Soul Love (David Bowie song)
|Song by David Bowie|
|from the album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars|
|Released||16 June 1972|
|Recorded||12 November 1971|
|The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars track listing|
"Soul Love" is a song by English singer-songwriter David Bowie, released on his 1972 album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Co-produced by Bowie and Ken Scott, it features Bowie's backing band known as the Spiders from Mars – comprising guitarist Mick Ronson, bassist Trevor Bolder and drummer Mick Woodmansey. It was recorded on 12 November 1971 at Trident Studios in London and features a saxophone solo from Bowie and a guitar solo from Ronson. Lyrically, the song is about numerous characters dealing with love before the impending disaster that will destroy Earth as described in the opening track "Five Years".
Since release, the song has received positive reviews from music critics, with many praising Ronson's guitar work and Bowie's sax solo. Bowie rarely performed the song live, only on occasion on the Ziggy Stardust Tour and the Serious Moonlight Tour, but was a regular on the 1978 Isolar II Tour; performances from this tour have appeared on the live albums Stage (1978) and Welcome to the Blackout (2018). The song, along with its parent album, was remastered in 2012 for its 40th anniversary and was re-released on the Five Years (1969–1973) box set in 2015.
Composition and lyrics
Bowie recorded "Soul Love" on 12 November 1971 at Trident Studios in London. Co-produced by Ken Scott, the lineup consisted of Bowie's backing band known as the Spiders from Mars – comprising guitarist Mick Ronson, bassist Trevor Bolder and drummer Mick Woodmansey. Author Nicholas Pegg notes that the song acknowledges Bowie's formative years, calling the riff reminiscent of "Stand by Me" by Ben E. King. He also notes that compared with the rest of the album, the song's lyrics initially stray away from the overarching story, but upon closer observation, it is about numerous characters dealing with love before the impending disaster that will destroy Earth as described in "Five Years". The song mimics the "portentous" drum rhythm of "Five Years" and features a hand-clap rhythm. Biographer Marc Spitz notes that the track has a sense of "pre-apocalypse frustration" to it. Author Peter Doggett notes that Bowie's voice sounds reminiscent of his 1977 album Low: dull, jaded, depressed and "sapped" of vitality. Other than the rare exception of "Lady Grinning Soul" from Aladdin Sane (1973), Bowie rarely used the word "soul" in his vocabulary, mainly due to his belief that the soul is vulnerable to "unwelcome claimants", as well as soulfulness being a common theme in rock music.
Doggett notes that following the "panoramic vision" of "Five Years", "Soul Love" offers a more "optimistic" landscape, with bongos and acoustic guitar indicating "mellow fruitfulness." The characters include a mother grieving at her son's grave, the son's love of the ideal for which he died (which parallels Mary grieving at Jesus's tomb), a pair of young lovers believing in "new words", and the love of "God on high". However, according to Pegg, the lyrics have a "nihilistic undercurrent" and a "cynical re-reading" of love that contrasts sharply with Bowie's previous songs: "he rails against 'idiot love' which 'descends on those defenseless' and bleakly concludes that 'love is not loving'." Also present are themes that reflect Bowie's disdain for institutions and causes, such as the dead son that "gave his life to save the slogan", which reprises the theme of futility previously found in his 1969 song "Cygnet Committee", and prefigures "Tony went to fight in Belfast" later found in the song "Star". The lyrics also feature a priest that previously appeared in "Five Years", here "tastes the word" amid "the blindness that surrounds him", recollecting the "bullshit faith" of Bowie's 1971 song "Quicksand", which clears the way for a secularised "church of man, love" (or "church of man-love") found in "Moonage Daydream".
Release and reception
"Soul Love" was released as the second track on Bowie's fifth studio album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, between "Five Years" and "Moonage Daydream", on 16 June 1972 by RCA Records. Since release, the song has received positive reviews from music critics, with many praising Ronson's guitar work and Bowie's sax solo. In his book The Complete David Bowie, Pegg calls the track "sublimely melodic", giving praise to the "tight" guitar work and "charming" saxophone solo, writing "[it provides] a perfect bridge between the apocalyptic foreboding of 'Five Years' and the glam meltdown of 'Moonage Daydream'." Doggett calls the track musically stunning, praising Ronson's guitar work and found Bowie's sax solo "relaxing". He further praises the backing vocals, writing "[they wailed like harpies", and compliments Bowie's vocal performance, noting the presence of Ziggy himself in the chorus.
