"Battle for Britain (The Letter)" as written by and Reeves Gabrels David Bowie....
My, my, the time do fly
When it's in another pair of hands
And a loser I will be
For I've never been a winner in my life

I got used to stressing pain
I used the sucker pills to pity for the self
Oh, it's the animal in me
But I'd rather be a beggarman on the shelf

Don't be so forlorn, it's just the payoff
It's the rain before the storm
On a better day, I'll take you by the hand
And I'll walk you through the doors

Don't be so forlorn, it's just the payoff
It's the rain before the storm
Don't you let my letter get you down
Don't you, don't you, don't you, don't you

My, my, but time do fly
When it's in another pair of pants
And illusion I will be
For I've never been a sinner, la di da

Don't be so forlorn, it's just the payoff
It's the rain before the storm
Don't you let my letter get you down
Don't you, don't you, don't you, don't you

Don't you let my letter get you down, down, down, down
Don't you, don't you, don't you, don't you
Don't you let my letter get you down, down, down, down
Don't you, don't you, don't you, don't you

Down, down, down, down, down, down
Down, down, down, down, down, down
Down, down, down, down, down, down

Lyrics submitted by saturnine

"Battle For Britain" as written by Mark Plati David Bowie


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Battle for Britain (The Letter) song meanings
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  • +2
    General CommentI could go stanza by stanza but I think if you apply this "lens" I create here you can see the whole picture yourself.

    The "letter" he's referring to is one explained as the class system in Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World"... Alpha, Beta, Delta-Double-Moron, etc.

    In the lines "Don't you let my letter get you down" it's Bowie's way of saying, "don't compare yourself to me, an alphamale's alphamale... it'll only get you down." Even the album cover has a part in this: Bowie standing with his back toward us wearing a coat with lines that highlight and, now that I looked at it again, make an actual "A" in his "A"-frame stance.

    1st stanza:
    A sentiment of his as if speaking to someone that has just "experienced being Bowie" through the act of listening to reality from Bowie's perspective (namely his, "another pair of hands"). The "never been a winner in my life" is the person that partakes in such flights of fancy away from his own life into one's created by "winners"(music, escapism). The "animal in me" is the soft and weaker nature of the body... to fall into such things (an unrelated example: white lab rats being tested for their stimulus preference)

    2nd stanza:
    Same thing: taking pills to change the depressed, lesser self... a "rather be a beggarman" than be himself. "on the shelf" would be someone that "hasn't been chosen yet", much like an unpurchased product yet to be chosen and taken out to be used for their intended purpose.

    3rd stanza:
    The first two lines are Bowie saying, "don't worry/be forlorn; that depressed feeling is just the way anyone feels after they've been working so hard and have yet to see the payoff". This depression is really just part of the natural sequence that everyone goes through before their efforts are rewarded.
    The lines that begin, "On a better day", is Bowie offering the picture of the method (in his songs/lyrics) that will be more easily seen on a day when your mood is up to the task.

    4th stanza:
    The first time the "letter" concept is employed. Don't let Bowie's greatness put you off from being great in your own right, your own life, your own unique circumstances.

    5th stanza:
    Same as the 1st stanza's first two lines in meaning.
    "And illusion I will be / For I've never been a sinner, la di da"
    The term sinner is seated squarely in Christianity, the relevant and implied element of this term is that *everyone* is a sinner that does anything at all in their life. To live is to sin. You can't separate them. But in this case it's more to the idea that any action made is one which makes someone a sinner and so this person caught up in the illusions as told from "another pair of pants" (someone else's perspective) are themselves an illusion since they are someone that has never done anything (never been a sinner). The "la di da" part is the attitude this person has... that they've never done anything but they're so content with the illusion of having lived as gained from media/song/tv they don't care. It's this part that best gets at explaining the title "Battle for Britain"... the battle is to get people off their asses, to stop comparing themselves to the greats of the past that they feel intimidated by in whatever their field of choice which keeps them cowering in their homes and drowning their ambitions in the shallow bath of Legend-created media (retro-necro). This is poignant at the time of the release of this record since with the internet/dvd-age really taking off we have all of this media/technology that essentially flattens the world with so much access to information that wasn't nearly as available before.

