Oldies But Goldies: Helen Bach On “Lodger” In 2012
“We’ll never say anything nice again will we?”
In 1979 I was the cusp of cool a Bowie junkie who was being sucked down the alley of grit and art. I had no right to do the things I did. I had no experience to allow me to handle the world I was entering. Like trying to survive in the woods with a lipstick and a rubber band, I jumped ass backward into a swirling world of neon and leather. I was a 13 year old suburban girl with the world on a string who decided it would be best to snip that and find my own way. I would never have innocence again and I would never want it.
The album Lodger by David Bowie lived on my turntable. Yeah, everyone hated it the critics panned it but at age 13 I didn’t even know what a critic was- I was the center of my universe, still sorta am.
Now you Bowie scholars can go on about the Berlin trilogy or Eno and Alomar.. I’ll leave that to you. I’ll take this my way.
“Fantastic Voyage”, the drum is a brief intro to Bowies scholarly advise “dignity is valuable, but our lives are valuable too”. This song has so many quotable quotes its absurd “we’ll get by, I suppose”. Interesting that the ‘wrong words make you listen’, Bowie was speaking to me. I can actually blame him for making me a juvenile delinquent now that I think about it. The harmonies and the piano in this song are magnificent. Bowies pleading yells screwed their way into my soul.
“I am A DJ” actually had a video. A white shirted thin white duke, sexbomb extraordinaire. ‘I’ve got believers’, a tale of a tormented dj? Dunno but he made a cute ‘kiss kiss’ sound. The funky guitar action made this the dance track for getting primped for nights on the street. I can remember dancing around my room singing this as I used a sharp pair of scissors to cut slashes in my fishnet stockings- that I was wearing at the time. It is the invincibility of a proper bass line that makes people behave as they do. The bass can make a girl do some pretty freaky stuff. Kiss kiss…
“Boys Keep Swinging” ‘life is a pop of the cherry’…I wanted to be a boy cuz you can pee standing up. To this day I still wish that, well that and the ability to do some other stuff but its 2012 now and I’m more skilled. This song also had a drag fashion show inspired video. Bowie looked ill. It disturbed me, and I liked it. There was a guy in the village that reminded me of Bowie back then. He was nice, he was very smart and he is now dead. Heroin chic isn’t chic if you’re foaming at the mouth. His lover was never seen again- to this day I wonder if he’s still swingin somewhere. I doubt it. The song makes me sad, but that’s cuz it’s a trigger of visuals. As a song though, its sorta lame- the squeal guitars at the end seem dated.
“African Night Flight” is freakin cool even today. Plus its sorta funny to hear Bowie speaking so quickly “like a valuable loved one left un named” I had idea what that ‘Asante’ crap was in ’79 but it sounded cool and hip so of course I sang along. I could have been ordering a hit man in Swahili and not known the difference.
“Move On”- I hated back then. It was boring and monotone and in retrospect I think that’s what Bowie was going for. Hearing it today its actually really beautiful and simplistic. Was Bowie going all National Geographic ? He was the roving gnome. Still the last 45 seconds is really pretty “I can’t forget you , I cannot forget you’
“Red Sails” this is a bad ass song. “ I feel a bit roughed up, I feel a bit frightened’, could have been my tag line. I have always loved Bowies falsetto, it’s so painful that its beautiful. This song of unwilling travel fits the tune so beautiful. “The hinterland the hinterland!’ The sing back ‘Red Sail’ could have used a bit more ‘umph’ but hey, it served the purpose. ‘fa fa fa fafa fafafa away…’ I anyone involved in the underground ‘back then’ knew this narrator.
“Red Money” sucked. I would always skip this song. Which wasn’t easy cuz lining up that needle on the line was never an easy task Yeah that was before needles had the sensor to go to the next tune. Take that you hipster vinyl fans.
“Yassasin”, man oh man did I love this tune. Drums were fabulous and that mock exotic synth was like a steamy incense burning. “I’m not a moody guy…’ Bowies voice- sex in a mic all throat. Again, no clue at the time what this bit was about but it had (to me) a nice sultry reggae lilt. I do love the groany vibe. Hearing it today the ‘look at this’ back up singers sound so lame that I can’t figure out why this was such a late night provocateur. I should have been too busy laughing at the lame ass backing vocal
“Repetition”, this song is so relevant now that I wish it could be reissued. How many pathetic suburban men whimper this shit? Miserable macho stereotype. A tale of abuse and anger ‘but the space in her eyes shows through’ the idiotic ‘don’t hit her sorta takes the edge off its coolness. Somebody call Bowie and ask him to redo this with a bit more angst- it could be stellar. Just one more verse on this story of dead relationship would be welcome. Do it.
“Look Back In Anger”, Angels talking to Bowie. “its time we should be going”. This was the running song in my life and run I did as I dodged out of seedy situations. The drumming /cymbal combination is the perfect step meter to a right good run off. You can feel fear and anger in this tune. The music is fantastic if the lyrics are a bit short. There should be more words ‘very sane he seemed to me’, Another fabulous specimen of the man sounds of Bowies voice. Its energizing and powerful and leaves me a bit bewildered- it feels undone. Bowie is a master puppeteer, I bet that was exactly what he wanted.
I reviewed this out of order….didja notice? I could listen to this album on perpetual repeat. Screw the critics, this is a masterpiece.