When reviewing the 30th anniversary edition of Ziggy Stardust in 2002, Daryl Easlea of Record Collector called "Soul Love" one of Bowie's "greatest moments". Ned Raggett of AllMusic gave the song a positive review, complimenting Bowie's vocal performance, calling it "defiantly arch", his sax solo, and praises Ronson's guitar work, writing, "his concluding solo is as perfect an example of glam-god glory as anything." He identifies the "suddenly storming" choruses as the standout and notes the track as reminiscent of Bowie's previous album Hunky Dory. He ultimately called the song an "enjoyable listen", even if it's not quite connected to the overall theme of the album. Ian Fortnam of Classic Rock, when ranking every track on the album from worst to best, ranked the song at number ten (out of eleven), writing, "[the song] is significantly perkier than its portentous "Five Years" predecessor, but still sparkles with gorgeously under-stated Mick Ronson guitar details, Bowie's light and reedy sax break and an inspirational lyric highlighting love's all-pervasive carelessness."
"Soul Love" only made a few appearances on the Ziggy Stardust Tour, being played during the US portion of the tour. He revived the song for the 1978 Isolar II Tour; performances from this tour have appeared on the live albums Stage (1978) and Welcome to the Blackout (2018). The Stage version, which Pegg calls "excellent", was released as a single in Japan. Bowie also performed it on the first two shows of the Serious Moonlight Tour. The song, along with the rest of its parent album, was remastered in 2012 for its 40th anniversary and was re-released on the Five Years (1969–1973) box set in 2015.
Personnel per Kevin Cann.
- David Bowie – lead vocals, acoustic guitar, saxophone, backing vocals
- Mick Ronson – electric guitar
- Trevor Bolder – bass guitar
- Mick Woodmansey – drums
- Cann 2010, p. 231.
- Cann 2010, p. 252.
- Pegg 2016, p. 253.
- Spitz 2009, p. 187.
- Doggett 2012, p. 162.
- "Happy 43rd Birthday to Ziggy Stardust". David Bowie Official Website. Archived from the original on 17 June 2015. Retrieved 16 June 2015.
- The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (liner notes). David Bowie. UK: RCA Victor. 1972. SF 8287.CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
- Doggett 2012, p. 163.
- Easlea, Daryl (July 2002). "David Bowie: The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust And the Spiders From Mars: 30th Anniversary Edition". Record Collector. Retrieved 9 May 2021 – via Rock's Backpages (subscription required).
- Raggett, Ned. ""Soul Love" – David Bowie". AllMusic. Archived from the original on 4 July 2019. Retrieved 12 March 2020.
- Fortnam, Ian (11 November 2016). "Every song on David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust ranked from worst to best". Louder. Archived from the original on 26 August 2019. Retrieved 26 August 2019.
- Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Stage – David Bowie". AllMusic. Archived from the original on 5 August 2019. Retrieved 12 March 2020.
- Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Welcome to the Blackout (Live London '78) – David Bowie". AllMusic. Archived from the original on 17 November 2019. Retrieved 12 March 2020.
- The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (liner notes). David Bowie. Europe: EMI. 2012. 5099946361417.CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
- Five Years (1969–1973) (Box set liner notes). David Bowie. UK, Europe & US: Parlophone. 2015. DBXL 1.CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
- Cann, Kevin (2010). Any Day Now – David Bowie: The London Years: 1947–1974. Croyden, Surrey: Adelita. ISBN 978-0-95520-177-6.
- Doggett, Peter (2012). The Man Who Sold the World: David Bowie and the 1970s. New York City: HarperCollins Publishers. ISBN 978-0-06-202466-4.
- Pegg, Nicholas (2016). The Complete David Bowie (Revised and Updated ed.). London: Titan Books. ISBN 978-1-78565-365-0.
- Spitz, Marc (2009). Bowie: A Biography. New York City: Crown Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-307-71699-6.