“It’s a god-eat-god world…” – David Bowie, “I Pray, Ole.” (Lodger-era outtake; included as a bonus track on the 1991 Rykodisc reissue of the album.) Photo: Mick Rock. Copyright Mick Rock; all rights reserved.

In the penultimate (!) installment of my serialized essay “How I Lost One Leper Messiah, and Gained Another,” at Religion Dispatches—my “critical novella” about my life-changing encounter, as a teenage Jesus Freak in the ’70s, with Ziggy Stardust-era Bowie, I drill deep into the ancient, orgiastic, cannibalistic subtext of all rock fandom—and, for that matter, Christianity.



A devout fan strives in every way to imitate his idol—to become him, in fact… A fan is a consumer whose all-consuming idolatry is just the well-behaved face of a sublimated desire to actually consume the love object. What more intimate and irrevocable way to have that faraway figure on the Jumbotron screen, the unattainable figment of a million fans’ fever dreams, all to oneself? The gonzo rock critic Lester Bangs winks at the inherent depravity of “psychofandom” in his gore-nographic fantasy of gobbling up a “giant rotten glob” of Elvis’s carcass in order to ingest the King’s magical powers: “I don’t need to go get The Golden Bough just to prove to everybody else what I already know because it’s simple horse sense, which is if I eat a little bit of Elvis (the host, as it were, or is that mixing mythologic metaphors?), then I take on certain qualities possessed by Elvis when he was alive…”

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