I try to keep my finger on the pulse of popular culture, which is why I bring you this insight into David Bowie’s process in the creation of his 1984 song “Blue Jean.”
You always want to keep your finger on the pulse of something, even if you think having something “under your thumb” means it’s more secure. The fact is that the thumb has a pulse of its own—doctors call it the Thumb Pulse—so if you have one pulsing thing atop another pulsing thing, it’s easy to confuse the pulses.
We can see from Bowie’s scratch pad, above, that “Blue Jean” was not his first choice for the name of the girl with the turned-up nose and police bike. But not every artist edits. Jack Kerouac famously said, “Once God moves the hand—you go back and revise?—it’s a sin!”
If Bowie hadn’t edited “Space Oddity,” maybe we’d have a “Little Prince”-worth of Major Tom’s interstellar adventures to fill in the gaps between “Ashes To Ashes” and “Black Star.” If Kerouac had edited, maybe more people would have read “On The Road” than just said they did.
Regardless, it is Bowie’s exacting songcraft and thoughtful sacrifices that leave the world with a “Blue Jean” rather than a “Jean Pant” or “Skin Tag.”