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guiltpuppy
(wild eyed peoploid)
07/01/03 02:22 AM
Outside: A Possible solution?  

In another thread (comparing Laughing Gnome and Little Wonder) someone brought up the issue of Outside -- specifically Ramona's comment about "small friends" being her own schizophrenic delusions...

Now, this didn't seem quite right to me. "I know who the small friends are" is the line, said in a mocking tone of voice, like she's holding a secret from whoever she's talking to (Adler I presume?)... Which struck a chord: I've had this idea for a while that Adler was the Minotaur, but I could never really make it fit and make sense to me. That last piece made it click -- let me explain.

Now, it originated with No Control -- given the way the vocals on the song go, the repetition of "deranged" (similar to I'm Deranged), I'd assumed it was a Minotaur track -- but no, in fact, it was "to be sung by Nathan Adler." Little things like "Don't tell God your plans," "forbidden words deafen me," "in memory, no control" all hint at a secret... This established a sort of equivalent between Adler and Minotaur, but one that doesn't really get cemented elsewhere -- not to mentioned I wasn't to into the idea of assigning a kitschy film noir twist-ending to the story.

But that was the problem: I was treating it like a film noir detective story, and that was the problem... Film noir (by this interpretation) is merely a motif, not the mode...

As I'm trying to put it together now, Outside seems to work as a schizophrenic self-accusation of equally imaginary characters. ie the Minotaur is not a delusion of Nathan Adler, or vice versa, but there is an equivalence of all characters as the delusions of one another... Some support to this:

First, back to Ramona's "I know who the small friends are..." Taking this as a reference to schizophrenia, she's in essence speaking to herself/everyone else, telling them she knows the secret to what's happening (in short, a delusion.) Then there's the line "All our friends / now seem so thin and frail" line from Strangers When We Meet -- and of course, the title -- seems to suggest a sort of alienation from the delusional social circle. Which makes sense as a moment of closure for the album.

The line "This is your shadow on my wall" from I Have Not Been to Oxford Town seems to suggest being punished for the sins of another... The whole song does, really, but this line seems to connect it to the self a little more: The idea of accusing another who is at once yourself (your own shadow). And of course, this leads into No Control, which seems to respond to the accusation, with traces of guilt (as mentioned above), not by the Minotaur but by Adler.

Another bit of evidence, this time from the liner story: Adler attempts to get clues to his case by rearranging his own writing. Now, this is a technique that goes back to the Dadaists and Surrealists -- on the surrealist end, they proposed that rearranging text would give new insight into the author more than the subject (although it has been used in other places to examine the subject, and in many cases both author and subject concurrently.) This definitely has a taste of schizophrenic self-investigation -- worthy of note.

Further, while we're outside of the songs themselves, let's take a quick look at something before we go back: You'll note that the characters assigned to given songs are indicated with the phrase "To be sung by," future tense. In a similar manner, the lyrics "She should say" introduce lyrics of Ramona's -- this connection brings the form of the liner notes into the album itself, and the fact that these are controlled characters becomes newly relevant.

Which I'll get into in more depth, but I want to mention that the whole album is rife with schizophrenic (I suppose I should be saying quasi-schizophrenic, as I don't think it's just trying to describe schizophrenia as a disorder or something, but just trying to explore that sort of state of mind) references -- from the constant dropping of names and references to strange figures which never occur again ("the angel-man," "Miranda," "Salaam," "the odourless man," "Mr. Walloff Domburg," and more, and of course the main characters), and then all of the characters who do speak seem to have the same quasi-schizophrenic mindset ("looking through windows for demons," "shame burns," pretty much all of No Control)... So I don't think it's much of a leap to use this as a common factor to connect all the characters (which naturally suggests that they are all delusions.)

But delusions of who? Again: That these are controlled characters becomes newly relevant. Yes, the finger points at Bowie. As much as he avoids calling his work self-expression (in the works I've read, at least), the connections there are certain. First is the structural thing, that these are quasi-schizophrenic delusions all under the watch of Bowie, but seemingly responding to him at points as well ("I know who the small friends are")...

