“Holy Holy” sounds almost like a fragment of a song. Bowie juxtaposes religious words, thus “holy,” with intimate terms like, “hold on to anyone.” Like he couldn’t make up his mind between “holy” and “hold me.” Adding to the schizophrenic nature of the song, Bowie switches from pleading to whoever the song is directed at to “let me lie low with you” to “let go of me.” Though Bowie released the song as a single (which flopped), he never included it on an album. This leads me to believe that he hadn’t quite finished it. Bowie was no stranger to songs with oblique and confusing lyrics, but I really get the sense that he probably came up with the music and started writing a song about a human, interpersonal relationship and then decided to turn it into a cosmic, mystical song in line with some of what he was singing about on The Man Who Sold the World. He might have felt rushed to get it out as a single or just grew bored and moved on to something else.
Anyway, today the song is almost a footnote. The most interesting thing about it is Bowie’s clear impersonation of Marc Bolan. Also of note, a cover band of Bowie alumni call themselves “Holy Holy,” so maybe there’s more to this song than is evident to me.
What I wrote on 11/18/16:
This is one of several songs that Bowie recorded and more or less discarded, but which then later appeared as a bonus track (in this case on a 1990s edition of The Man Who Sold the World). As usual, Bowie’s instinct was right the first time. This song is almost good. Bowie once again sounds like he’s trying to imitate Marc Bolan. Mick Ronson’s guitar is recognizable. There are elements of what would all come together on Ziggy Stardust, but to me it doesn’t sound quite right. I recently learned that there is another, older version that Bowie actually released as a single in 1971. It is also worth noting that a prominent Bowie cover band took its name from this song.