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(grinning soul)
12/31/01 09:58 AM
The Crossroads, The Width Of A Circle  

I think it's fair to say that in "The Width Of A Circle" Bowie has updated the Robert Johnson musical legend about trading your soul. If you dissect a circle's width, you end up with a crossroads figure.

In blues mythology, if a musician wanted to become a great blues player, he met the devil at the crossroads. The devil would retune the musician's guitar and hand it back, completing the black ritual.

In Width Of A Circle, the narrator makes a similar bargain. He starts off as one who blames God and whose prayers are "small and yellow."

He fills his emptiness with evil. He is fucked by the Devil.

He says "So Long" to the "straight and narrow." He "smashes his soul, trades his mind" and embraces homosexual intercourse with the one symbolically called the "snake" whose tongue is swollen with "devil's love."

The deal is sealed when the narrator is told: "You'll never go down to the Gods again." Bowie accepts and says, "Do it again, do it again."

In the end, Bowie himself is a demon, with "horns and a tail" waiting for us.

(grinning soul)
12/31/01 10:54 AM
Re: The Crossroads, The Width Of A Circle new [re: pianocraft]  


The crossroads -- a place where two roads cross at or about at right angles -- is the subject of religious and folkloric belief all around the world.

In ancient Greece, marker stones commemorating the god Hermes in his priapic form were set at the crossroads. In ancient Rome the similar god Mercury was the crossroads guardian.

In India, the god Bhairava, an older version of great god Siva, is said to guard the crossroads at the outskirts of villages. Stone phalluses and statues of Bhairava's watchful eyes are erected to represent him as a guardian of the boundaries.

In Africa, almost every cultural group has its own version of the crossroads god. Legba, Ellegua, Elegbara, Eshu, Exu, Nbumba Nzila, and Pomba Gira are African and African-diaspora names (in several languages) for the spirit who opens the way, guards the crossroads, and teaches wisdom.

Because the crossroads is land that belongs to no one, a place outside the borders of town, it is considered a suitable site to perform magical rituals. The use of the crossroads as an impromptu altar where offerings are placed and rituals performed is widely encountered in both European and African folklore.

A person who loses a name
Feels anxiety descending
Left at the crossroads, between the centuries
A millenium fetish

I'm in your way, and I'll steal every moment
If this trade is a curse, then I'll bless you
And turn to the crossroads of Hamburg.



By TallinTheDark

"You are my Moon, you are my Sun. Heaven Knows? What Are You?"

Toy as Dalliance/Delay & Trivia:

Trivia - Trivium (The Crossroads)

Trivialis - Found Everywhere.

Characterized by having all "Variables" Equal to Zero.

Crossroads - A Crucial Point especially where a Decision must be made. The Place of Intersection of Two or More Roads.

Delay/Dalliance - A Wavering Between Two or More Possible Courses of Action.

David Bowie, a Crossroads Dallier, is a Master of the Inconclusive.

Bowie is to be Found Everywhere Toying Around.

Toying Around is about Vacillating Irresolutely Between Choices, knowing that every Course of Action is a "Curse of Action" - Forever transforming the Pure Potential of Shadowing Beginnings into the Fixed and Solid Forms of the "Actual."

David often fluctuates in opinion, audience allegiance, and musical direction, delaying a "Main Activity" with seemingly aimless Stops and Pauses. He will sometimes remain in a Musical Area for no "Obvious" Reason. But those "Pauses Between" are Crucial.

Zero, the "Additive Identity," the "Empty Space," is the Number "Between" the Set of all Negative Numbers and the Set of all Positive Numbers.

"Torn between the light and dark where others see their targets..."

Toy can be seen as the Trivia, the Trickster at the Crossroads. Toying/Dallying can be a Prolonged Hesitation caused from an Inability or Unwillingness to reach a Firm or Final Decision.

But more significantly "Toying" implies the "Variable."

Toy is the Quantity that may Assume ANY ONE OF A SET OF VALUES.

With Toy, Bowie uses his License to do things "Contrary to the Usual Rules."

The fickle, inconstant, ever-changing DB hangs around at the Crossroads.

Like the Holy Fool, he loiters on the brink of the Abyss.

His number is Zero and his Toy is the "Delay," the Pause/Pose he embodies before Deciding or Choosing his Next Course of Action.

"Action Man seen living under neon struggles with a foreign tongue..."

(electric tomato)
12/31/01 11:33 AM
God's a young man too new [re: pianocraft]  

You know that line "For I realized that God's a young man too"? It reminds me of Joan Osborne's song One of Us (a big hit some years ago). She sings:

What if God was one of us?
Just a slob like one of us
Just a stranger on the bus
Tryin' to make his way home?

I think the idea of God as a young (or old) man, God as "a slob", a stranger on the bus is interesting. The Devil, or Satan, he has always been "one of us" in a way that God hasn't. To quote Black Francis (the fat Pixie):

If man is 5 if man is 5 if man is 5
Then the devil is 6 then the devil is 6 then the devil is 6 then the devil is 6
And if the devil is 6
Then god is 7 then god is 7 then god is 7

The Devil said to Jesus that Jesus could have it all, the whole world, if Jesus gave up his soul to the Devil. The Devil has always been among us, almost like one of us, teasing us, whispering to us, always playing with our minds, whereas God, who is "7" has always been so far away, so very far away from us and our daily lives. So...the thought of God as an "ordinary" man is interesting. It's a new idea.