I key the Bowieness primarily off of Hallo Spaceboy, however. Here, this seems to be a reference to his early identity as a sci-fi rock-star (from his Major Tom character to Ziggy Stardust persona)... The song seems to be about trying to escape this identity ("you're released but your custody calls / and I want to be free"): This seems to be the identity which dominates him most (in some sense), but the song and the album seem to be more concerned with his lack of identity, and the conflict they bring. ("This chaos is killing me.")

Maybe I should back up a bit (or should I say But wait, I'm getting ahead of myself): I don't like to psychoanalyze celebrities, but in interpreting Bowie I keep running into (over and over again) an apparent struggle with identity in much of Bowie's work. Ziggy Stardust, for instance, I take to be about the experience of going from person to rockstar seemingly overnight. He is also, obviously, in a state of constant reinvention -- so Outside seems to take on the issue from the standpoint of someone who is finally sick of that process, or who feels burdened by all the leftovers that come with it (all the people he's been, all the people he is). Which is similar to what I take Ziggy Stardust to be (although there he seems more shell-shocked than anything), with one really key exception: In Ziggy he gets involved with the specifics of the experience (rockstardom), whereas Outside seems more concerned with the meat of the issue, the experience itself -- hence the quasi-schizophrenic nature. It's not about being a celebrity or about being schizophrenic, it's about that sort of state of mind, that multiplicity of self.

But wait! There's more!

There's one more track that I haven't mentioned yet for good reason, because it takes all that and twists it, frames it uniquely. Yes, that is and has to be the title track, even the title itself: "Outside."

It's not about sitting tight in a corner and feeling overwhelmed by a lack of identity, no, it's about the strange introspection of being outside, of being watched, visible, public. The immediacy (happening now) the weight (they beat on the outside) and of course, the indulgence ("the fisting of life" really reminds of "lust for life")... And this is where I can't quite resolve it, honestly (how this sense of Outsideness really fits into the rest of the album -- maybe I need ot cut away or at least loosen up some of the strings I tied up above :) )

But anyway, any thoughts on all that?

(I can't stand my own mind.)

Blooby
(kook)
07/01/03 06:40 AM
Re: Outside: A Possible solution? new [re: guiltpuppy]  

Different stuff, this album... I haven't dared to go into it deeper, yet.

So you say that all the characters who appear in the album are a delusion of one person, is this correct?

I like your interpretation, though. Seems to be coherent.
I also agree that with this album, Bowie faced his own demons in a way he hadn't done before. The question that comes to my mind, is: was this healthy for him? Or was it too hurtful and confusing? He doesn't seem to show any interest in making "2.Contamination" or performing any songs from "Outside" live (despite Hallo Spaceboy). Is he scared of his journey into himself, the "death abyss" that was revealed?

Of course when you consider the mental diseases in his family the whole schizophrenic thing seems to be legitimate, so psychoanalyzing Bowie is obvious. I'm very sure you aren't the only person who does it, guiltpuppy !

Unfortunately, I can't help you to fit "Outside" into the whole interpretation but in my opinion it's about being outside and not involved in "normal life", only being a kind of spectator. But the lines "It's happening now / I stand by you now" don't seem to fit in... Maybe a try to break out, live in the presence and have normal relationships while the music "is outside" i.e. not the most important thing? Damn, this is too hard for me...

Anyway, I'll stop here and I'm interested in your thoughts about my thoughts.

Just because I believe don't mean I don't think as well

LaughingGnoome
(electric tomato)
07/01/03 04:44 PM
Re: Outside: A Possible solution? new [re: guiltpuppy]  

1.Outside is one album i wouldnt even bother trying to interpret, im not sure if it is meant to be dissected so much. Rather the lyrics and concepts (on most of the songs) are IMO a deranged kaleidoscope of bizarre ideas and imagery which cast shadows and false leads and speculation all over the place. But it has some wonderful lines.

It is very good work (dont get me wrong - some of the songs are among his very best) but i think an interpretation may be pointless, or to put that another way, all interpretations (Of most of the songs on this album) are arbitrary and subjective and more likely to be highly personalised, hence there can rarely be any agreement between people interpreting it. Indeed the album should carry the following warning...

