"Up the Hill Backwards" as written by and David Bowie....
The vacuum created by the arrival of freedom
And the possibilities it seems to offer
It's got nothing to do with you, if one can grasp it
It's got nothing to do with you, if one can grasp it

A series of shocks - sneakers fall apart
Earth keeps on rolling - witnesses falling
It's got nothing to do with you, if one can grasp it
It's got nothing to do with you, if one can grasp it

Yeah, yeah, yeah - up the hill backwards
It'll be alright, ooh

While we sleep they go to work
We're legally crippled it's the death of love
It's got nothing to do with you, if one can grasp it
It's got nothing to do with you, if one can grasp it

More idols then realities, ooh
I'm OK, you're so-so, ooh

Yeah, yeah, yeah - up the hill backwards
It'll be alright ooh


Lyrics submitted by saturnine

"Up the Hill Backwards" as written by David Bowie

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, TINTORETTO MUSIC

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Up the Hill Backwards song meanings
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  • 0
    General CommentI am a Bowie fan and this might be my favorite.

    I love the nonsense.

    Up the hill backwards sounds like a way to approach an obstacle or problem opposite of how everyone else would. It is how an alienated person naturally goes about their day.

    Why "it" has nothing to do with me if I can grasp (understand/get my hands around) it - I don't get.

    The opposite would be: things I do not understand have something to do with me...so I am like things not understood...I am not a measureable defineable, reducible to x number of variables, understandable, graspable. I cannot be grasped. Therefore if I can grasp something, it is not like me.

    It's got nothing to do with me if I can grasp it?
    coo2kachooon April 01, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentMan, Scary Monsters is such an underrated album. I love just about every bowie album (albeit some less than others) This Album is the best album of the 80s.
    ejownz6on September 13, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe "up the hill backwards" part is about how we move forward through time; it all seems a difficult struggle and all we can see is that which we have already traversed below...and from that vantage the past looks usually as difficult as the climb at the moment. That last part, not so certain, but very much so on the chronology-based element of the title.

    "The vacuum created by the arrival of freedom" would be much like, say, something a retiree may face upon leaving work to a full "freedom"...but without any structure or purpose it can seem like so muc ha vacuum to so many you see them going right back to some type of job to have purpose and human contact. I think this relates in some manner to Bowie's own unbounded lifestyle which, having recognized this principle, is founded on his own strength of self-discipline to create the actual boundaries of his career and self. "Nobody down here can do it for me"...which appears in "When You Rock and Roll With Me" is part of the same concept.

