Monday, 18 January 2016


by Robert Merriam

In the days following David Bowie’s death in addition to the outpouring of affection I saw a couple of things happen repeatedly, people point out that Bowie was both a “weird dude” and that he was massively overrated. Now I’m certainly not going to deny the former, at least by the arbitrary standards that we use to judge normalcy Bowie was the weirdest of dudes and far be it from me to tell people that they should like music that they do not. However, I feel that as a huge fan of the man I might be able to shed some light on why his passing means so much to so many. You can go anywhere on the internet now and read about how Bowie was important because he never stood still, he was constantly innovating and evolving throughout his career with multiple different personas and styles blah blah you’ve heard this already.As true as all that it is it’s not what makes Bowie special, to me at least.

Here are the lyrics to ‘Quicksand’ from his fourth album ‘Hunky Dory’:

I'm closer to the Golden Dawn
Immersed in Crowley's uniform
Of imagery
I'm living in a silent film
Himmler's sacred realm
Of dream reality
I'm frightened by the total goal
Drawing to the ragged hole
And I ain't got the power anymore
No I ain't got the power anymore

I'm the twisted name
on Garbo's eyes
Living proof of
Churchill's lies
I'm destiny
I'm torn between the light and dark
Where others see their targets
Divine symmetry
Should I kiss the viper's fang
Or herald loud
the death of Man
I'm sinking in the quicksand
of my thought
And I ain't got the power anymore

Don't believe in yourself
Don't deceive with belief
Knowledge comes
with death's release

I'm not a prophet
or a stone age man
Just a mortal
with the potential of a superman
I'm living on
I'm tethered to the logic
of Homo Sapien
Can't take my eyes
from the great salvation
Of bullshit faith
If I don't explain what you ought to know
You can tell me all about it
On, the next Bardot
I'm sinking in the quicksand
of my thought
And I ain't got the power anymore


In all honesty my plan for this article had been to look into this song and unpack the meaning and I’ve not been entirely successful. The lyrics have always intrigued me and what I found out interests me even more, the “Golden Dawn” was an occult order and Aleister Crowley one of its members, the reference to the “mortal with potential of a superman” is almost certainly a reference to the work of Frederic Nietzsche (Bowie makes similar allusions on the other songs on the album). Garbo was the code name for an Allied double agent during the Second World War and Bridget Bardot was an actress during the sixties. So I looked all this up and pondered for a bit but you know what? I’ve no idea what it’s about. Maybe about trying to embrace Nietzsche’s philosophy, shake off slave morality and become the overman? Your guess is as good as mine but this is my point.

David Bowie would not have cared. He wrote this song to reflect what he was thinking, nobody else could have written those words other than David Bowie in that moment in 1971, he didn’t write it for you or me and he’s perfectly happy to liken his life to an occult organization or a Nazi propaganda film. He was an artist in the true sense of the word because throughout the decades he never pandered or capitulated to trend or popular demand. He had a unique and amazing mind and he invited us in to have a look and if we didn’t like it he really didn’t care. But for the most part the British public and indeed millions of others all around the world did care and kept coming back for more. Not many musicians can claim to have maintained such an utter dedication to their art as David Bowie and this is why his death is a big deal. Because suddenly this window that gives us an amazing view into the mind of a total individual has been shut, and we might not see a view like that again for some time.

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