“A Deceptive Lullaby”
He came to earth as a prophet; he left without even the dignity of martyr. This record is the manifestation of his self-indulgent path of destruction. His name was Ziggy Stardust and this is “Rock’n’Roll Suicide.”
David Bowie’s Rise & Fall of Ziggy Stardust & the Spiders from Mars ranks 35 on Rolling Stone’s top 500-album list. The original record held 5 tracks on the front and six on the back. “Rock’n’Roll Suicide” is the last track and Ziggy’s last testimony.
The news guy wept and told him there was only five years left to live. Ziggy was an alien who came innocently to earth with a prerogative- to deliver the divine message of peace and love. Instead of enlightening our world, he fell victim to its darkness.
The song starts with a lulling strum of an acoustic guitar. The voice that follows shares the same endearing simplicity. It personifies the melody. Both weep with the same pain, musically and emotionally in sync, flowing harmoniously together as a single entity.
“Life takes a cigarette, puts it in your mouth.” Ziggy gives his account not of what he intended to give this world, but the wisdom it imparted on him. And like any wisdom, it didn’t come painless. Bowie embodies Ziggy and reveals his scars. The
pain cuts deep. As he recollects you can hear the desperation in his voice. You also hear either the beating of his heart or that of a kick drum. “Oh, no, no, no, you’re a rock and roll suicide.”
Bowie catches his breath at the first pause. Then he carries on with his bleak impression, “You get to old you use it, too young to choose it and the clock waits so patiently on your song. You walk past the café, but you don’t eat when you’ve lived too young.” Oh, no, no, no, you’re a rock and roll suicide.”
Another beat, another breath…
It no longer sounds like a lullaby. The tempo picks up as a trumpet and set of drums give the song youthful legs. Bowie’s voice ensues. It has the energy and excitement of a child, but the urgent undertone of an old man who has come to terms with his limited time.
Deeper understanding is the byproduct of a man who has suffocated in his deepest, darkest pain. Like fingerprints, every man’s demons differ, but the pain of their stranglehold kills in the same way. Whomever Ziggy is beseechingly addressing, it is evident that they share the unfortunate bondage of brokenness. Ziggy not only perceives this man’s struggle, he reaches out, bestowing his sympathy and hand.
“Oh no love! you’re not alone…”
The instrumentals emphasize the sincerity of his words. Intensity and intimacy grow simultaneously with every note.
“…No matter what or who you’ve been
No matter when or where you’ve seen.
All the knives seem to lacerate your brain
I’ve had my share, I’ll help you with the pain…”
The trumpet peaks and Bowie meets the music on the highest plateau. He cries out in agony, bearing his soul, “You’re not alone.”
“Give me your hands cause you’re wonderful. Oh, give me your hands.”
When you’ve met someone at pain’s threshold there is an unspeakable bond where words become superfluous. Ziggy bows out in a violent haste. Instrumentals punctuate his final sentence. The final motion over a violin has the finality of a period.
Writing this piece gave me both pleasure and pain. I had written it a couple years ago and I saw its potential, but it was immature. It was an incomplete puzzle that needed to be understood before it could be pieced together.