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Site Maintenance: The Pretty Things Are Going to Hell (1999)/ Cracked Actor (1973)

From time to time, for whatever reason, the original YouTube videos attached to some of the entries on this website go down.  Its hard to exactly keep track, and I have had difficulty in some cases replacing the down video with an active alternative.  That said, the exercise also gives me an opportunity to revisit songs I originally commented on years ago.  Today’s example is the 1999 song off, “Hours…,” “The Pretty Things Are Going to Hell.”

I originally commented on the song on March 13, 2016, which was Day 63 of my year-long, song-a-day tribute.  You can go back and look at what I wrote.  I replaced the downed video with the song as it appears on “Hours…,” without a video.  An official video was created but never released for the song— I haven’t seen it but have seen stills (perhaps a topic for another day).

In any case, I came across this video clip from Bowie performing the song, along with the much older song, “Cracked Actor,” on what appears to be a French television show.  (Interestingly, the hosts switch between French and English, and they join the band as backup singers).

Leave it to Bowie to choose two songs about aging, decay and the corruption that follows debauchery to perform before an audience of young people.  Bowie was about 52 at the time.  “Cracked Actor,” which he wrote in his 20s, contains the line, “Forget that I’m 50, ‘caus you just got paid,” suggesting what Bowie thought about someone who reached that age — the narrator is washed up, aroused by his own self-delusions, and paying a junkie for sex.  Bowie wrote  “The Pretty Things Are Going to Hell” when he himself had passed that point, and he’s clearly reporting about those, maybe like himself, who “wore it out” but “wore it well.”  The song is a rocker from an otherwise staid album, and is clearly resonant of, “Oh You Pretty Things,” the less well known Tin Machine song, “Pretty Things,” as well as the Stooge’s “Your Pretty Face is Going To Hell” (which appeared on the 1973 album, “Raw Power,” which Bowie produced), and, while we’re at it, the band, “The Pretty Things,” who Bowie covered on his own 1973 album, “Pin UPs.”  

Its hard not to think that Bowie was reflecting on his own aging, his being out of sync with youth culture, and what he might have been thinking of an artificial sense of self importance.  The young hosts of the show fawn over Bowie, but doe he think they’re humoring him? Or is he telling them to forget that he’s 50, because they just got paid?

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