This is one thing I missed in the 80s. Loving the Alien is a pretty heavy song. It’s about wars fought over religion. I think. It’s less of an anti-religion song than it is about the misuse of religious doctrine, religious teaching and religious belief in an effort to rally the masses against an enemy. I think. Or, it is about religious fervor (“You pray til the break of dawn”) which results in wars fought over belief.
Or something like that. It’s a pretty heavy song.
When I was a young’un, I thought this song was about spacemen opening telegrams. Which I never really got. I found this song grating and hard to listen to, in its original arrangement. I just watched it again. It’s still impossibly irritating.
The rearranged version of this song — featured on the live recording of the Reality tour — is not nearly as off-putting. In fact, it’s sort of brilliant; and appropriately serious. You have to give kudos to Gerry Leonard on guitar here. It’s true what Bowie says — maybe this is the way it always should have been done. Maybe if it had been recorded in a different era, it would have been.
(By the way, there’s nothing wrong with praying until the break of dawn. As long as you do it of your own accord. As someone who walked across a country in 34 days in some sort of quest for deep spiritual experience, I don’t believe in casting judgment. Just so long as, you don’t, you know, wake up and start any wars.)