Music for a Sunday: The terror of knowing what this world is about

I have to confess something: When this song first came out, I didn’t care for it. At ALL. It was weird and depressing, it seemed self-indulgent and overdramatic, it didn’t hang together, you couldn’t really dance to it, blah blah. What can I say? I was only 14…

Now, when I look back at it, I can’t help thinking of the AIDS crisis, which was just starting to hit the news around the same time as this song was hitting the charts. The lyrics seem oddly prescient, and seem to describe what the gay community — and indeed, the larger world — had to go through. People literally did have to change their way of caring about themselves and one another. People had to watch good friends and family members dying, screaming “let me out”. And love and solidarity were the only saving graces, since the authorities shamefully sat on their hands and did nothing for several years while the disease spread beyond all hope of containment. Did those thoughts maybe, intuitively, occur to Freddie and David Bowie as they were improvising and recording this tune, which famously took shape in just one day? Or was it just a coincidence?

Any way you slice it, it’s definitely grown on me since then.

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