Phoenix, Arizona

Drive-In Saturday by David Bowie

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His name was always Buddy
and he'd shrug and ask to stay
She'd sigh like Twig the wonder kid
and turn her face away Read full Lyrics
View from Camelback Mountain

Ahhh, thought that would get your attention. It’s what this song is all about… pretty much.

The year is 2033. The place: a drive-in theater. Which makes this more of a fantasy than David Bowie had even planned, considering drive-in theaters are nigh on non-existent anymore. For those too young to have any experience with drive-in movie theatres, they are/were exactly what they sound like: a giant parking lot with speakers next to which you drive your car, roll down your window, and attach a speaker so you can hear the movie being played on the giant screen at the front of the parking lot. But not many people actually watched the movies at a drive-in. It was more of an excuse for teenagers to use the backseat of their parents’ car to get busy.

But evidently, in Bowie’s science-fiction addled futuristic world, Earth’s inhabitants have forgotten how to “get busy” (another incredibly far-fetched notion, considering the world’s overpopulation problems). So they must watch porn to figure out how to do it. And into this weird scenario Bowie name-drops Mick Jagger and the supermodel of the ‘60s, Twiggy “the wonder kid,” and, intriguingly, Carl Jung.

However, with porn soundtracks what they are, what Bowie’s really predicting is that people in 2033 listen to a lot of supremely bad music and watch a lot of supremely bad acting all in an effort to get into unnatural positions to perform acts that would have accomplished contortionists applauding. And hey kids, this is only 17 years away from now!

This is where David Bowie’s head was at while staring out a train window somewhere between Seattle and Phoenix on a lonely ink black night in 1972.
Downtown Phoenix
To put things into perspective, Bowie jumped out of the box long before there was a box to jump out of. The entire Aladdin Sane album was glam rock run amok. And glam stems from the idea that pop musicians are mutants who walk among us, attempting to be disguised as us, but taking guyliner and the Knott’s Landing era of shoulder pads one step too far, thereby never quite blending in.

The doo-wopness of this tune is in keeping with the early ‘70s fascination with all things ‘50s - such as American Graffiti and “Happy Days.” Ricky Nelson and Elvis were dominating the charts, updating their own unique ‘50s heydays to ‘70s-style ‘50s. Or something like that.

Rumor has it that the song was offered to Mott the Hoople, who rejected it, thus beginning a life-long animosity between Ian Hunter and Bowie, and also causing Bowie to shave his eyebrows in a drunken stupor.

Rumor also has it that Phoenix was the first crowd to hear this song, as it was the first stop on the tour after that fateful train ride when Bowie wrote it. Which is why Phoenix qualifies as the Songplace for it. It didn’t actually get recorded in a studio until the beginning of the month of November, which was after the Phoenix show, and was never issued as a single in the U.S., although it went on to become one of Bowie's highest charting singles in the U.K.

And Phoenix? Well, spoken by a former desert dweller (me), Phoenix went on to become hell on Earth, with temperatures in the summer of 2011 (when I wrote this) hovering between 110-117 degrees Fahrenheit for weeks on end, setting record after record for flat-out misery and insanely high electric bills. And everyone thought people were leaving in droves because of the economy. Pffft.
~ Shawna Hansen Ortega
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Comments: 1

  • Rabbitbunny from Outside Baltimore, MarylandBowie's right on target here. In Drive-In Saturday, he describes fame and stardom as "a crash course for the ravers." But what happens when that Hollywood Dream turns ugly and sour after the glitter fades? That worldview doesn't exist anymore! 20 years later it was another reinvention master Madonna who asked the same disturbing question Bowie did. Only this time, in a song called Hollywood, Madonna's vision was even darker than Bowie's. In her song critique, Bowie's dream becomes Madonna's nightmare. In the song Hollywood, like Drive-In Saturday, Madonna asks a question and then spits it out like venom-"Everybody comes to Hollywood/They wanna make it in the neighborhood/They like the smell of it in Hollywood/How could it hurt you when it looks so good?"-in the end for Bowie and Madonna, neither song was exactly a hit. The truth hurts.
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