Today’s song is ‘China Girl’. This song was written by Iggy Pop and David Bowie during their years in Berlin, first appearing on Pop's debut solo album ‘The Idiot’ (1977). The song became more widely known when it was re-recorded by Bowie, who released it as the second single from his most commercially successful album, ‘Let’s Dance’ (1983). The UK single release of Bowie's version reached Number 2 for one week on 14 June 1983, while the US release reached Number 10.
Paul Trynka, the author of David Bowie's biography, ‘Starman’, explains the song was inspired by Iggy Pop's infatuation with Kuelan Nguyen, a Vietnamese woman, as a metaphor for his Stooges career.
Nile Rodgers, the producer of David Bowie's 1983 version of the song, imagined his own meaning: "I figured China Girl was about doing drugs ... because China is ‘China White’ which is heroin, girl is cocaine. I thought it was a song about ‘speedballing’. I thought, in the drug community in New York, coke is girl, and heroin is boy. So, then I proceeded to do this arrangement which was ultra-pop. Because I thought that, being David Bowie, he would appreciate the irony of doing something so pop about something so taboo. And what was really cool was that he said, 'I love that’”.
The music video was shot mainly in the Chinatown district of Sydney, Australia. Bowie described the video as being a "very simple, very direct statement against racism”. The video consciously parodies Asian female stereotypes. It depicted an interracial romance. The original video release includes a couple lying naked in the surf (a visual reference to the film ‘From Here to Eternity’). Unedited versions were banned from New Zealand and some other countries at the time. The song was regularly included in Bowie's live shows for the rest of the 1980s and appeared on concert videos in 1983 and 1988.
Ever since my first romantic relationship with an oriental woman, lasting a mere ten days during the winter of December 1963 aboard the S.S Sylvania as I sailed from Liverpool to Nova Scotia, I have always liked Chinese women or women of Chinese origin.
I cannot recall the lady’s full name as 55 years of water has since flowed beneath my bridge of recall, but I distinctly remember that this relationship, although brief, was one of the most intense and bewildering relationships ever experienced by me. I remember that Yu Yan was part of her Chinese name and she indicated it meant she had a happy face.
I would say that this brief relationship came about purely by circumstances throwing us both together at a certain moment in time. We were essentially two lonely people, each of whom was romantically unattached, who naturally gravitated towards each other and enjoyed the briefest of ‘coming together’ experiences. This romantic escapade was over a Christmas period at sea during the coldest winter months I have ever known.
Perhaps her full name escapes me because the physical side of the relationship we shared was too good to ever exchange fuller details than was necessary. She was a divorcee, around ten years older than myself, but in truth, that was a part of the attraction for me. We each knew that when we docked at Nova Scotia, we would both be going our own separate ways towards different Provinces of Canada and would never see or communicate with each other again. She was returning to her parent’s house in British Columbia, on the border of the Yukon. Her father had died two months earlier, and being divorced herself and without children, she intended to live with her widowed mum who’d reportedly been in ill health since her marital bereavement. God bless you, Yu Yan.
It is not lacking in any coincidence that the love of my life, my beautiful wife, Sheila, who I was to marry in 2012, is of oriental background. Although she was born in London, she lived for most of her younger life in Singapore. Her mother was born in Macau and her father was born in Ceylon. Unlike my sea-voyage romance, Sheila is fourteen years younger than me and our relationship will last for the rest of my lifetime. Our first fortnight of intimacy was equally as memorable for me.
I jointly dedicate my song today to two Facebook friends, Christine Lowe and Deborah Ives.
Christine Lowe celebrates her birthday today. I hope you have a lovely day, Christine and thank you for being my Facebook friend. Bill x
I also jointly dedicate today’s song to Deborah Ives of Leeds, who is the biggest David Bowie fan this world has ever seen. Deborah, like myself, loves the music of the 60s onwards and I frequently listen to the medley of pop songs she puts up on her Facebook page most weekends. In fact, her own musical taste and my own collide in so many ways. Thank you for being my Facebook friend, Deborah. Bill x
Love and peace Bill xxx