Bowie: Conversation Piece

Today I want to share this song that’s been haunting me. Conversation Piece, by David Bowie, was written in 1969, recorded in 1970, and the version here re-recorded in 2002 and offered as an extra on Bowie’s penultimate album ‘Heathen.’ (2002) I find it so evocative that I’m barely able to listen with out a few tears.

The album Heathen is tinged with sadness and a sense of old age, and although different in style this song fits with that theme, especially this version sung as it is with Bowie’s mature baritone. One interpretation I read of this song claimed it is written from the perspective of an old academic, (“You wouldn’t think to look at me that I’ve spent a lot of time in education, it all seems so long ago”).But to me I can’t help thinking of a student,Bowie wrote it as a young man, and I imagine him as living alone above the grocer store, a lodger of sorts. Someone who doesn’t belong. (And I did always wonder about that album title).

I believe this little known gem of a song spawned a relative in the largely overlooked 1995 album ‘Outside’. In his segue the aged character Algeria Touchshriek “a broken man”, is living in a run down area and “thinking of leasing the room above ‘his’ shop to a Mr. Walloff Domburg. A reject from the world wide Internet” He is also a broken man, and Touchshriek muses: “It would be nice to have company we could have great conversations…” PerhapsBowie’s lodger in Conversation piece has found a home at last and a friend for Mr Touchshriek, “I don’t get to speak much to anyone or that sort of thing, if I had another broken man…Oh, I dream of something like that.”

In a very round about way, I thanks to Nick Abadzis for making me think of all of this.



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