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   >> Interpretation
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soho_beatnik
(electric tomato)
08/29/03 04:43 AM
Re: A Glass Asylum new [re: LaughingGnoome]  

I get nervous when people say they haven't read 1984.

Miss Anders... I didn't recognize you with your clothes on.

The Shadow
(wild eyed peoploid)
08/31/03 03:39 AM
Re: A Glass Asylum new [re: LaughingGnoome]  

In reply to:

Don't talk of dust and roses
Or should we powder our noses?


"Dust and Roses" represents history...


Perhaps, but I'd contend that Bowie's intention was a different historical image than the one you suggest. We all know how literary he is and so he would have been well-read enough to know of the belief that the nursery rhyme Ring A Ring O'Roses...

Ring a ring o' roses,
A pocket full of posies,
A-tishoo! A-tishoo!
We all fall down


...was a refrence to the Great Plague of 1665 when Bubonic Plague swept Europe and devastated cities like London, killing millions.

The "Ring a ring o' roses" being the tell-tale sign of the beginning of infection - a red expanding circle around a flea bite - the fleas having earlier sucked on rats (maybe the size of cats?) that were the carriers of the plague.

"A pocket full of posies" was what the people of London would carry about with them - a bundle of flowers, herbs and/or spices - to alleviate the smell of the rotting corpses that littered the streets (...the last few corpses lay rotting...).

A-tishoo! A-tishoo! We all fall down being a reference to the (wrong) belief that the killer disease was spread by sneezing (should we powder our noses - what if it makes us sneeze?).

Today, if you do a Google search, you'll find many people who claim that this interpretation of the rhyme is wrong, an urban legend etc, but in 1973/4 when Bowie wrote the song, it was accepted as fact. 1973/4 was also bang in the middle of the Cold War when apocalyptic visions were common fears held among young people, particularly those of an artistic bent, like Bowie.

Nowhere in Diamond Dogs does it go into the source of the apocalypse that has befallen the city and led to the year of the Diamond Dogs so I don't think it's stretching the imagination too far to suggest that Bowie combined ideas from Orwell's 1984 with other literary works to come up with the scenario. Alastair MacLean's The Satan Bug (1965) was a popular paperback at the time and it deals with the threat of a devastating disease that could sweep the world and kill much of the population. There were a number of similarly-themed films in the late 60s/early 70s. People were aware of the development of, and potentially devastating effects of, biological agents for the purposes of warfare and to some, especially those with fertile sci-fi-inspired minds, like Bowie, the threat seemed imminent (any day now). Dr Who creator Terry Nation's BBC series, The Survivors (about a small group, having survived a modern-day plague, struggling to rebuild some kind of society) would have been in pre-production at the time. We all know what a sci-fi buff Bowie was at that time. I think this was the imagery he intended to convey here, and it gels so well with Future Legend...

And in the death
As the last few corpses lay rotting on the slimy thoroughfare
The shutters lifted in inches in Temperance Building
High on Poacher's Hill
And red mutant eyes gaze down on Hunger City
No more big wheels

Fleas the size of rats sucked on rats the size of cats
And ten thousand peoploids split into small tribes
Coveting the highest of the sterile skyscrapers
Like packs of dogs assaulting the glass fronts of Love-Me Avenue
Ripping and rewrapping mink and shiny silver fox, now legwarmers
Family badge of sapphire and cracked emerald
Any day now

The Year of the Diamond Dogs


...that it's difficult to see it any other way.

Ok, I know that "dust and roses" and "powder our noses" (also a British euphemism for urination - something that packs of dogs would do anywhere when they ruled the ruins) doesn't quite match with "ring o' roses" and the "pocket full of posies" (that were placed under noses), but they are sufficiently close in rythmn, rhyme and imagery (dust=death, roses=plague, powder=masking agent for the stink of death, noses=the things that sneeze when affected by dust and powder, spreading disease) to make one think and the coincidence of the Future Legend imagery to the Great Plague story is, I'd contend, conclusive.

Of course, Bowie returned to this imagery (as is his wont) some years later with As The World Falls Down (we all fall down) to explore a similar theme though this time, with Reagan and his band of hawks in the White House, a nuclear rather than biological apocalypse.

Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?
The Shadow knows


littlechinagirl
(kook)
01/20/08 03:44 PM
Re: A Glass Asylum new [re: The Shadow]  

Thanks for the interpretations, people.

As a songwriter myself, I've found this song immensely inspiring. Its certainly one of my favourite Bowie songs.




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