Monday, February 25, 2013

Track of the Week: David Bowie, "Warszawa"

I'm sick this week.  It happens every February, the most wretched month on the calendar.  When I take ill, I like to have music for soothing and healing, and I've developed some go-to songs over the years.  Back when I was a senior in college, I got massively ill after making the poorly considered decision to dig my car out of a snow drift without boots on.  It was spring break, and the snowstorm combined with my sickness meant I had to stay in my apartment.

I was in the midst of my David Bowie phase, and had just bought copies of Low and Station to Station, which I listened to constantly over the next few days.  These were appropriate choices, since Bowie recorded them when he was in a period of illness and recovery, and I think that context shows up in the grooves.

On Low, the first side is all relatively conventional art-rock songs, with verses and choruses, and the like.  The second side is made up of experiments and sound collages, which I didn't appreciate so much at the time.  Nowadays, I like "Warszawa" best.  It's based off of Bowie's impressions of Warsaw under communist rule, gathered during a train layover there.  It is the sound of a grey, listless day without hope of sunshine.  To me it paints a picture of a ghostly city, full of people who are less living and more just waiting to die.

What I hate most about being sick is having the feeling that just living and breathing are an ordeal, that most I can hope for in the day is to survive it.  That's exactly what I hear in this song.

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