Sunday, January 17, 2016

David Bowie | "God Knows I'm Good"

One topic that pops up from time to time in Bowie's catalog is that of God.

While he tended to talk about Zen Buddhism - he does mention pondering Christianity and the presence of God and Heaven.

He certainly had a sense of the reality of evil - something that struck him profoundly while filming "The Man Who Fell to Earth" whose director Nicholas Roeg was an actual warlock--who like filmmaker Kenneth Anger created films as celluloid spells.

In one interview David speaks of a freak incident on the set (no details) that drove him to wear a cross around his neck for the rest of his life.

While notions of God and Heaven come up in songs including his life closing poem "Lazarus."

There is a particularly haunting tune early in his catalog titled "God Knows I'm Good" off of Space Oddity:

I was walking through the counters of a national concern
And a cash machine was spitting by my shoulder
And I saw the multitude of faces, honest, rich and clean
As the merchandise exchanged and money roared
And a woman hot with worry slyly slipped a tin of stewing steak
Into the paper bag at her side
And her face was white with fear in case her actions were observed
So she closed her eyes to keep her conscience blind

"God knows I'm good
God knows I'm good
God knows I'm good
God may look the other way today

Then she moved toward the exit clutching tightly at her paper bag
Perspiration trickled down her forehead
And her heart it leapt inside her as the hand laid on her shoulder
She was led away bewildered and amazed
Through her deafened ears the cash machines were shrieking on the counter
As her escort asked her softly
for her name
And a crowd of honest people rushed to help a tired old lady
Who had fainted to the whirling
wooden floor

God knows I'm good
God knows I'm good
God knows I'm good
Surely God won't look
the other way


While the main character in this song is an old woman on welfare. There is something that cries affinity with the author.

Bowie was doing and saying many things in public that could have been perceived as perverse or evil (particularly among righteous right wingers).

What on the surface may have looked like sin (cross dressing; proclaiming he was fay) was also a way to message into the hearts of the outcasts and give them some hope in a time when the mainstream did not want to embrace their lifestyle.

What would Jesus have done? He would have loved the one's that society was ready to stone. And because of that Bowie had a right to sing and proclaim. "You may see me as an oddity. But God knows I'm good."

There is plenty of irony here that still plays well today.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Cure: The Blood
From the CD "The Head on the Door"

Faith, doubt, holy, blood and similar words litter the landscape of lyrics written by Robert Smith of The Cure. Most of these meant as double entendre.

The key line in this song: "I am paralyzed by the blood of Christ."

There is a bitter irony as Robert Smith cites that this phrase hints at the numbness he experienced after downing a bottle of Spanish wine called "The Blood of Christ."

Comments of side, there's still some sense of religious introspection in the song:



Tell me who doesn't love
What can never come back
You can never forget how it used to feel

The illusion is deep
Its as deep as the night
I can tell by your tears you remember it all

I am paralysed by the blood of Christ
Though it clouds my eyes
I can never stop

How it feels to be dry
Walking bare in the sun
Every mirage I see is a mirage of you
As I cool in the twilight
Taste the salt on my skin
I recall all the tears
All the broken words

I am paralysed by the blood of Christ
Though it clouds my eyes
I can never stop

When the sunsets glow drifts away from you
You'll no longer know
If any of this was really true at all
The Cure: The Blood (Video Clip)

Voice of the Beehive: Jesus (Rare cover of VU Song)

Friday, April 09, 2010

Broken Family Band: Walking Back to Jesus 
from the CD "Songs About Jesus" (2004)

Mother O'Jesus

England's now defunct Broken Family Band sound more like they should've emerged from Athens GA. Their music jangly and poppy like REM...let's say early REM as it is a bit more raw than pop. I like this song because it reminds me of a time in my life when I had explored a bevy of alternative religious landscapes and ultimately came back to Christ as the answer. Yet I still had a lot of questions. Growing up Catholic and having an interest in Goth culture I had my share of Jesus candles and prayer cards with various blessed virgins on them. When he sings "Mother Mary will you hold my hand" it makes me think of them. When you first make that step back towards faith there is this hesitation. That is what I feel in the line "But you know that I don't fell his love as deeply as you do."

LYRICS


Here I go again, holding on to you
I shoulda brought a length of rope
So I could hang myself out to dry
My eyes are so wet

We're walking back to Jesus
But you know that I don't feel his love as deeply as you do
He could have saved my family
At times I think you just forget

Mother Mary will you hold my hand
And say it's alright now
Father God will you touch my head
And say it's alright now
If it is, if it is

Your hand across my mouth could be useful now
Oh, you should have got me bound and gagged
Or beaten, doped up and confused
I shouldn't say such things

We both know where we're going
So it's not like you need me to shoot my dirty mouth off
Jesus let me down and I should take it up with him

Mother Mary will you hold my hand
And say it's alright now
Father God will you touch my head
And say it's alright now
If it is, if it is

I'm not your only son
But I'm equal to whichever one you compare me to
And I'm not your only son
But I'm equal to whichever one you compare me to

So here I go again and I'm holding on to you
I shoulda brought a length of rope
So I could hang myself out to dry
My eyes are so wet

We're walking back to Jesus
But you know that I don't feel his love as deeply as you do
You could have saved my family
At times I start to think and then I just forget

Mother Mary will you hold my hand
And say it's alright now
Father God will you touch my head
And say it's alright now
If it is, we all wanna know if it is

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Soundgarden: Jesus Christ Pose

