Beyond The Whole Human Race
Angel Men And Animal Grace
But I can't see too far with these animal eyes
Oh, it's the animal in me but I'd rather be a beggarman on the shelf
I'm dancing on angels
Angel or devil I don't care; for in front of that door, there is you.
Bowie occasionally intermingles the angelic, the divine, the superhuman and the animal, the brute, and the subhuman into overlapping genres. A kind of Minotaur gone wild is depicted on the karmic wheel of fate in the song "Karma Man." Bowie tries to move beyond the flesh into the spirit: "Fairy tale skin, depicting scenes from human zoos; impermanent toys like peace and war, a gentle face you've seen before. I struggle hard to take these pictures in, but all my friends can see is just the pinkness of his skin."
In the song "Baby Universal" Bowie sings "Hallo humans can you feel me thinking? I assume you're seeing everything I'm thinking. Hallo humans nothing starts tomorrow. I'm the baby now." Perhaps the humans in "Baby Universal" have acquired the power of the gods with the ability to see and hear everything you're thinking, but even if they could see beyond the flesh into the mind and heart, would this make them "more than human?" In one of fate's strange turnings, this "Cosmic Seed," the "Universal Baby" runs to seed. Bowie again insinuates our flawed perhaps subhuman origins. The reptilian brain is at work in this world of chaos.
Bowie confesses: "I'm not a prophet or a stone age man just a mortal with potential of a superman," in the song "Quicksand." Here Bowie straddles the paradox of the caveman-prophet. Is he beauty or beast? This fool is pure potential. His number is Zero, the number of the unmanifest. He walks a fine line between the sage and the madman. The mortal in "Quicksand" is in the embryonic phase of transmutation; an early stage of transhumanity. He is always one step away from falling into the abyss.
In "Oh! You Pretty Things" David warns: "Let me make it plain, you gotta make way for the Homo Superior." Bowie reveals the start of this coming race, and a new kind of earthling: "Homo Sapiens have outgrown their use; all the strangers came today." A new breed of human is on the way.
Wondrous beings are chained to life in "The Supermen." In this song immortality is a curse. The superbeings are bound to flesh. They are unable to escape their ceaseless lives. David conjures up a nightmarish vision unlike any other. Again he ascribes human characteristics to nonhuman beings: "Sad-eyed mermen tossed in slumbers. Nightmare dreams no mortal mind could hold. A man would tear his brother's flesh, a chance to die to turn to mold." Death, if they could achieve it would be a welcome release for these super humans.
In "Dead Man Walking" David Bowie intones: "There's not even a demon in Heaven or Hell. Is it all just human disguise?" It appears the fiend often takes human form incarnating here on earth.
In an anthropomorphic twist that reminds us of stories in which animals talk, or in other ways take on the characteristics of human beings, Bowie unveils the animal with human eyes in the song "Glass Spider." He croons: "Oh the Glass Spider had blue eyes almost like a human's. They shed tears at the wintered turn of the centuries."
In one of my favorite tunes from the "Young Americans" album Bowie sings: "He's so divine, his soul shines. His ever loving face smiles on the whole human race." In "Somebody Up There Likes Me," David introduces us to the "divine devil" in man. The protagonist is a demigod and a demon in human shape, one of the many smiling ghouls on television "who could sell you anything."
In the song "Holy Holy" David claims: "I don't want to be an angel, just a little bit evil. Feel the devil in me." It seems he would happily settle for the role of the fallen angel if his lover would just let him be.
David describes a meeting/mating with the monster in the burning pit of fear in "The Width Of A Circle." He greets the angel of the bottomless pit: "His nebulous body swayed above. His tongue swollen with Devil's love. The snake and I, a venom high. In the older myths the serpent and the seraph, respectively animal and angel were an all in one power.
We are introduced to the angel-man in the song "I'm Deranged." Bowie drones: "And the rain sets in. It's the angel man. I'm deranged."
Leper messiah, burning dove, pink monkey bird, fanged viper, diamond dog, spider from Mars, super creep, new angel of promise, or late night cannibal, Bowie reveals both the friends and fiends that exist within and beyond the whole human race.
26th February 2003.
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