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Multi-directional cryptology in song lyrics



David Bowie (1947-2016), the extraordinary British singer-songwriter and one of the most famous musical voices of the twentieth century, was also the most extraordinary multi-directional cryptologist. Listen to his lyrics. Then read them. They mostly appear, at first glance, like extraordinarily well-sung nonsense, conceivably pasted together by a man who by his own admission spent much of his professional career high on drugs. And indeed that might well have been the context in which his lyrics were written, for all we know. But when one studies his lyrics carefully, they turn out to be nothing short of extraordinary, because he manages to choose and fashion words that have so many different meanings all at the same time; and hence many of his most famous masterpieces can each can be understood in a variety of totally different ways depending upon the mode of emotional engagement of each individual member of his audience. Perhaps this explains why he was so popular: he had something different to offer to everyone, namely what that person wanted to hear in the lyrics he so ingeniously devised.


One of this author's favourite David Bowie songs is from his album Station to Station, and it is called Word on a Wing. You can hear it on Youtube at this link. Here are the lyrics:



In this age of grand illusion You walked into my life Out of my dreams I don't need another change Still you forced your way Into my scheme of things


You say we're growing Growing heart and soul In this age of grand illusion You walked into my life Out of my dreams Sweet name, you're born once again for me Sweet name, you're born once again for me Oh, sweet name, I call you again You're born once again for me Just because I believe, don't mean I don't think as well Don't have to question everything In heaven or hell


Lord, I kneel and offer you My word on a wing And I'm trying hard to fit among Your scheme of things


It's safer than a strange land But I still care for myself And I don't stand in my own light Lord, Lord, MY prayer flies Like a word on a wing My prayer flies Like a word on a wing Does my prayer fit in With your scheme of things?


In this age of grand illusion You walked into my life Out of my dreams Sweet name, you're born once again for me Just as long as I can see, I'll never stop this vision flowing I look twice and you're still flowing Just as long as I can walk I'll walk beside you, I'm alive in you Sweet name, you're born once again for me And I'm ready to shape the scheme of things


Ooh, ready to shape The scheme of things Ooh, ready to shape The scheme of things Ooh, ready to shape The scheme of things Ooh, ready to shape The scheme of things


Lord, I kneel and offer you My word on a wing And I'm trying hard to fit among Your scheme of things


It's safer than a strange land, But I still care for myself And I don't stand in my own light


Oh Lord, Lord, Lord, my prayer flies Like a word on a wing And I'm trying hard to fit among Your scheme of things


It's safer than a strange land, But I still care for myself And I don't stand in my own light


Lord, Lord, my prayer flies Like a word on a wing My prayer flies like a word on a wing Does my prayer fit in With your scheme of things?


What precisely are these song lyrics about? To the uninitiated, and even to many Bowie fans, they are meaningless incoherences. But we can draw out from them a series of themes. Here are a few:


  • The terror of the contemporary age of technology, advertising, hidden influences and media, in which things may not always be as they appear

  • Falling in love with the perfect partner

  • The remarkable difficulty in finding the perfect partner in an environment in which there are so many hidden influences and illusions, such as confusions about the veracity of messages and the identity of the messenger in the electronic and media world

  • The importance of finding a permanent life partner

  • Your partner's personal qualities are so remarkable as to cause you to change the view you have on things


  • Your partner can be a tyrant who tries to impose his or her perspectives upon you

  • A determination by your partner to make one's relationship better

  • Your partner has transformed her own life and personality out of love


  • I call out your name in the night

  • I can't stop thinking about you

  • Just because I love you, doesn't mean I am naive

  • Cynicism is much overrated

  • Trust is a virtue

  • Don't believe defamation about your partner or other people


  • I believe in God the Father Almighty Creator of Heaven and Earth

  • I believe in Jesus Christ his only son Our Lord

  • I believe in the Holy Ghost the Holy Catholic Church

  • I renounce Satan and all his works and all his pomps

  • I will be baptised

  • Go in peace and may God be with you, Amen


  • I am giving my life's work to God and/or higher ideals

  • Words are worthless compared to actions, because they are not grounded in the firmament

  • I am trying to do everything I can to accommodate you and your specific needs so that we may live together in happiness

  • I would much rather be with you than with some unknown devils

  • Nevertheless I am realistic about the situation and if things don't work out with you then I must be ready for that


  • I'm not an overly proud or arrogant person

  • The power I carry derives from political support at the highest levels, which in turn is driven by their respect for me

  • Do you think you can live in my world?


