Dedicated to those songs that I can't stop playing, humming, or thinking about; the 4+ minutes you fall head-over-heels in love with. Past instances have included Beck's "Truckdrivin' Neighbors," Elvis Costello's "Little Triggers" and the Hives "Tick Tick Boom."
"Let the children use it, let all the children loose it, let all the children boo-gaay."
It must have been difficult to be David Bowie, circa 1975. Nowadays, Bowie can relax with his model wife and guest appearances on Extras, reveling in all that he set up. But back in the day, he probably had to work at sounding weird twenty-four hours a day. I seem to recall a story where Bowie--at the height of Ziggy-ness--would simply quote the Bible at random to sound both interesting and weird all at once. He tried really hard to solidify himself as an alien and it actually kind of worked so well that it's the first image of him most people remember... which is saying something considering he must be the only major artist to rival Madonna in the reinvention category. Only a powerful image from his past could allow Bowie to survive that horrible Jagger "Dancing In The Streets" period. On top of all this, he still had to sell lyrics with the word "boo-gaay" in them and make it seem cool. Luckily it was.
"Starman" marks not only one of the clearest realization of the space-rock, glam-era Bowie was perfecting at the time, but also the second Wes Anderson track on the G.S.A.T.M. hit list. So far, both this and "2000 Man" have both been featured in my two least favorite films of his. Maybe I retain such a positive outlook about the entire canon of Wes thru simply hearing a song I can fall in love with. I would make an argument that there is an inverse relationship between my taste in music and my taste in Wes Anderson, but I love The Royal Tenenbaums and "Judy is a Punk," so that theory should go scratch. Perhaps I have a set amount of love (let's call it the "love pile") for any piece of popular art, and when a movie such as The Life Aquatic fails to capture every bit of that love pile, the remaining chunks glom onto the nearest worthy subject; like Venom in the Spider-man comics. However now that I think about it, "Starman" was only truly featured in the trailer for The Life Aquatic, though the film was "scored" with early-Bowie. But since both early-Bowie and Venom were from space, my theory becomes completely valid. Viva science.
The track works like a bell curve to show exponential growth in musical perfection:
Verses - Pretty good and eerie, serving to set the whole "Space Oddity" vibe once again.
Chorus - The introduction of the orchestra, heightening the song's intensity and complete with catchy lyrics including the unmistakably magical "Let all the children boo-gay."
Chorus Coda - Majestic glam rock poetry. It's what the year 1973 longed to be every stinking minute. What makes this section even greater is the fact that it could've been the whole song, a la "Rebel Rebel." But since Bowie sticks to the mathematical (or perhaps a more chemical?) equation, this section draws us in all the more. Because there is less given to us, we must appreciate what we have.
It's this holding back from giving us the good stuff that gets the song lodged in the mind. I've had riffs stuck in my head before, but they are more a result of repetition. This bit only occurs in two parts of the entire song, for no more than 17 seconds the first tease, and then the remaining 65 seconds through the fade out. This bit deserves more celebration, but often times the best rock 'n' roll is given in fits and spurts and this is no exception. What's even more interesting about this gorgeous section is that I presume it is the song the narrator heard on the radio; the "hazy cosmic jive" alluded to in the sixth line immediately preceding the chorus. As evidence I present the fact that this chorus coda is indisputably hazy as well as unmistakably cosmic. Any less description would be a disservice to the song.
That simple half-beat pause before the plunge into this section is all the anticipation my heart can withstand and when it comes it cannot occupy my world enough. It's a combination of two riffs and a string section in a manner that can only be fully realized via air guitar. I own no violin, so the symphonic portion cannot happen. I'm lousy at solos, so the melody will have to wait as I develop my guitar skills. And the rhythm "chunka-chunka" bit, number 1-C on the most important part of this section, just doesn't fill the imagination on its own. But air guitar remains the most perfect and powerful invention in the history of rock instrumentation and through its glory; the song inhabits my bones while retaining its perfection. My slow left hand clips and pulls with grace and ease, my pick taps each string confidently and precisely, conjuring a noise from beyond the cosmos and suddenly I realize that by tuning into this kind of vibe makes maintaining weirdness seem not only more possible but wholly necessary.