*Warning* Interpretations of this album tend to get seriously deranged very quickly! Do not play in the presence of disturbed or deranged people! *Warning*

Just kidding.

But one thing the album may prove is Bowie's own personal obsession with madness, as shown by a large number of his songs (incidentally many of his best songs) throughout his career. During the Outside tour he held up a sign saying "Oeuvrier (sorry spelling) le Chien" meaning Open The Dog, a reference from his "All The Madmen" song of 71. Yes i think he derives great inspiration from insanity, what happens when you go insane, your priorities and perspectives become screwed up, so you can then see things in a way a sane person couldnt. It is this idea of taking something positive from the very negative (insanity) that lies beneath much of his artistic drive (IMO), though of couse he is very sane im sure (super-sane i would say).

Having said all this, i enjoyed very much reading what you wrote, particularly about "This is your shadow on my wall", ie that it is the cry of an innocent man, being punished for anothers crime (His own Mr Hide). Although the song is to be sung by Leon Black not Adler.

In reply to:

Now, it originated with No Control -- given the way the vocals on the song go, the repetition of "deranged" (similar to I'm Deranged), I'd assumed it was a Minotaur track -- but no, in fact, it was "to be sung by Nathan Adler." Little things like "Don't tell God your plans," "forbidden words deafen me," "in memory, no control" all hint at a secret... This established a sort of equivalent between Adler and Minotaur, but one that doesn't really get cemented elsewhere -- not to mentioned I wasn't to into the idea of assigning a kitschy film noir twist-ending to the story.


I noticed the same thing, i think it is because the cops who hunt serial killers have to learn to think like them. So Adler is trying to think in an insane manner. But if this is true then possibly Adler is getting an identity crisis himself, the personality of the Minotaur (or whatever) is taking him over....No Control.

The idea of Adler having to learn to think like his quarry and predict his moves might be suggested by the following lyrics...

"You've gotta have a scheme
You've gotta have a plan
In the world of today, for tomorrow's man"


In order to catch his man, he has to be able to predict what he will do in the future, to do this this he must think like him. Placing yourself in the shoes of a detective trying to catch a maniac who may strike again and soon, you would feel a failure if he succeeds in striking again. Enormous pressure is upon you to catch him, now you find his next victim, and you realise how terrible it feels that you couldnt stop this, if only you could see into the future, and know when and where the crime is to be committed.....

"If I could control tomorrow's haze
The darkened shore wouldn't bother me"


And the quarry is so shrewd and cunning...

"See how far a sinful man
Burns his tracks, his bloody robes"



And yes in HB i agree that "This chaos is killing me" sounds like someone with an identity crisis. The chaos (of alternate personality) is killing the real Paddy.

Very interesting interpretation, i hope more people... with more interest in the albums story than myself respond.

Stardusted_Lady
(wild eyed peoploid)
07/02/03 08:15 AM
Re: Outside: A Possible solution? new [re: guiltpuppy]  

Wow....that really makes sense.

I've nothing much to offer.. Theres nothing much to take


StrangeDrugs
(cracked actor)
07/05/03 04:31 PM
Re: Outside: A Possible solution? new [re: LaughingGnoome]  

I've said before, when I got my promo copy of 1.Outside I figured I was missing out on some insert or booklet or some hard-core fan secret that was only reveled if you joined Bowienet or sacraficed a goat. I'm all about interpretations but to build a whole story around the bits and pieces like a lot of you did (because you did create the story, not Bowie, he just threw out some characters) is amazing to me and you all desearve major props. I still struggle with parts of the "story" that don't make sense to me...the links I'm overlooking...I equate 1.Outside to one of life's great mysteries. The ones that are probably essentially pointless, but drive you forward and make life worth living. Everyone needs some mystery.

Some Outside issues I have:
Its a pretty much established TW fact that No Control is sung while Alder is trying the interest drugs. I don't buy it. First of all, in my opinion its too important of a song to have such a loose connection with the story. That to me sounds like we wanted to put this song in but couldn't figure out how. Also, I don't like the idea of Alder just popping some pills to see what happens. Doesn't seem likely to me...doesn't seem to fit.