  • Do you think you can accommodate my respect for the Holy Catholic Church?


  • I think our romance will last forever

  • Every time I look, you're just as beautiful and wonderful as you were the first day I met you


  • You can't kill me. I have faced down everything from guns to knives to men with sticks and hammers and multiple poisoning attempts, and I'm still walking


  • Your whole life and personality have been recreated so that you and I may be together

  • I'm ready to make a political difference in the future

  • We're ready to make a political difference in the future


We welcome all comments about these observations on Bowie's extraordinary lyrics, which we emphasise do not necessarily represent any facts assertions political positions emotional views or anything else reflecting reality. David Bowie was, after all, a fantasist, just like us.


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Concluding unscientific postscript


In accordance with the General Procedure, we have also taken the liberty of preparing a Russian interpretation of the aforementioned lyrics. Here they are:


In this age of grand illusion

- You imagined you were not being observed by us but we have been watching everything you have been doing

You walked into my life Out of my dreams

- Your worst nightmares are true; the FSB are coming to see you immediately

I don't need another change

- You won't be getting a chance to work for another foreign intelligence agency again, because we are going to murder you

Still you forced your way Into my scheme of things

- We are coming round to smash down your door, take you away and torture you



You say we're growing Growing heart and soul

- You have finally acknowledged that the FSB runs everything and is in control of your life

In this age of grand illusion You walked into my life Out of my dreams Sweet name, you're born once again for me Sweet name, you're born once again for me

- We will be murdering you and your closest loved one

Oh, sweet name, I call you again

- Your closest loved one will be crying out your name as we take you away

You're born once again for me Just because I believe, don't mean I don't think as well

- You are one of those vile traitors who pretends to support us but is really ideologically committed to the west

Don't have to question everything In heaven or hell

- You think you managed to deceive us but you didn't spot the warning signs



Lord, I kneel and offer you My word on a wing And I'm trying hard to fit among Your scheme of things

- Begging is no good. We are going to murder you


It's safer than a strange land But I still care for myself And I don't stand in my own light Lord, Lord, MY prayer flies

- God can't help you, and you won't be able to escape Russia

Like a word on a wing My prayer flies Like a word on a wing Does my prayer fit in With your scheme of things?

- Your pleas of mitigation are rejected. We are going to murder you.


In this age of grand illusion You walked into my life Out of my dreams Sweet name, you're born once again for me Just as long as I can see, I'll never stop this vision flowing

- You won't be alive for much longer and you will keep lying to us up until the time we murder you

I look twice and you're still flowing

Your spouse / loved one will also be dying, probably before you

Just as long as I can walk I'll walk beside you, I'm alive in you Sweet name, you're born once again for me And I'm ready to shape the scheme of things

- You will serve as an example to others in your death being particularly gory


Ooh, ready to shape The scheme of things Ooh, ready to shape The scheme of things Ooh, ready to shape The scheme of things Ooh, ready to shape The scheme of things

- It will be a long, painful death


Lord, I kneel and offer you My word on a wing And I'm trying hard to fit among Your scheme of things

- Your pleas for mercy remain rejected


It's safer than a strange land, But I still care for myself And I don't stand in my own light

You have no backers now. You just have your own naked self-interest and that will not save you


Oh Lord, Lord, Lord, my prayer flies Like a word on a wing And I'm trying hard to fit among Your scheme of things

- Stop begging. You are pathetic


It's safer than a strange land, But I still care for myself And I don't stand in my own light


Lord, Lord, my prayer flies Like a word on a wing My prayer flies like a word on a wing Does my prayer fit in With your scheme of things?

- The procedure is finished

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