ubjesus

Интерпретации Бирна.

Нашёл очень забавную вещь — интрепретацию композиции U.B. Jesus Дэвида Бирна.
С самого начала было ясно, что текст композиции вовсе не прост, а присмотревшись к тексту я нашёл его довольно захватывающим.


David Byrne — U.B. Jesus ( BBC Sessions — Live at The Union Chapel Hall, Islington — July 2002 )


От автора: Hi, here is an interpretation of U.B. Jesus. It’s long but entertaining. Please comment or post your own analysis.

A Close Look at U.B. Jesus

Although I should be studying Derrida for my graduate English class, I need a break from the great French Post-structuralist and do something fun. I love David Byrne’s music, and “U.B. Jesus is fascinating to me. So I’m going to do an old fashioned close reading of it.

The song starts out with a booming lower tom intertwined with an intricate beat. In the background, a slight descending tone of an unknown instrument reminds me of a bird in the outdoors, perhaps it is early morning. The narrator confirms this:

“Sunrise, I’m still dancing”

The image is of a young man whose has been up all night dancing, but sunrise also has religious implications. Both Jesus and the God of the Old Testament are referred to in images of light. Sunrise is rebirth, the phoenix rising from its ashes, rosy dawn spreading her fingers. For Easter, Jesus’ rebirth, Christians celebrate with a sunrise service. Dancing and Christian religion have a strange history. For the most part there’s not much dancing in religion except for those African-American gospel services that trip the light fantastic.

“Girlfriend, she’s my champion”

The narrator’s girlfriend has kept up dancing all night with him, and he is thankful. The fact that he says “my champion” shows that the girlfriend is the acknowledged defender of a person, faith, cause, or side: one who stoutly maintains any cause. What is the cause?

“Swing low, pull me over
Hey — be my savior”

Here is a reference to the great gospel classic “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” But he adds, “pull me over.” So they are dancing and he is instructing her on how to move. Swing low becomes sexual. The narrator is fully aware of his religious feelings; he asks her “to be his savior.” Byrne is tapping into something important here. Although religion is strong in America, it doesn’t have the force it use to have among the majority of younger people outside of the Bible belt. But there is still a need for spirituality and more importantly to the spirituality that lets you lose yourself. This spirituality is found in the zealous Pentecostal sect that Byrne is so fascinated with. More about them later. So young people need a religious breakthrough, an overwhelming experience, they need to see the face of God.

“Blood, Skin”

Blood is life. Jesus shed his blood for us. Blood is also heat. The heat of tumescence, blood-engorged, the mighty phallus and clitoris, giver of life and pleasure, is invoked. Blood is a curse and blood is purifier. The word bless comes from the word blood; blessing was a purifying ritual where blood was sprinkled over a person or object. Skin, sensual skin, sweat induced from dancing all night long, the narrator sees his girlfriend’s skin and is in ecstasy. Eroticism of skin is nothing new; the smell, the gleam, the texture all tugs our deepest impulses.

“Show me the book
Don’t understand the language that they spoke”

The book is the ubiquitous Bible. So well known in Western culture it doesn’t need to be called by its title. Perhaps the narrator is thinking back earlier in the day when he was accosted by a street preacher. The language is the act of speaking in tongues, the feeling of the spirit so powerfully that you start to speak in ecstatic speech which the Pentecostals believe is the language of angels. Byrne was so interested in the phenomena that he titled a Talking Heads’ album after it. Byrne subtly makes the link between losing yourself in religion and losing yourself in music and sex.

“Don’t pity me
Have pity on yourself
You might know Jesus but you’ll all join in hell”

The narrator rejects the fire and brimstone threats of the street preacher. He understands implicitly the fraud of the preachers who ignore all of God’s teachings except those of punishment.

“Shine On Sister!
Don’t need a book to put your hand in the fire
Shine On Sister!
Come on in cause it’s cold outside”

Here the music changes. The vocal lines extend the vowels in “Shine on.” in Gospel hues. A guitar chord rings out with slow, dreamy flange. The image is light, and the God is a Goddess, not an angry patriarchal god but a kind, loving matriarchal goddess. The narrator understands that a 2,000 year-old book of dogma is not needed to reach the level of intense spiritual excitement. The Goddess of love and dance is extending her hand and bringing the narrator in from harsh religious law to the warmth of the dance floor and human skin.

“Kiss Me!
Kiss Me!”

Who hasn’t made this request? Lips are perhaps the most sensitive part of the skin, barring genitalia. Kissing is an act of supplication. The Pope extends his hand so you can kiss the ring. Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss. Christianity asks you to kiss the book. Prostitutes will do anything but kiss you. Is this the narrator asking for a kiss from his girlfriend or is this the girlfriend/champion/goddess looking for supplication? Will the narrator do it? Does the Pope shit in the woods?