Well, actually...in ancient Greece, the Gods did interact with the people, they were close to man, they even had relationships with us, but they were not "one of us". Sure, they drank and so on, but still, they were "7", so to speak. There was a certain distance, after all. The Gods weren't really "slobs".

The Width Of A Circle ends with these words: "Waiting for you." Who is waiting for who, according to your theory, pianocraft? Is it the Devil who is waiting for man, so to speak? Have you seen Twin Peaks Fire Walk With Me? It's basically about the Devil trying to take over a young, good soul. "Bob" is the evil force, "the evil in man" who feeds on our souls, and wants to "become us". He wants to "taste thru your mouth". Anyway...one of Bob's buddies is a little man in a red suit who talks backwards. You can see him as the Devil himself. In one strong scene this little man says: "I'm...waiting...for you..."

(grinning soul)
12/31/01 11:59 AM
Re: God's a young man too new [re: eraserhead]  

According to my reading eraserhead, it is Bowie, or the narrator, who is waiting for us:

Breathe breathe breathe deeply
I was seething breathing deeply
a spitting sentry horned and tailed
waiting for you.

The antecedent, or preceeding pronoun of the "spitting sentry" is "I," the singer.

(electric tomato)
12/31/01 01:48 PM
Re: God's a young man too new [re: pianocraft]  

I'm sorry, pianocraft. I should have read your post more carefully. You do say: "Bowie himself is a demon, with "horns and a tail" waiting for us." So, it is "the Devil" who is waiting for man...Bowie/the "I" in the story has been taken over and now looks to take over more souls...?

(grinning soul)
12/31/01 02:14 PM
Re: God's a young man too new [re: eraserhead]  

Yes, the narrator is traveling the "width of a circle," he's changing sides to become a rock star.

Just as Robert Johnson wrote songs about going down to the crossroads and being trailed by a hellhound, Bowie too is writing dark, crafty songs about witchcraft and voodoo.

It is a very appealing form of hard rock and roll.

(electric tomato)
12/31/01 04:14 PM
Rock music new [re: pianocraft]  

Rock music has always been the devil's music, or so they say. Personally, I like what John Frusciante says: Music is the face of God. But anyway...I found this text by Pastor Keith Piperm, who condemns rock music...he says:

"Rock beat causes "switching" to occur in the brain as it loses symmetry between left and right sides. This causes stress and it is as if a person's body can no longer distinguish what is beneficial and what is harmful. The body actually chooses that which is destructive over that which is therapeutic. Turning down the volume won't help."

He also quotes Bowie:

"David Bowie rock star says: 'rock has always been the devil's music.' Little Richard says: 'I believe this kind of music is demonic.' True godly music, will be composed of three elements - all in perfect balance with each other. They are: MELODY, HARMONY, and RHYTHM. Rock "music" has no melody - only fragments of melody endlessly repeated. Since there is no true melody , there is no real harmony. There is only rhythm. and rhythm in and of itself is not music."

You say, about The Width of a Circle, "it is a very appealing form of hard rock and roll." Well, yeah it's pretty good, but I think the song is too long. The intro is one of his best, but the song consists of too many songs, if you know what I mean. It's too much. Less is more, as they say. By the way, what do you mean with "appealing"? Are you a satanist?

(wild eyed peoploid)
01/01/02 06:32 AM
Re: The Crossroads, The Width Of A Circle new [re: pianocraft]  

This reminded me of a poem a quite liked when I was in highschool.

The road not taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth

Then looked the other, as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black

Oh, I kept the first for another day
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I
I took the one less travelled by
And that has made all the difference

By: Robert Frost

God doesn't care if I'm good

12/04/03 09:24 PM
Re: The Crossroads, The Width Of A Circle new [re: pianocraft]  

It's an interesting enough theory... The fact that he uses phrases like "sit and praise the master" do lend some credence to the notion that it's tied to African-American folklore, but still, beyond that I think the connections are pretty slim.

You'll also note the the crossroads, as a figure in African-American folklore, is associated with Jesus as often as it is Satan -- in the classic Robert Johnson song, it's Jesus who approaches him at the crossroads, not the devil. This mixture comes from the fact that the archetypal deity associated with the crossroads in african culture (Elegua, Esu, Legba) did not easily fit into Western duality -- a wise figure, who could also be a tricky figure, who could be dangerous or enlightening, and so forth... "Where others see their targets, divine symmetry" and all that: In keeping with Bowie's non-binary belief system of the time.

All the same, I think he was probably just on drugs, trying to write a children's story.

The dreams in which I'm dying are the best I've ever had.

(electric tomato)
12/05/03 01:49 AM
Re: The Crossroads, The Width Of A Circle new [re: pianocraft]  

What a great post. I like the idea of a Robert Johnson connection. Among Bowie's first musical loves was the blues, which his half-brother Terry turned him on to. And given David's self-professed "hunger" for musical success in his early career, the idea that this song is about a bargain with Satan so that he can become a Rock God is very appealing. Then, at the end, when he has been transformed, with horns and tail, he's a spitting sentry waiting to seduce others (us rock fans?) to the dark side.

Oh, and I disagree entirely with the person who said the song is too long and has too much going on. The song is epic, and among Bowie's best. Not to mention Ronno's guitar. Man, I bet a number of people would seriously consider selling their souls to the Devil to play like that. The only time this song was "too long" was when performed on tour in 72/73, because Bowie took the opportunity to go backstage and switch costumes while Ronno played for longer than makes sense to allow him the time to do so. I love a good guitar solo as much as anyone, but some of the ones in Width Of A Circle are arduously long.


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