David Bowie: All the Madmen Meaning
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All the Madmen Lyrics
They send my friends away
To mansions cold and grey
To the far side of town
Where the thin men stalk the streets
While the sane stay underground
Day after day
They tell me I can go
They tell me I can blow
To the far side of...
anonymous May 8th, 5:14pm report
In a mid bridging section Bowie speaks the following,
"Where can the horizon lie
When a nation hides
Its organic minds in a cellar...dark and grim
They must be very dim"
making clear his views on how the 'sadmen' and how they treat the 'madmen'. Although Bowie sings "I'm not quite right at all", this is followed by an "Am I?"; there is a more general suggestion in the song that the 'madmen' may be in healthier shape than the "sadmen roaming free" who may "perish", and ambiguously Bowie sings about the 'madmen' that he is "quite content they're all as sane as" he is.
anonymous May 8th, 5:01pm report
"Ouvre le chien" may be a reference to a notorious scene in the 1929 silent film by surrealists Luis Buñuel (directing his first film) and Salvador Dalí (one of his most famous paintings is "The Persistence of Memory" in which we see limp, distorted clock faces) 'Un Chien Andalou'. In the scene a razor appears to slit open an eye. Alternatively, it may be a reference to the practice of vivisection in relation to how the mentally ill are treated.
I have never understood what is meant by "Zane Zane Zane" - hardly a reference to the prolific writer of American Western stories Zane Grey!
anonymous Jan 3rd, 2012 1:15pm report
This song is about madness. The speaker is in a asylum, he is really mentally ill ("i'm not quite right at all", "i will do me arm" "all the madmen[...]they're all as sane as me"...) and despite the librium and the electroshocks he prefers to stay in the asylum with "the madmen" than with the sane, "the sadmen". He prefers being himself and mad than becoming normal and conforming himself to the society, he even prefers lobotomy.
The french line "ouvre le chien" litteraly means "open the dog". Ones think it's the abreviation of a Nietsche citation, but to my mind it means nothing.
Bowie was both afraid and fascinated by madness at the time. Indeed, his brother Terry was diagnosed with schizophrenia, and he was a major influence in David's life.
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