    The end of that one line being "and the possibilities it seems to offer" would relate to the nature of choice from imagined, fantisized, researched, learned options for "how to be" and also, in the next line "it's got nothing to do with you" referencing the limited nature of actual "freedom", it being bounded only by those actual options available to your skill, class, talent, investedness, etc. "Land of the Free"...sure...you go out and get that job you can't afford to obtain...wow those people in conversation that are above your level of intelligence...get that hot size-queen at the bar with your undersized (>>>>> Anyone else have any ideas???
    liplexon October 04, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Commentok....WTF. The end of my advice column just got truncated at an embarrassing point( about halfway through my full original intended post) and the last line at the end somehow ended up right there at the end most oddly. Whatever. You get the idea. There was a mentioned of Arjuna's web of perception/reality which ties in nicely with the inferred interconnectedness of perspectives. Also, the concept of "Love" for the last phrase being more akin to "Learning Realities & Evolving the Self " rather than "lovelydovey"...and how if one were to be disconnected from this web of realities by being removed from normal daytime peoples, you would have no chance at enacting the Verb of to Love and therefore "Love" would die and would also be "crippled" in this pursuit of development by the frozen static nature of one asleep. Perhaps not realizing the puffed up falsity of "Freedom"...or even the fullest of imaginations of what can be done with it...perhaps that is being "asleep" to the fullness of experience. Even so, without others to define your place in the "astral net" of existence...well, it's got nothing to do with -you-, but there is a place at the table if you'll just join in.
    liplexon October 04, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentYay! Figured this one out: "A series of shocks - sneakers fall apart - earth keeps on rolling - witnesses falling"
    Look at Bowie's symbology: the lightning bolt. That stands for the Crown/Kether chakra which is "g-d" or the rest of the world which is taken in "in the flash of an image" of an objective element radiating its subjective meaning. So this flash/lightningbolt/"shock" in this case is that in the web-like interconnected view of reality, each node a person/sentient-perspective, well, at certain times in history this "implicitness" just out and out shocks some fool who understands and takes it somewhere. This Throne of Understanding is created by teh previous cultures that then gave way to that period and then birthed the exact moment for such an understanding to take place...so "It's got nothing to do with you" is so very true when you take into mind the thousands of factors that allowed say a Galileo or Planck or Einstein to be hit by the "idea bolt"...genetics disposition...education...cultural food staples...the land which all these cradle and made available. So very NOT one's choice in the worldview promoted in this song. One can look back upon things and say "yeah, I knew I was setting myself up for a moment of genius" ...but really...no one would have gone in "that" direction had they really not been urged by history's many lendings and the emergent need for some-thing to be found out. So then yes, "earth keeps on rolling" (passing of time..history)..."witnesses falling"(people that see others being hit by the bolt but falling for not being the ones that were so lucky to have been hit).
    liplexon October 04, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis connects to my last one. There's this quote from Bowie at this period (Scary Monsters) where he said he went travelling around the world and felt much more connected to things for it. In a sense, he sees the broad nature of the world in that certain opportunities are only available in certain ways and places. I think it's his way of deferring guilt for being so educated and rich which sprang from him being able to survive past third world childhood diseases and the providence of his good genes to be so intelligent/talented...in some sense of which he had "nothing to do with it". Wasn't he who chose to be the specimen he was born as which allowed him to become so successful a human...
    liplexon October 04, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Commentaskmoses.com/…
    liplexon October 05, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentEveryone's missing the point of the song. "Scary Monsters" was very much an album in which Bowie was attempting to explore, explicate & comment on the youth around him as well as his own youth. This song is about how difficult it is to be young, when the world doesn't take you seriously.

    "The vacuum created by the arrival of freedom & the possibilities it seems to offer" is referring to one reaching maturity.

    The continuing refrain "It's got nothing to do with you, if one can grasp it" means, if you're old enough to understand, you're not experiencing it. Your teenage years are confusing, & you don't figure out all you've been through until AFTER you've been through it.

    The very oblique lines:
    A series of shocks - sneakers fall apart
    Earth keeps on rolling - witnesses falling
    are typical Bowie. They can mean anything. Certainly it's a shock to watch things die, but the world does keep on rolling, & people fall out of your life as your define yourself.

    "While we sleep they go to work" Adults go to work, children & teenagers can sleep late.

    "We're legally crippled it's the death of love." The laws are different for young people - you have to wait to drive, to buy booze & smokes, to work - you rely on others, like your family. It is a form of legal crippling, & it certainly isn't the freedom one needs to truly love.

    "More idols than realities." Pretty self-explanatory. Remember all the pop stars, movie stars, etc., you idolized when you were a kid?

    "I'm OK, you're so-so." I think this line is Bowie making a slight joke about the old "I'm OK-you're OK" seventies pop psychology quote, but I can't be entirely sure.

    Being a teenager - growing up - IS going up the hill backwards. It's not an easy process. I first heard this song when I was a teenager, & it really helped me that a wizened old rock star like Bowie assured me it would be all right.
    vchamberlainon January 03, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentLoad of bollocks to me!!!!!!!!!!
    nagromnaion February 23, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentPersonally, I always considered it to be basically a more upbeat version of Quicksand. Bowie, singing about how everything's going to Hell, and managing to make it sound cheerful and fun.

    As far as an analysis of the title line goes, I'm not sure which, but I'd go with "up the hill backwards it'll be alright" meaning that up the hill, reversed, is downhill; and so either things are going downhill, but it'll be alright, or alternatively, that it's easier to go downhill than up. So just take a different approach to the problem, and it'll be alright.
    JudeccaGunneron September 22, 2008   Link

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