Soul Love (3:33)

Cover of Ziggy Stardust

From Ziggy Stardust and 16 other releases

Soul Love.
Soul Love (live, 1973).
Soul Love (live, 1978).
Soul Love (rehearsal, 1983).

I was in love once, maybe, and it was an awful experience. It rotted me, drained me, and it was a disease. Hateful thing, it was.

David Bowie, interviewed by Cameron Crowe in Playboy, September 1976.

“Soul Love,” so sweet on its surface, so often interpreted as a picture of “youthful romance” (as per 1001 Greatest Albums) or as a message of universal peace and brotherhood, is rather clinical at heart. Love, whether that of a mother, lover or priest, is shown as being amoral, delusive, pointless and ruinous. (Love is “sweeping over cross and baby,” as if it was a plague or an infestation.)

The song opens with a mother at her son’s tombstone (the son likely killed in a war, having died “to save the slogan”), with “stone love” suggesting both a resolute, enduring love and a lifeless emotion. The priest kneels at the altar in bliss and in blindness. The teenagers, who are so besotted they believe they’re the first to ever fall in love, are just the puppets of instinct (“idiot love will spark the fusion”).

Blessed with a fine melody and layered with harmonies and, after the second verse, Bowie’s alto saxophone, the track gets unsettled by odd time signatures in the verse—it’s either in 7/4 time or it moves to 2/4 time on every fourth bar (the sheet music says the latter)—while Bowie again pairs major and minor chords (G to E minor and B minor, the same as in “Ziggy Stardust”).

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