Torture Comes And Torture Goes

A World Without Grace

As far back as 1967's "David Bowie", David tackled the very difficult subject of misanthropic malice. In the song 'We Are Hungry Men' David Bowie's lyrics make no secret of the malevolence that can live in the human heart: "Achtung, achtung, these are your orders. Anyone found guilty of consuming more than their allotted amount of air will be slaughtered and cremated." Diabolical and bloody-minded characters were taking shape in the imagination of the young Bowie: "We are hungry men. We don't give a damn for what you're saying. We're here to eat you." And in the song 'Please Mr. Gravedigger' the object of hatred is the ten-year-old Mary-Ann. Is she a forerunner of the befooled fourteen-year-old sacrificed on David's masterpiece "Outside"? Perhaps Mary-Ann, an earlier victim meta-morphed into Baby Grace. Bowie scowls in his description of the gravedigger: "He seems to spend all his days puffing fags and digging graves. He hates the reverend vicar and he lives all alone in his home."

In 'Cygnet Committee' from 1969's "Space Oddity" Bowie details the fire and fury of a love machine lumbering through desolation rows ploughing down men and women. He recounts the tongues of crying rage stabbing the backs of fathers, sons of dirt.

On "The Man Who Sold The World," Bowie unveils a character foaming at the mouth and convulsed with rage. The song 'Running Gun Blues' examines the bitter resentment of a mad warrior home from the war, a crazed killer-soldier ready to plug a few civilians: "It seems the peacefuls stopped the war, left generals squashed and stifled but I'll slip out again tonight 'cause they haven't taken back my rifle."

The vicious and deranged actor from 1973's Aladdin Sane, a poster boy for brutality and a precursor to the Savage Jaw urgently demands: "Crack, baby, crack, show me you're real." The sado-masochistic fervor of 'Cracked Actor' is overwhelming. It's a bitter pill to swallow but a brilliant tune that lyrically and musically embodies the estrangement and spleen bitterness of it's characters.

We are introduced to the cruel and ruthless bully Johnny in Lodger's 'Repetition.' David Bowie reports: "Johnny is a man and he's bigger than her. I guess the bruises won't show if she wears long sleeves but the space in her eyes shows through." He takes us on a journey into another heart of stone.

Bowie exposes a homo-hatred of the most virulent and venomous kind in 1980's 'Scream Like A Baby' from "Scary Monsters and Super Creeps." He narrates: "Well they came down hard on the faggots. They came down harder on Sam. He was thrown into a wagon blindfolded and chained. They stomped on him; took away his clothes and things and pumped him full of strange drugs."

In 1987's 'Too Dizzy' from "Never Let Me Down" David brings to light the desperation of a spiteful misogynist: "You're just pushin' for a fight. But I'm not letting you out of my sight. You're just itchin'-twitchin'-itchin' for a break."

The serial killer/cannibal is alive and well in 'Video Crime' from "Tin Machine I." Bowie depicts a vile and obsessive hatred: "Ain't got room for charity. Me, I'm crawling with no cash. Me, I'm looking for hot flesh. This skeleton's mine. Chop it up. Chop it up."

Horror, loathing, repulsion, and revulsion also rear their ugly heads in the song 'Crack City.' Bowie, the avenger pleads: "Don't whore your little bodies to the worms of paradise." "Piss on the icon monsters whose guitars bequeath you pain." Bowie releases his own personal vials of wrath with a furious curse: "And you the master dealer may death be on your brow. May razors slash your mainline. I'm calling you out right now. May all your vilest nightmares consume your shrunken head. May the hounds of paranoia dance upon your stinking bed."

The animosity and enmity between husband and wife again manifests itself in 'One Shot' from "Tin Machine II." Bowie discloses the deadly violence and abuse: "The last days were the meanest, leanest days of our lives. You threw me the pieces. I started the fire. One thing led to a dead end and one shot put her away."

Then, of course, there is 1995's "Outside." Outside is really about the death of grace (The bowels of compassion were literally ripped out of her) and the birth of malice. Decoded, the whole hypercycle alludes to the murder of mercy by an anarchist angel - a cruel, stone-hearted Ramona. The choice of the name Ramona is pointed considering that the original meaning of Ramona is "guardian-protectress." Again Bowie draws a picture of the predatory and vindictive Angel.

In the song 'Voyeur of Utter Destruction (As Beauty) he divulges: "The screw is a tightening atrocity; the blade turns and turns again." On "Outside" the milk of human kindness has run dry and so has God's love supplanted by a fiendish malignity in the shape of Leon Blank - "The Empty Hearted Lion." The Lion once being the heart of grace. The implications are far-reaching because the death of grace insinuates the death of God and the demise of all future benefactions. The landscape Bowie paints is hellish and bleak, harsh and unrelenting. It is a world without saviors, devoid of absolution. A world without mercy, unblessed with grace!

Nevada Kerr
3rd February 2003.

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