Hallo Spaceboy is sung by Paddy (right?) who doesn't seem like such a huge character to me. Isn't he essentially Nathan's helper-dude? My complaint is pretty much the same as above, not enough justification for the song...sort of a throwaway.

Now, let me me clear, I don't take these as flaws in the "plot," I take them as keys that don't fit because I haven't put them in the right place yet.

Another part that sticks out is the zero in the fabric of time part...now I already posted my quick little interp of this part on Adam's thread, and I guess I prolly shouldn't repost it since no one is reading this anyway. But Outside strikes me as very realistic in an odd sort of way. Everything is plausable, there's nothing fantastic or fairy tale-esque. This part verges on the fantastic, or at least it could in the wrong hands. I see it as a metaphor on the tip of my finger that I haven't quite wrapped my fist around yet. I'll start to explain if anyone cares.

A rock-and-roll Jesus with a cowboy mouth.

LaughingGnoome
(electric tomato)
07/05/03 07:32 PM
Re: Outside: A Possible solution? new [re: StrangeDrugs]  

To be honest with you, i didnt know half the things you are suggesting, eg Adler using interest drugs while singing No Control. Or Paddy being Nathans helper. That's exactly what i mean about interpreting this album, everyone seems to have a different idea of what the 'story' is about, and here at TW there seems to be a whole new mythology built up around the album and its characters.

Im sure Bowie would be flabbergasted to see how his ideas have mutated so nicely.



Pythonis
(kook)
07/10/03 12:32 PM
Re: Outside: A Possible solution? new [re: guiltpuppy]  

Guiltpuppy, your idea about shizophrenia nad the information on multiple personality disorder coalesced in my mind, and I awoke at one last night with an interperetation of outside based partially on your idea. This will make much more sense to readers if you have read "Sybil" or know a bit about multiple personalities.
Baby Grace represents the whole psyche, the original, un-dissosciated personality. She has been torn apart not physically but mentally, because, as the minotaur said "we have lived unbearable lives."
The waking personality is confused, does not know who is living in the body. He maintains that he "has not been to Oxford town," denying the actions of his alternates, even as he accepts their existance, saying "this is your shadow on my wall, this is my flesh and blood, this is what i could have been." He sees the effects of the others' actions, and knows that they are destroying what he could have been, his possibilities in life.
The personality of Ramona is the most interesting. She serves as a memory track, and knows all the personalities, which she reveals by saying, mockingly, "I know who the small friends are." She seems to be a new person, fully formed and forged from the steel of a hardened mind, a defensive personlaity that embodies the strength and ruthlessness the waking self lacks. The phrase "I am with name" implies power; in many cultures knowing someone's name can give you power over them, and name is identity. It also echoes the phrase "with child," implying a growing power waiting to emerge, to take control.
The Minotaur is a reenactment of the abuse and violence that may have caused the dissosciation. He is physically powerful, violent, but has a strange sense of guilt. On the one hand, he is the voyeur of destruction as beauty, and seems to feel no empathy with the victims. when it comes to Grace, however, he feels at the same time that she is a "sorry little girl," possibly echoing the abuser, and also guilty, apoligising to her as he kills her.
The Nathan Adler persona is a strange one. He could be just a narrative device, he could represent the role of a therapist, trying to fit the parts all back together, to find who killed Grace, what the original trauma was that caused the dissosciation. It could also be another personality on a quest to unite the selves.
The other people mentioned; Mr. Domburg, Melinda, Paddy, etc, are other personaities which deal with other feelings.


This is all just an idea, so please comment and fill in gaps!

We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men

Edited by Pythonis on 07/10/03 12:35 PM (server time).



guiltpuppy
(wild eyed peoploid)
07/16/03 10:12 PM
Re: Outside: A Possible solution? new [re: Pythonis]  

Pythonis: I think I like your interpretation (as MPD rather than simply "hearing voices") better than my own -- although I don't know if it was intentionally so specific, and still like to think about it as about that category of pathos, divorced from any notion of "insanity," of identity shifts and the blurring of reality.

