I have song obsessions. This is one of them.
This song relates to i stole lance armstrong’s bike in that it was the impetus for the whole play. I will share that next, but first, a really long digression…
I warned you.
Of course, I felt tremendously sad to hear the news of David Bowie. A friend put it best – and I’m paraphrasing but she said whenever there was a report of another celebrity death in the back of her mind she’d go, “Please not David Bowie.” I could relate to that.
You know, sometimes you think the stars are going to go out with a bang – and sometimes they do, but I think it’s equally as sad when the page just turns and poof, they’re gone… Like, “Bowie? Oh, yeah, he’s not here any more.” Well, that sucks. Not that things and people and places can last forever, but you know…
When I was first starting to get into collecting records, I found Ziggy Stardust in a dusty dollar bin underneath the main stacks at this record store, Streetlight, in San Jose. I didn’t know what it was or really anything about David Bowie at that point except for The Labyrinth – which is another obsession from back when I was a little kid. I listened to the album and over and over again. I guess I was in my late teens or something.
It’s funny because though this post is about song obsessions and about the beginnings of i stole lance armstrong’s bike specifically, I could actually weave this song into my other work too.
In my punk play, a character is introducing a song and says something along the lines of, “I was about to tell you that I wrote this song during a very difficult time in my life, but then, when have times ever been easy?”
That is a quintessential feeling I get from listening to The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars and Low. And that is who David Bowie is to me. I was depressed and listening to David Bowie’s music often moved me through those feelings.
So, yeah, this song, I’m obsessed with. I love it when Bowie sings it and I love it when Kurt Cobain sings it.
For me, song obsession is kinda like this– I’m modifying a little what the character Biz said in a play I wrote, It’s All In The Mix.
BIZ: I just thought of this song. I knew I’d have to play it at some point during the day. I mean, really, I’m probably gonna have to play this song a couple more times before I feel past it. And that’s the thing too cuz I could be playing this for weeks. Or months. Finding a way to work it into every mixtape, every time I play a club or party… Cuz if I got really obsessed with it, I’d be trying to figure out a way to work it intoeverything I do. I’d be with my friends like “(David Bowie) is the shit!” Just claiming it, I’d know that’s it. That feeling. The song. It’d be me by then. My motto for life…
The Man Who Sold The World…
Sometimes in generative writing workshops, the instructor will ask you to think of what your play sounds or tastes or smells like. Like my first playwriting teacher, Naomi Iizuka, would say this and you would free write for a while with just whatever popped. I started with a desk, a desire to write something new, an idea about a bike theft, and this song.
I played this song and it would run out so I’d play it some more. And then, I’d play another version.
A monologue resulted, but more than that, I could see, feel, and touch the world of my play within my mind. And I knee exactly how it would feel to be in that space at that time with those people.
This monologue was first and I kept on writing around it, completely or mostly out of order. It was more or less the equivalent of a sketch when I passed it onto another teacher, Octavio Solis, who asked how I wrote it. I said that I just wrote it as it came to me. He said “what if you put it in order?” Huh! I hadn’t thought of that.
So, I did. And this monologue which was first, and was originally a letter, moved to the middle. I’ve edited and shaped it a bit along with everything else.
But the songs…
Okay, so have you seen these live versions?
I personally prefer these acoustic ones – one sung by David Bowie and the other by Kurt Cobain.
And so recently I’ve been thinking that maybe I will sing songs for people. Live. But for realsies, not just karaoke. And maybe I will do my version of this song. Of course, I would like create my own music too. Like if I made an opera it would sound like that harmonizing haunting part at the end.
I can’t seem to find any good versions by female singers, except for this one with a theramin. So maybe I should create what I want to see and experience. I think I’d aim for more like those acoustic ones above though. And that definitely feels like the spirit of i stole lance armstrong’s bike.
Oh, this one is really interesting too. Dark, kinda like a sci-fi noir film soundtrack or something. It would have really gone well with this radio show I used to have called Miz Scarlet in the Lounge with the Turntables.
And there’s this epic on on SNL with Klaus Nomi. They used to have the whole version up, but this one with the intro and frame will have to do.
So now, the monologue from i stole lance armstrong’s bike.
I don’t know why this song illicited this monologue, but it did, so I’m going with it. Even though now the song reminds me more about this recent writing than it does angst. Says on wikipedia that the song was alluding to multiple identies, but I thought it was just a memory of a person from another lifetime.
But isn’t this interesting?
“I guess I wrote it because there was a part of myself that I was looking for. Maybe now that I feel more comfortable with the way that I live my life and my mental state (laughs) and my spiritual state whatever, maybe I feel there’s some kind of unity now. That song for me always exemplified kind of how you feel when you’re young, when you know that there’s a piece of yourself that you haven’t really put together yet. You have this great searching, this great need to find out who you really are.” — David Bowie
This monologue is towards the middle. They’ve met this busker they call Joe Schmoe. And there’s this sort of power/attraction triangle going on. Like I said, originally this was a letter she sent to another character who was never in the play. So I played with it more in the editing process.
I can’t take the despair anymore. It’s too much and it’s enveloping me like a snake. I can feel it coiling around my body my stomach and my throat and I have nowhere else to turn. How else to get out of this 4 by 4 space with her there judging every move every thought every action turns into something I regret. How do I get out of this place?
We’re in the desert now making our way back to civilization and time seems to be speeding up infinitesimally exponentially. It’s growing without end. I see no end in sight. She looks at me waiting for me to break. I look back defying that will. I will not break, you see. That’s something she doesn’t see.
I could never understand what she wanted with it. Why travel this far. Why not ditch it? At anytime we could and she holds onto it. Holds it over me. I can’t take it anymore. She’s getting to me. I’m starting to think that maybe I’m crazy or that maybe she is. I’m not sure which one of us is right. So maybe it means we both aren’t.
Behold me, Ella. I am the carrier of the wind of change. I will be here and propel myself in front of the car Ella drives with Lance Armstrong’s bike in the back seat tire sticking out the window. I am the change that she didn’t see coming. I will force my way out of this trap. This cage. This prison. She doesn’t realize what a power she’s messing with. But I know. You know, you’ve seen it. And could vouch for me if I needed you to, right?
I’m open. At your beckon call. Without you I’d go blind.