Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Speaking of (Ziggy) Stardust

"I think I saw you in an ice cream parlour, drinking milkshakes cold and long,
smiling and waving and looking so fine;
don't think you knew you were in this song."

--David Bowie

I love these lines from verse two of "Five Years" (side 1, song 1 of David Bowie's 1972 album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, a brilliant, much lauded rock-n-roll record of apocalypse, redemption, and great sparkling beauty). The direct address in the lines above are, for me, the song's high point where the speaker/singer reaches out to you, me, and everybody (after prophesying in verse 1 that the world is doomed to destruction in five years), implicating us in the song's explicit mayhem and tremendous gorgeousness -- even if we don't know it -- it's/we're all so close.

But it's the "cold and long" in this lyric that always kills me -- such a wonderful syntactic afterthought, surprising in the line for its placement (in the end)(after all), but weirdly, tonally necessary to put "you" (me, etc.) in y/our place -- that is, to cement us in the marvel of the moment with just this one tiny descriptive phrase, which refers ambiguously not only to the milkshakes, but to drinking them and to the state of the state of the lyric in general. Delight sometimes comes in the smallest odd doses, so too hope.

These are perhaps my favorite lines in all of rock-n-roll.

2 comments:

Tony said...

Dammit, Matt! I love this song too--and yes, this is the lyrical peak of the song. I'll say more later, after I deal with a student.

Josh said...

Love the song.

And the lyric.

But always got a particularly homoerotic charge out of that "cold and long."

Maybe I'm just too serious about my icecream?