 24th, 2008 11:11 pm (UTC)
I love (and with only a little envy) the way you write about music.
Jul. 24th, 2008 11:23 pm (UTC)
Thank you! The music posts write themselves. I don't know where the words come from; I'm just a medium.

Tell you what: I'll let you in on the secrets of writing about music if you'll tell me how you motivate yourself to post so frequently. (And I am more than a little envious about the number of comments you receive about your posts.)
Jul. 25th, 2008 09:19 pm (UTC)
Love that icon too. :)

A lot of times, I find it a struggle not to post so frequently. :) When I first started LJ I worried myself by writing (gasp!) nearly every day! Sometimes...even more than once a day.

Needless to say, I got over that. :) That's how my journal got the subtitle it still has.

I've gotten in the habit of writing things that "seem" LJish to me, things I think my friends will appreciate, but even now a lot of it is just stuff that sticks in my brain, that has to be written so I can stop thinking about it.

I'm aware of how that sounds; I never used to understand it when writers said they felt compelled to write (I read a lot about writers when I was younger because I wanted to be one; I had nothing I wanted to say but a burning desire to say it... and that's still the case to this day except I don't know if I want to be a writer; I don't want deadlines or assignments, I am fine just writing for myself); it fit right in with the mystical experience that I wanted writing to be. I feel the compulsion now but it's not mystical (which is good; I don't want mysticism these days); it's more like singing in the shower because you've got a song stuck in your head.

As for why I get so many comments, I can only thank my lovely friends who so often have something to say. I love conversation so I reply to almost all the comments, which ups the numbers too. Plus I have a big friends list; there's a pretty good chance that anything will make someone say something, eventually.
Jul. 25th, 2008 12:54 pm (UTC)
What comes first, the chicken or the egg?
Does a post like this come into being after hearing the song, or do you get an idea for the post and then listen to the song?
Jul. 25th, 2008 03:31 pm (UTC)
Re: What comes first, the chicken or the egg?
You know how certain moods tend to get you thinking about certain songs? Well, I was in a "Bewlay Brothers" mood Wednesday night, and no sooner had I climbed into bed when I got the inspiration to post about the song. I went into my office and listened to the song, but when I sat down to write, I had no idea what I was going to write about.

But I've found that when I write about music, I tend to keep my foot off the mental brake pedal, so the contents of that post are pretty close to what came out in the first burst of words. Whole thing took about half an hour. I figure since it's rock, I'm not obligated to be nearly as picky about it as I am with other (larger?) subjects.
Jul. 25th, 2008 04:58 pm (UTC)
Re: What comes first, the chicken or the egg?
That's interesting, although I'm not sure I want to know what a Bewlay Brothers mood feels like... Even though I was unfamiliar with the song, I still love reading your words about it.

Are you enjoying crossposting to the Pop Underground site?
Jul. 25th, 2008 07:23 pm (UTC)
Re: What comes first, the chicken or the egg?
The cross-posting is OK, but three comments in response to a post over there is an avalanche.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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• Journal title and subtitle: Ian Hunter, “Man Overboard”


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