“Girl Loves Me” is a pretty straightforward title, but David’s song is a big, looping curveball with lyrics in three languages. One is English; the others are Polari (“a form of slang or cant used in Britain by some actors, circus and fairground showmen, professional wrestlers, merchant navy sailors, criminals, sex workers, and, particularly, the gay subculture,” says Wikipedia) and Nadsat (“a fictional register or argot used by the teenage gang members in Anthony Burgess’s dystopian novel A Clockwork Orange”).
Bowie was familiar with both Polari and Nadsat from previous lives. Says Chris O’Leary:
He’d loved Clockwork Orange in the Ziggy Stardust days, with Stanley Kubrick’s film a sartorial guide for the Spiders From Mars, and Nadsat [is] heard in “Suffragette City” (“say droogie don’t crash here!”). “The whole idea of having this phony-speak thing — mock Anthony Burgess-Russian speak that drew on Russian words and put them into the English language, and twisted old Shakespearean words around—this kind of fake language… fitted in perfectly with what I was trying to do in creating this fake world or this world that hadn’t happened yet,” Bowie recalled in 1993. “It was like trying to anticipate a society that hadn’t happened.”
He’d picked up Polari from the mid-Sixties BBC radio comedy Round the Horne and its Polari-fluent camp pair “Julian and Sandy.” And more directly, from being a young, beautiful man at the hub of Sixties British gay life — the London-based theater and music scenes — and the intimate of gay men like the mime Lindsay Kemp and the composer Lionel Bart.
So why did he put these into one of the last songs he wrote? I have a few answers:
- He’s making some kind of comment about the language of outsiders. When David died, and I saw how many people were affected by it, it occurred to me that everyone feels like an outsider sometimes. It is, weirdly, one of the things we all have in common.
- Because he wanted to.
- Because he was David Fucking Bowie, that’s why.
And that is, to be honest, about all I have to say about this song. O’Leary has done the research and writes well and at length about it, if you have the time and the inclination. I’ll just point you to this video:
And O’Leary’s translation of the lyrics. That’s all you really need. Over and out till tomorrow.