Songwriting Proccess: Running Gun Blues and Letter the Hermoine

David Bowie’s lyrics in Running Gun Blues were incredibly influential and increasingly intriguing. “I’ll slash them cold, I’ll kill them dead” was a catalyst in writing my own rendition of war in the first person.

In a blog I had come across, it was claimed that “in “Running Gun Blues,” his powerful 1970 song about Vietnam, Bowie got very angry and very political” (McDonald 2013).

I took a lot of influence in such lines as “I slash them cold, I kill them dead” and a particular verse: “it seems the peacefuls stopped the war
Left generals squashed and stifled
But I’ll slip out again tonight
‘Cause they haven’t taken back my rifle
For I promote oblivion
And I’ll plug a few civilians”

Lyrics taken from :

I would say what stood out for me personally was how much more direct Bowie was with his lyrics compared to other songs I had been influenced by. The lyrics in my opinion were not dissociated. I pondered on what a song based round the concept of war would sound like with less direct lyrics and possibly more dissociated.

“I see them dead,

as we glide across the trenches.

I see their stead,

I see them destitute

A crow it flies

A swift command to break,

Its wings they scream

and the devil flies awake.”

These lyrics are arguably still slightly more direct than other songs I’d written for this project, yet I still feel I had written some metaphorical content, such as “the devil flies awake”. This was written to symbolise the concept of the evil of man being awoken by the actions of war. “A crow it flies” was somewhat a problematic lyric for me. I really intended to combine two dissociated ideas. I experimented with words such as “replies” and “responds”, alas this were to no avail as I came to a decision that not only did this words not work with the song, but they also weren’t that dissociated. In the end I had to make a decision that was for the best of the song, rather than trying to replicate a Bowie technique as much as possible. Simply put “it flies” worked far better in my opinion.

Letter to Hermione was another song that peaked my interest. As a result I had written wild frost. I was more influenced by how I felt listening to the song rather the lyrics in particular.


According to an article by Jo Tweed for the Daily Mail:

  • Hermione Frankel, 66, inspired string of Bowie songs after dating the singer in the late Sixties…and leaving him heartbroken
  • Frankel was Bowie’s first real love and inspired Life On Mars, Letter To Hermione and An Occasional Dream amongst other songs
  • The pair dated but Frankel left him to concentrate on her own career
  • Yoga teacher now lives in Bristol and called her time with Bowie ‘precious’.

I had written “Wild Frost” based around the relationship between two fictional characters in the video game “The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt”. This may seem somewhat irrelevant, but on the contrary the concepts and key words surrounding this particular game, would be considered dissociated from someone who hadn’t experienced the game before. I had mentally cut up these concepts and found this worked together when combined.

“Lets wipe the slate clean,                                                                                                                     with walls as thick with ice.                                                                                                                  Swamp lands are everywhere,                                                                                                                no swallow can suffice.                                                                                                                                When the hunt comes endlessly                                                                                                                the wolf and moon collide                                                                                                                      wild, this frost is effortless without your sacrifice.

Wonder if she sees my pain,                                                                                                                     because I don’t feel anything”.

I was satisfied with the combination of “wipe the slate clean”, “walls thick with ice” and “swamp lands and everywhere”, which in my opinion created a verse that could be interpreted as about reconciliation or redemption, with “swamp lands” symbolising unclean actions and the “ice” symbolising the covering of these actions. “Wild, this frost is effortless without your sacrifice” was intended to use the symbolism I had already given to “ice” and mix it with the concept of sacrifice. Subjectively I had written this part of the song to mean that reconciliation is only truly valid with action. While fusing the fragments of concepts taking from “The Witcher 3”, I created an overall narrative to the song. To paraphrase, I used the idea of the “Cut up Technique” but applied it to moving stimuli rather than newspaper articles or diary entries.

What I would say influenced the most about “Letter to Hermione” is the lyrical meaning behind the song, and the concept of a song being written by one person addressing another. Except with “Wild Frost” it was a character addressing another rather than it personally being from me.


Reference List


Publish August 18 2013

Last Viewed 22/5/2016

Jo Tweedy

Published: 10:18, 13 January 2016 | Updated: 16:03, 13 January 2016

Last Viewed on 22/5/2016

David Bowie-Letter To Hermione, Posted by mourna (2007) , Last Viewed on 23/5/2016



David Bowie-Running Gun Blues, Posted by David Bowie (2009), Last Viewed on 23/5/2016


  Bowie, D. (1969). Letter to Hermione. [Online] London: Philip Records.
Bowie, D. (1970). Running Gun Blues. [Online] London: Mercury.



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