Sunday, June 30, 2013

I'd Rather Be High: Issa's Sunday Service, #169

I'd Rather Be High by David Bowie on Grooveshark
In case of wonky widget, click here

"Just remember, duckies, everybody gets got"

David Bowie's new album, The Next Day, defines one very courageous way to head off into the sunset: with guns blazing. This is his most vibrant writing in many a year and nothing he turns his lens on is spared the fixed glare of intense, informed scrutiny. 

Today's song, "I'd Rather Be High," touches a lot of bases and, if it doesn't make it all around, it most certainly comports itself well.  The lit allusion comes in the first line with the introduction of Vladimir Nabokov (not his first appearance on the Sunday Service) - a number of his novels reference Gruenwald (The Gift and King, Queen, Knave, to name two). Here is an interesting paragraph from an article entitled "Nabokov's Berlin:"

It so happened that four bestselling German novels set in Berlin were written in the late 1920s, at the same time as Nabokov’s King, Queen, Knave the German translation of which was not a bestseller. They were Menschen im Hotel by Vicky Baum, Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Döblin, Fabian by Erich Kästner and Bruder und Schwester by Leonhard Frank. There is much more of Berlin to be seen in King, Queen, Knave than in any of them. Döblin’s extraordinary novel has more of the city only insofar as it has its idiom and its way of thinking; in this sense it is a close-up while Nabokov’s fiction stays at a neutral distance. But Döblin’s city itself is reduced to a few blocks between Alexanderplatz and Rosenthaler Platz. Döblin lived not far away, and I believe Nabokov never ventured into those proletarian quarters. Nabokov's Berlin by contrast is the "Russian Berlin" of Wilmersdorf, Charlottenburg and Schöneberg, the city center and the city's parks and forests, notably the Grunewald.

Of course, I'm more intrigued by the sun-licked Nabokov himself - what, oh what, can you mean, Mr. Bowie? 

Oh, you mean that.

Beyond the lit allusion, there is a lot more to chew on here, as in many of the songs on this solid new album. The persona, and Bowie always has so many, is of interest, and what he is after, via that persona, is interesting, indeed. The lyrics are worth contemplation.  

I'd Rather Be High

Nabokov is sun-licked now
Upon the beach at Gruenwald
Brilliant and naked just
The way that authors looks

Clare and Lady Manners drink
Until the other cows go home
Gossip till their lips are bleeding
Politics and all

I'd rather be high
I'd rather be flying
I'd rather be dead
Or out of my head
Than training these guns 

on those men in the sand
I'd rather be high

The Thames was black, the tower dark
I flew to Cairo, find my regiment
City's full of generals
And generals full of shit

I stumble to the graveyard and I
Lay down by my parents, whisper
Just remember duckies
Everybody gets got

I'd rather be high
I'd rather be flying
I'd rather be dead
Or out of my head
Than training these guns 

on those men in the sand
I'd rather be high

I'm seventeen and my looks can prove it
I'm so afraid that I will lose it
I'd rather smoke and phone my ex
Be pleading for some teenage sex

I'd rather be high
I'd rather be flying
I'd rather be dead
Or out of my head
Than training these guns 

on the men in the sand
I'd rather be high

Finally, Mr. Nabokov himself should have his say and here he is, in all his opinionated, loathing glory. This is the BBC documentary Life and 'Lolita." Enjoy. 


Ominaeshi by Koizumi

all alone a maiden flower
translated by David G. Lanoue


Send a single haiku for the Wednesday Haiku feature. Here's how.

Go to the LitRock web site for a list of all 169 songs

1 comment:

Rehn said...

Thank you for the Bowie--he is a genius. I've heard him interviewed about modern art, and his knowledge is comprehensive. His new album is a real surprise. Thank you for the cut--I was just listening to that particular song on Friday. Also, thank you for the Nabokov. Lolita is one of my favorite books--his use of language is phenominal. And English is probably his fifth language. The way he wrote was simply amazing.