    On the album:
    The next song is "Seven Years In Tibet". Which is, shortly, an attempt at finding a deeper meaning beyond regular life but finding nothing at the top of the Grandest "A", the implied Mt.Everest in Tibet, in search of The Grand "A", God, Enlightenment (beyond the "yoga zone"). "Nothing ever falls away" is about what is found at the top of the mountain: himself. "Himself, alone and only as good as he is" is the meaning of the next song, "Dead Man Walking". Everything must die, and so a progression from the prior song is that like everyone he will die and is left to make what he can of his position which is created by everything before it (here the "A" makes another appearance: you've seen that diagram by Hawking from his mid-90's book...the diagram of time...basically two triangles facing eachother... at the top of the mountain, all that has happened coming to the one point that is one person/time, the "A" and then an inverted "A" atop it for the future possibilities. Just like an angular hourglass...liek on a blackwidow spider... go back to your "Glass Spider" tour/album for more on that).

    The whole album is basically about how the vicarious nature of expanded media outlets have impinged upon the living of actual, firsthand life. Virtual reality versus Experiential Reality.

    "I'm Afraid of Americans", it's been while since I heard it, is most likely about the nature of Americans and their media culture... so easily controlled by anything on tv... and how that bodes for Bowie's relationship to so scary a population as one living in an artificial world as created by tv news and the sources that feed and create its content. Haha, just read the lyrics, "low techs at the wheel"... is right. The diminished, pale dreams fed to Johnny Sixpack on the tv which means they've relinquished control of their minds so completely as to be automatons controlled by whatever orders are fed through the tv screen. I'm afraid of Americans, too.

    "Telling Lies" is about this fear and how it is exacted by those that need use of so many fallow minds.

    "The Last Thing You Should Do" is about the nature of life's many actions when affected by a reductive "all-seeing world view". Things become reduced to "Bests" and "Lasts"... and it is in Bowie's opinion that doing this reducing... *this* is the last thing you should do because it devalues life and the many variations and chromaticisms available. Don't reduce it to a "one size fits all" experience that you look to have as if it were an item in a catalog that you peruse on the internet.

    Then "Afraid of Americans". They do the last song well.

    "Law (Earthlings on Fire)" is about reducing things down to "laws" as in "The Last Thing You Should Do". Laws do one things: grant Certainty. Knowledge is gathered and reduced to create tendencies by which laws are extracted. "Earthlings on Fire" could be the "reduced" form of humans when all has been structured to fit only Laws... humans become static object, logs of timber to be tossed into the machines of history to stoke its fires... humans on fire... earthlings on fire.
    The line, "In a house a man drops dead / As he hits the floor he sighs / 'What a morning' " is actually the story of how the father of Bertolt Brecht died. He stood up, said his line, then to the floor he went. This is how the world would be, an absurd theater in which one is born, says their lines prescribed by law, and then to die. (Brecht's "theater of the absurd" and "distancing techniques" are implicitly referenced... "the fourth wall" which happens to figure centrally in this whole album in that theme I mentioned "virtual life vs. Reality" :)

    "I get a little bit afraid" is a line in this song that tells us exactly what we must continue to face if we wish to sustain control of our humanity: Fear. We must continually experience fear in many situations to hold the reigns of reality.

    The next album "Hours" has on the cover one David caressing another David. This is the self-divided from this whole struggle: a real-self and a virtual-online-fantasy-self, one of other's perspectives and self-created-Self fantasies. "Hours" I can only guess is down this path, both the positives and negatives of a world in which we must live as a walking dichotomy.

    Oh, I forgot the first two songs on the "Earthlings" album. "Little Wonder" is both about himself, David, and the "new self" created when online...the New Self... meta-Self in the new virtual world.

    "Looking for Satellites" is about looking for others in that new world. And then, after you've found others, you find yourself at "The Letter (Battle for Britain)" in which you have to do something to make yourself valuable to these new 'others' that you've found. [REPEAT]
    envelopeon December 14, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI see I lied at the very beginning. I gave you the whole thing. I lied. Forgot I did, but I did.
    envelopeon December 14, 2008   Link

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