Song of the Day #4,114: ‘Panic in Detroit’ – David Bowie

A few years back, following David Bowie’s death, I did a deep dive into his catalog. It was my first real exposure to a lot of his work, which I mostly knew through the hits.

1973’s Aladdin Sane emerged as a favorite, alongside Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust, the two albums that preceded it. It’s funny how so many of the albums I’m writing about were part of successful streaks. The early 70s were a gold mine for new music from some of the greatest pop artists of all time.

Aladdin Sane (a pun on “a lad insane”) saw Bowie taking on another persona to deliver his “American” record, made up of songs he wrote while touring the U.S.

Today’s track, ‘Panic in Detroit,’ was inspired by the 1967 Detroit riots, as described to Bowie by his friend Iggy Pop.

[Verse 1]
He looked a lot like Che Guevara
Drove a diesel van
Kept his gun in quiet seclusion
Such a humble man
The only survivor of the National People’s Gang

[Chorus]
Panic in Detroit
I asked for an autograph
He wanted to stay home
I wish someone would phone
Panic in Detroit

[Verse 2]
He laughed at accidental sirens
That broke the evening gloom
The police had warned of repercussions
They followed none too soon
A trickle of strangers were all that were left alive

[Chorus]
Panic in Detroit
I asked for an autograph
He wanted to stay home
I wish someone would phone
Panic in Detroit

[Bridge]
Putting on some clothes, I made my way to school
And I found my teacher crouching in his overalls
I screamed and ran to smash my favorite slot machine
And jumped the silent cars that slept at traffic lights

{Verse 3}
Having scored a trillion dollars
Made a run back home
Found him slumped across the table
A gun and me alone
I ran to the window, looked for a plane or two

[Chorus]
Panic in Detroit
He’d left me an autograph
“Let me collect dust.”
I wish someone would phone
Panic in Detroit
Panic in Detroit

One thought on “Song of the Day #4,114: ‘Panic in Detroit’ – David Bowie

  1. Dana Gallup says:

    Although we often think in terms of decades, I think the ten year period from 1965 to 1975 probably contains the best music from the greatest artists in rock history. Indeed, an argument can be made that this same 10 year period featured the best movies and art by the greatest artists as well. A common connective theme seems to be a deep knowledge, respect and love for the artists from the preceding generation fueled by liberal radicalism, revolution and, arguably, drugs. It must have been quite a time to be a music, film and art fan!

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