skip to Main Content

Week 30 | Let All the Children Boogie (2016)

“Let All the Children Boogie” is a Bowie tribute record with a particular purpose: the intent was for various artists (all of whom are otherwise unknown to me) to reinterpret songs from Bowie’s catalogue, for children. It was created as a fundraising device for the “It Gets Better Fund,” which is a charity for LGBT youth. As a result, several of the songs both have elements seemingly directed at children as well as LGBT-friendly lyrics even beyond Bowie’s original (for instance, a male voice sings in “Heroes” that he can be queen).

The interpretation of these songs is pleasing. The selection is diverse— not just greatest hits (for instance, there’s a cover of the obscure, 1965 song, “I’ll Follow You”), but none comes from Bowie’s post-1980s catalogue. Two of the songs are inherently child-friendly— “Kooks,” which Bowie originally wrote for his then-infant son (now known as Duncan Jones) and “Magic Dance” (from the Labyrinth soundtrack). Some of the other child-oriented features include the appearance of the kazoo on at least two songs, most notably “V-2 Schneider,” tamed down lyrics (the line, “the earth is a bitch” in, “Oh You Pretty Things,” becomes, “the earth is a mess”); a children’s chorus singing backup on “Golden Years,” and a dog baking in the background on “The Prettiest Star.” Aside from that, the album avoids the trap of cartoon character voices or, aside from the kazoo and the dog, annoying sound effects. An adult could easily listen to these songs without realizing the intended audience was children.

The first few times I listened to this album, I wondered why some of the lyrics were altered but none were for, “Lady Stardust.” In fact, why was this song, which is about “I love I could not obey” included on an ostensible children’s album? While seemingly less controversial lyrics were changed apparently to be less offensive (for instance “You’re such a wonderful person, but you got problems” from “Breaking Glass,” was changed to “but I cause problems”). The “It Gets Better” connection explains this, and also helps explain the song selection.

Overall, this a pretty good tribute album. Perhaps oddly, I have found myself listening to it more than other tribute albums during the time since it was released in 2016. That’s what I think of the music. I also have thoughts about the title of the album:

Though I had been listening to Bowie sing, “Starman” for years, it was not until this tribute album was released that I realized that the line after, “let the children lose it, let the children use it” was, “let all the children boogie.” Bowie does not pronounce the word, “boogie,” like its pronounced in Buffalo. He makes it almost rhyme with “lose it” and “use it.” To the extent I thought about the line at all, I thought it was, a repeat of “lose it” with the word “all” thrown in as some sort of amplifier. I had (and still have) no idea what the sequence means. It makes for an almost obvious title for this particular album.

But what did Bowie mean in 1972, when we came up with the line in the first place? Here I am not wondering about what the “it” is that children will lose and use, but what did he mean by “boogie?” “Boogie” has been used as a word related to music for more than a century. Two decades before “Starman” (if you think about it— ONLY two decades), “boogie” was usually accompanied by “woogie,” to connote a kind of swing music (think, “The Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B). I could be wrong, but 1972, at least when Bowie was writing the song, was just before the very earliest days of disco. “Boogie” would come to take on a different meaning in coming years (think, “Boogie Nights”)— not totally unrelated, but different than the Andrews Sisters’ use of the term. But what did it mean for Bowie? This is probably an answerable question, but I don’t exactly know.

This Post Has 0 Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back To Top