As multiple personalities of fragments of one whole personality, or whatever, I think the character of the Minotaur can be understood as a self-destructive impulse, especially when you mention the element of dissociation. He's the most mysterious, which makes total sense from that role: A strange drive arising out of seeming nowhere.

Looking at Adler as the therapist, I think, is a real breakthrough, and it converges with something else I've been trying to research.

I've been rereading the Dark Tower series by Stephen King lately -- an irrelevant series of book, but they caught my interest in high school, and like so many other things that caught my interest in high school it's unshakeable. In any case, one of the characters has MPD (mislabelled schizophrenia by King)...

In any case, he opens the chapter which introduces this character with: "Stripped of jargon, what Adler said was this:" and goes on to talk a little about schizophrenia. Adler is not a character in the book, it's an outside reference.

I did some googling, and there's more than one psychologist named Adler, and at least a few have done work on schizophrenia... Given the offhandedness of King's reference, I'm assuming this person was fairly well-known at some point... I'm not certain, but it seems the most famous was Alfred Adler, an associate of Freud who eventually split paths and formed his own school of psychology.

Quote Alfred Adler:

"In schizophrenia, the height of the (fictional final) goal now confronts the individual with such difficulties, that common sense has become useless to him, incapable of solving them. This goal of personal superiority blocks the approach to reality."

The "fictional final goal" seems to a reference to one of the basics (from what I've read) in Adlerian psychology: That community is important, as is the search for significance within a community. What he calls "fictional goals" are (as I understand) situations where this search for significance is mislead, and becomes a search for power over others instead.

I bring this up because it reminds me of Bowie's early days... There was a heavy obsession there with becoming more than human -- in his history, it was yet another rise and fall which paralleled his others, here becoming the revered object and at once losing his identity, or rather having his identity taken: Which parallels the Rise and Fall of Ziggy, parallels the flight of Major Tom which parallels his drug addiction... All of which does not parallel Outside: There is no rise and no fall in Outside. It's all in one place: And I would argue that it is the aftermath of this process, of this category of processes, sorting out the leftovers "when a person loses their name."

Oh, back to the Dark Tower again... What really hooked me back to Outside: In that same chapter, maybe on the same page, there's numerous references to events which took place in Oxford Town, Mississippi. Now, this is the Oxford Town of the Bob Dylan song, for sure -- but I also wonder if there's something else here, some tie to schizophrenia which I haven't been able to pull up with google. Or to Adler. Or to who-knows-what.

I read through the Bob Dylan song, but the lyric that stands out is the one everyone knows anyway: "Somebody better investigate soon."

"Pay the private eye..." Adler. There's this weird linkage of things here that I think might explain a lot, but I can't unravel that much for the life of me.

Young man: You've gotta make somebody come.

Pythonis
(kook)
07/18/03 11:35 AM
Re: Outside: A Possible solution? new [re: guiltpuppy]  

It hadn't occured to me to connect the name Adler to the Adlerian school of phychology! Brilliant!

I think the general feel of blurred edges between the characters, some knowing things they should not, some knowing things they should, some appearing and dissapearing without a trace points at MPD. And Bowie certainly knew about this disorder, since many popular literatures had come out about it in the 70's, and since his own brother suffered from a disorder which is often confused with MPD.

We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men


MichelleAlder
(grinning soul)
07/18/03 08:53 PM
Re: Outside: A Possible solution? new [re: Pythonis]  

I honestly don't feel that interpetation as well as I do my own.

I always figured Outside was about being not in control of your destiny. About being outside of your life. Something that Bowie seems to know alot about, considering that is what I consider Ziggy Stardust and Hours to be about. I always figured Ramona A. Stone's "small friends" were people going by in life too fast. I also connected The Heart's Filthy Lesson, Hallo Spaceboy, and No Control toghether, figured The Heart's Filthy Lesson was someone crying out for help, Hallo Spaceboy was about someone trying to escape from his\her life, and No Control was about someone wanting control of their life again.
Well I think the whole album has traces of my interpetation, perhaps I will write something more detailed today though.

"They beat on the outside
And I'll stand by you
Now. Not tomorrow"


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