Released: 24 September 1984
Carlos Alomar: guitar
Derek Bramble: guitar, bass guitar, keyboards, synthesizer
Rob Yale: Fairlight CMI synthesizer
Carmine Rojas: bass guitar
Omar Hakim: drums
Sammy Figuerosa: percussion
Guy St Onge: marimba
Mark Pender: trumpet
Stanley Harrison: alto saxophone
Lenny Pickett: tenor saxophone
Steve Elson: baritone saxophone
Robin Clark, George Simms, Curtis King: vocals
‘Loving The Alien’ was the opening song on David Bowie’s Tonight album, and its third single.
I’m trying to come up with a little-used word for each song entry. I’ve not got one for this song. And this song is not, it may surprise you to know, another ode to little green Martians. Oh, recidivism, that’ll fit.
The song was one of only two on the album written solely by Bowie, the other being the lead single ‘Blue Jean’.
Bowie was a believer who had worn a crucifix since the mid-Seventies. ‘Loving The Alien’, a plea for harmony between beliefs, was written about his dislike of organised religion. The lyrics were, for him, unusually direct in their condemnation and vitriol of those who use religion as a weapon of war.
IN 1984 Bowie told Rolling Stone that the song “came about because of my feeling that so much history is wrong – as is being rediscovered all the time – and that we base so much on the wrong knowledge that we’ve gleaned.”
That was the most personalised bit of writing on the album for me; not to say that the others were written from a distance, but they’re a lot lighter in tone. That one was me in there dwelling on the idea of the awful shit that we’ve had to put up with because of the Church. That’s how it started out: for some reason I was very angry…
The crunching thing about the Church is that it has always had so much power. It was always more of a power tool than anything else, which was not very apparent to the majority of us. I never thought about it as… as a child it was just going to church and listening to the choir and hearing the prayers, and it was never really made apparent how much weight they carried. My own father was one of the few fathers I knew who had a lot of understanding of other religions. He – this is an abuse of the word – ‘tolerated’ Buddhists or Muslims or Hindus or Mohammedans, whatever, and he was a great humanitarian in those terms. I think some of that was passed on to me, and encouraged me to become interested in other religions. There was no enforced religion, though, he didn’t particularly care for the English religion – Henry’s religion. Oh God!
‘Alien’ came about because of the feeling that so much history is wrong – as is being rediscovered all the time – and that we base so much on the wrong knowledge that we’ve gleaned. Now some historian is putting forward the notion the whole idea of Israel is wrong and that it was in fact in Saudi Arabia and not in Palestine. It’s extraordinary considering all the mistranslations in the Bible that our lives are being navigated by this misinformation, and that so many people have died because of it, and all the power factions involved.
I don’t know… just like everything else, it’s just a song of images. I can’t ever see any cohesive view point in my songs.
It’s a fortunate thing in music that so much of the subconscious comes through with the melody and the placement of a particular word on a particular note. For better or for worse, the information is inherent in the song, not in the writer or his intentions or even in the lyrics. It’s probably my strongest point that I write evocatively in terms of musical and verbal expression. When I put the two together it can be a powerful format, and I’m just starting to rediscover that again. I think that’s what’s giving me the bug to be a bit more adventurous in my writing again.
NME, 29 September 1984
Ahead of his headline appearance at the 2000 Glastonbury Festival, Bowie – in a playfully combative mood – answered fans in Q magazine’s Cash For Questions feature. One of them, submitted by Brian Spicer in Tamworth, England, was “How does one ‘love’ the alien?”
Any twat who thought the song was about ‘little green men’ would definitely have a problem with the concept. But for those perceptive souls, probably from outside of Tamworth, it would be clear that the subject of the song revolved around the on-going holy wars between Christianity and Islam. To answer the question by example, ‘we got love’ in my household.
Q magazine, July 2000