So, I’m driving along in the car and before I have a chance to switch from my daughter’s favourite radio station to my Beatles’ Remastered CDs I am suddenly paying attention to a song about Jesus dying for me. I wondered if Delirious had made one final attempt at the top ten when I recognised the voice; Robbie is putting more Jesus per minute onto the radio than Nashville’s Christian industry ever attempted!
And of course we shouldn’t have been that surprised. It is not the first time Jesus has appeared in a Robbie song. On his I’ve Been Expecting You album he gave Christ some of his 100% humanity (alongside his 100% divinity in case there is a heresy trail on me!) in Jesus in a Camper Van:
“Jesus in a camper van he said sorry to leave you but I've done all I can
I suppose even the son of God gets it hard sometimes
Especially when he goes round
Saying I am the way.”
Wikipedia will tell you that Williams was sued over this chorus as it bore too much resemblance to a Loudon Wainwright III lyric, “Every son of God has a little hard luck sometime, especially when he goes around saying he's the way.” Williams claimed to have heard the line from someone else while in rehab and was unware of the Wainwright copyrighted version! Whatever, it means that in rehab Williams was thinking of spiritual stuff which might be a similar context to the Bodies song that we are coming to in a moment.
Before we get there, let us also remember the spiritual elements on Williams’ Intensive Care album. Sin, Sin, Sin that album’s fourth single mixes casual sex with religion and the video gave it the darker hue of being about the seduction of women by a religious guru. Robbie’s desire for holiness is pretty much captured in Pure from the same album quotes Augustine’s confessions:
“I got a ton of selfish genes and lazy bones
beneath this skin
Oh Lord, make me pure, but not yet...”
Fair play for his honesty but the bottom line seems to be excuses for staying the same rather than any desire for spiritual transformation. Here is a world famous wealthy young man wanting to enjoy his hedonism but knowing that he ultimately needs more and flirts with Jesus without wanting a deeper relationship because of the cost he knows it will mean.
Which has us right back, slap bang in the middle of Bodies. With a wee word play, in the title, no doubt on the hit Angels we have Robbie flirting with a whole lot more religious ideas than the one Jesus revealed with Robbie's “ley lines” and “bohdi trees.” Jesus, though still seems to be his choice of transcendence and he seems sure that he has died for him. Though, at the end there is a confusing turn about where he suggests, “Jesus didn’t die for you.” The truth is that this last “didn’t” seems to be aimed at those who don’t believe it as he concludes, “What are you on.” And the gospel choir are singing “Jesus really died for you” in response on the fade out. I am pretty sure there is a genuine declaration on the radio waves about the death of Jesus.
The song is another in a long line of “Help!” songs. Williams is a modern day John Lennon in that regard though Lennon, who had been through his confirmation classes as a teenager, never recognised God as the intended direction of his deep soul screams. Bodies is indeed the central theme of this particular prayerline song. Robbie is struggling with his reflection and his “All we've ever wanted/Is to look good naked” is close to the bone of this generation’s crisis, dilemmas, psychiatric sickness and eating disorders; it’s why this song is for a healthy soul. Once again Robbie Williams has been honest about his deep seated need, whether he will take his own advice and find hope in the Jesus whom he proclaims died for him only time perhaps will tell.