And you stare at me
In your Jesus Christ pose
Arms held out
Like you've been carrying a load
And you swear to me
You don't want to be my slave
But you're staring at me
Like I need to be saved
In your Jesus Christ pose
Arms held out
In your Jesus Christ pose
Thorns and shroud
Like it's the coming of the Lord
And I swear to you
That I would never feed you pain
But you're staring at me
Like I'm driving the nails
In your Jesus Christ pose
And you stare at me
In your Jesus Christ pose
Arms held out like it's
The coming of the Lord
And would it pay you more to walk on water
Than to wear a crown of thorns
It wouldn't pain me more to bury you rich
Than to bury you poor
In your Jesus Christ pose


Chris Cornell, from 1992 interview:
There is the possibility that someone might see the video or hear the song and interpret that it is anti-Christianity or pro-Satan. Maybe someone might even feel that it is irresponsible to take an image that, obviously, is held sacred by some and deal with it in any way that we want. Visually, there are several different ways that that image has been exploited--which is the idea behind the lyrics in the first place--being annoyed by seeing fashion models and rock stars striking the persecuted deity pose and sort of assuming the image that the public holds sacred, which somehow then puts them in that light which I don't agree with. It doesn't offend me as far as religious convictions. It's just sort of annoying to see time and time again. The video represents a lot of different ways that it has been exploited--the symbol--and maybe some that it has not.

Cornell certainly has a point. Use of the cross as a symbol has not diminished in the public eye. You can find it around the neck of movie stars, rock stars, porn starts, sports starts as fashion ornament--not as a profession of faith. Even when used by Christians it is as hood ornament, bumper sticker, t-shirt fodder. Does this over-use and abuse diminish the meaning?

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Jello Biafra & Nomeansno - "Jesus Was A Terrorist"
from The Sky Is Falling And I Want My Mommy (1991)

Sky Is Falling & I Want My Mommy

Jesus was a terrorist
Enemy of the state
That's what the Romans labeled him
So he was put to death

He died for his beliefs
What's changed today?

Today bible-thumping cannibals
Reap money from his name
Buy cable networks & power
With old ladies' checks

If Jesus saw Pat Robertson
What do you think he'd say?
Tax free then re-write our laws
And sick 'em on you
Women don't control their bodies
TV preachers do

Censor everything from bathing suits
To science books
From the schoolroom to the bedroom
They want our thoughts - or else

They treat us like the Romans
Used to treat the Christians
Even some church-going folks are scared

Modern catacombs of fear
Built with money, power, and threats
Rock 'n Roll is labeled porn
Sell a record, you're under arrest

Instead of fighting AIDS
They try to stop us having sex
They brag that they won't quit
Till they take dominion over our lives

Is freedom of speech such a terrorist act
Is spiritual peace such a satanic threat
Believe what you want
But we'll fight to keep
Our heads from being cemented in your sand

I'm not sure the Jello has anything against Jesus. He definitely has a beef with televangelists. Scarred by a time in the 80's when Pat Robertson and the PMRC were slamming his label.

I actually kind of like the idea of Jesus as a terrorist. He was so radically counter cultural that were he to drop in on the scene today he would be radically opposed to much of the hedonistic practices of men; and most likely his first round of judgement would be for those Christians who falsely lashed out at people.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Bad Religion: American Jesus (Rock Video)

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Bad Religion - "American Jesus"
from Recipe of Hate (1993)

Recipe For Hate

In "American Jesus," Bad Religion are singing about bad Christianity. Unfortunately their perception of the faithful and their stinging commentary have a ring of truth.

Lyrics:
I don't need to be a global citizen,
'Cuz I'm blessed by nationality.
I'm member of a growing populace,
We enforce our popularity.
There are things that seem to pull us under and,
There are things that drag us down.
But there's a power and a vital presence,
It's lurking all around.
We've got the American Jesus,
See him on the interstate.
We've got the American Jesus,
He helped build the President's estate.
I feel sorry for the Earth's population,
'Cuz so few live in the U.S.A.
At least the foreigners can copy our morality,
They can visit but they cannot stay.
Only precious few can garner our prosperity,
It makes us walk with renewed confidence.
We got a place to go when we die,
And the architect resides right here.
We've got the American Jesus,
Bolstering national faith.
We've got the American Jesus,
Overwhelming millions every day.
He's the farmer's barren fields,
The force the army wields,
Expressions on the faces of the starving millions,
The power of the man,
He's the fuel that drives the clan,
He's the motive and the conscience of the murderer,
He's the preacher on T.V. ,
The false sincerity,
The form letter that's written by the big computers,
The nuclear bombs,
The kids with no moms,
And I'm fearful that he's inside me...
We've got the American Jesus
See him on the interstate
We've got the American Jesus
Exercising his authority
We've got the American Jesus
Bolstering national faith
We've got the American Jesus
Overwhelming millions every day
One nation, under God...


Is the American Jesus that they sing of the same as Jesus, the Christ? Fortunately he is not; unfortunately most who share in the opinions of this song probably think that the two are the same.

So how is this "American Jesus" described? The song talks about power and vital presence in our government of invoking the name of Jesus. A Jesus who has ties to our president. The songs sarcastically mentions American morality which we export to be modeled by the rest of the world. The song labels Jesus as the architect resides right here. The lyrics speak of a national faith and thus allude to any military action as Holy War. The American Jesus is spoken of as being overwhelming.

One of the key chunks of this song is where the lyric goes, "He's the fuel that drives the clan, He's the motive and the conscience of the murderer, He's the preacher on T.V. , The false sincerity, The form letter that's written by the big computers, The nuclear bombs, The kids with no moms, And I'm fearful that he's inside me." Here is the picture that's being painted as to how Christians are pardied. It's rather sad really that someone would fear having Christ inside them. And why?

Everyonce and a while I'll scan through the 7 or 8 "Christian" stations on the satellite dish. If I were to base my perceptions of Christians and Christianity solely on these programs, presidential speaches and the news media's presentation of faith in America. I might write a song like this one as well.