“I can tell your name by the markings on your face”

Curious line. Byrne has studied non-western cultures. Perhaps this is a reference to a tribe that tattoos a person’s name on the face. With today’s popularity with tattoos, perhaps there is a connection between the two cultures. A name is a personal thing. In cyberspace so many names are fake, and so many connections are made without the use of real names. An open face with the name easy to see is a grace, a confidence, a sincerity.

“U. B. Jesus
Makin’ my way & I’m lovin’ my life
I said Kiss Me!
Kiss Me!
Swing so crazy like the way you ride”

The narrator asks his girlfriend to be his Jesus in a hip urban (read: African-American) way by using initials for words. It was only a matter of time. She started as his girlfriend, morphed into the champion or defender of the faith, then into the Sister/Goddess and now to be his “savior” his own personal Jesus. He gives in to sex, gives in to pleasure.

“Well, maybe I’m gonna fry in hell
But I feel good when I burn myself
In a smoky place, In my girlfriends car
Threw out the map when we drove to far”

As a Christian, he has to deal with the feelings of guilt, but as Jerry Lee Lewis supposedly said, “If I’m going to hell, I’m going to hell playing the piano.” And what is the meaning of “burn myself”? Does he mean burn his bridges, end all hope of entering the pearly gates or does he mean literally burning his skin. Such as the Harvey Keitel character in Mean Streets does when he thinks of sex. What happens in the smoky bars and girlfriend’s car? Sex obviously, but there’s more in this world than dreamed by man especially involving sex. How heated does his skin become? No matter what they’ve done the couple is without a moral map. They’ve gone beyond the limits of a moral universe. What now?

Still the street preacher sounds in his ears in one of the funniest bits of the song:

“Said Jesus is big
Jesus is strong
Jesus’ll kill you if you don’t get along”

But his girlfriend/Goddess answers:

“Jesus can swing
Jesus has skills
Go on & try it if you don’t believe he will”

But the narrator’s conscience speaks and the song jumps up in tempo, the singers practically shouting:

“Jump Back, Jump Back
Givin’ me a heart attack
Fall down, Fall down
Sweeter than a cherry bomb”

The narrator feels he’s gone to far, but he says so in a jesting way. He is falling down, falling from grace, falling like Milton’s Lucifer falling from heaven for a week before hitting hell. There is no pain from the visible darkness on the lake of fire. It is “Sweeter than a cherry bomb.”

“Sweet Thing, Sweet Thing
Steppin’ on your violin
Space Boy, Fly Girl
Living in the underworld”

A violin is an instrument used in classical music: formal, stiff, approved, and heavenly (and also Byrne’s album/disc Look into the Eyeball). The narrator’s girlfriend/champion/goddess/ sweet thing rejects heaven by stepping on the violin. The rave-like nicknames of space boy and fly girl suggest the underworld is an underground dance scene, but it is also hell, a hell that has cheap drinks and a great DJ.

“Jesus is cool
Jesus is scared
Baby you are the only car I drive”

The narrator assumes the Jesus role and shows his anxiety. Byrne then returns to a motif he has used before in other songs: advertising. The narrator has no use for biblical and classical expressions for his love. He is a child of today, bred and fed on media, materialism and advertising. His greatest compliment for his girlfriend is an admission of monogamy in a sound byte of a car commercial.

“Foolin around
Foolin myself
Baby you are the only car I drive”

Or is he monogamous? We are not dealing with a clear narrator. He is fooling himself and perhaps he is fooling us. But he cannot lose the refrain, like the constant barrage of advertisements, his brain repeats ad infinite his love slogan. Perhaps he is telling this to many women.

“Easy to touch
Easy to find
Baby you are the only car I drive
Melts in my mouth
Melts in the hand
Baby you are the only car I drive”

The narrator is reduced to advertising clichйs. He is a player, amazed at the accessibility of women now that he thrown off the yoke of religion. With advertising slogans deconstructed into sexual euphemisms, he is knee-deep in sex and not complaining. And yet still repeats his monogamy slogan.

“Outta my skin
Outta my life
Baby you are the only car I drive
They only car I drive (repeat)
They only car … I”

The narrator is beyond living now. Comparable to the vision of Michelangelo’s flayed skin, he is free from this mortal coil and its tortures. He has let himself go through dancing, through sex, through his girlfriend to whom he still calls out to with his ad slogan. He chants it over and over as the music builds to a final crescendo. He stops on the word “I.” He has reached the final stage and turned into himself. He says the last word possible on his life and that is himself: I.

Автор: Duncan Lawson

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