What does Suffragette City mean?

David Bowie: Suffragette City Meaning

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Album cover for Suffragette City album cover

Song Released: 1976


Suffragette City Lyrics

(hey man) oh leave me alone you know
(hey man) oh henry, get off the phone, I gotta
(hey man) I gotta straighten my face
This mellow thighed chick just put my spine out of place

(hey man) my schooldays insane
(hey man) my work’s down the...

  1. 1TOP RATED

    #1 top rated interpretation:
    GEM
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    Oct 10th 2005 !⃝

    This whole song is about bi-sexuality and how the character in the song, most likely Bowie, is telling his friend, Henry, that he loves the comfort and sex of a woman and so doesn't want to have anymore sexual relations with a man.

    This is shown when Bowie sings about a boy crashing at his house but he doesn't want him because 'there is only room for one and here she come' He doesn't want the sex with men as he sings 'don't lean on me man' and then saying that he can't tempt him back from the love of a woman saying that 'you can't afford the ticket' to get Bowie back 'from Suffragette City' Suffragette City being the love of women, instead the word suffragette is used than woman. It meaning the women in the earlier 20th century who fought for equal rights.

  2. 2TOP RATED

    #2 top rated interpretation:
    LaLa_Farfalla
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    Jun 5th 2008 !⃝

    This song is about the singer's love affair with Heroin - or H - or Henry and him trying to escape it after he meets this 'mellow thighed chick' and wants to go back to having a fulfilling sex life. Something which Henry is preventing him from doing by hanging around, refusing to leave.

  3. 3TOP RATED

    #3 top rated interpretation:
    anonymous
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    Jul 1st 2012 !⃝

    Bowie has kind of gone back and forth on his bisexuality, hasn't he. Honestly, I don't think this song is particularly deep. He's telling a friend to go hang out somewhere else, because he's expecting a visit from a lover. It's possible that "suffragette" was just used because he liked the way it sounded.

  4. anonymous
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    Nov 20th 2022 !⃝

    *the smell of that chick, just put my spine out of place
    *Henry was a colloquial denigrating term for the time, not a specific person

  5. Andromeda
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    Sep 19th 2022 !⃝

    First off, just a few things:
    1. The song was originally released in 1972 not ‘76
    2. The line is ‘mellow black chick’ not ‘thighed’
    3. And the song is from the ‘Ziggy Stardust’album it’s a story it’s not directly about Bowie himself

    Now, what I think it means.

    By this point in the album Ziggy is gone, they’ve had their fall from grace, the previous song, ‘Ziggy Stardust’ is sung from, I believe, their fans perspective after they’ve fallen, so ‘Suffragette City’ would be the same, because why would Ziggy be singing them self, after a song about them not being there anymore, the song after ‘Suffragette City’, ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide’, I believe is sung by Ziggy reflecting on their mistakes after they’ve returned to space.

    I believe ‘Suffragette City’ is sung by ‘Henry’, who is recounting things Ziggy said to him which paints Henry in a bad light, as Ziggy would have seen him that way, at that time. So the song sounds as though Ziggy is talking about their relationship with a person or some people believe ‘Henry’ is a metaphors for drugs but I don’t think that’s what’s happening.

    First, ‘Henry’, I believe Henry is a past lover of Ziggy’s, possibly a one night stand who got attached. “Henry get off the phone” is Ziggy telling Henry to hang up and leave them alone, they’ve got to “straighten their face” as they’ve just been with a woman, “mellow black chick”.

    ‘Suffragette City’, Ziggy loving women, but it puts their love for women in the light that it’s equal to their love for men ‘Suffragette’, women’s equality. Them saying ‘you can’t afford the ticket, back from Suffragette City’, Henry can’t compete with women and they don’t want to have a relationship with men, Henry, anymore. Henry doesn’t seem to give up tho the line “hey man, my works down the drain” could imply that Henry was still around as Ziggy was falling, he refused to leave them.

    We know from Bowie himself that he was inspired by ‘A Clockwork Orange’ as you can see with the line ‘droogie don’t crash here’, which was a word in ‘Nadsat’ a slang language invented by the author of ‘A Clockwork Orange’, Anthony Burgess, droog or droogie means friend. They’re calling Henry a friends while running it in his face that they sleep with women, “there’s only room for one and here she comes, here she comes”.

    So I believe ‘Suffragette City’ is about Ziggy’s relationship with Henry, told by Henry usu of Ziggy’s words and perspective.

  6. NaturalBlue
    click a star to vote
    Apr 30th 2021 !⃝

    I’ve always thought the words were… The smell of black chicks just put my spine out of place. The actual lyrics are different but… Did Bowie choose the actual lyrics so that it would sound like what I thought it sounded like?

  7. anonymous
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    Jul 5th 2016 !⃝

    The words just sounded good for a great hook,
    its that simple!

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway
  8. anonymous
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    Jan 29th 2016 !⃝

    For the meaning of Suffragette City I think it helps to link the song with the non-album track John, I'm Only Dancing from the same Ziggy sessions, which was released as a follow up single to Starman. In both songs Bowie is frustrated by his feelings for his boyfriend because he wants to have sex with a woman. In Suffragette the boyfriend is Henry, and he is caught between rejecting Henry to have sex with a "mellow thighed chick who's just put my spine out of place". In John, I'm only dancing his boyfriend is called John and he is trying to explain to him that he only wants to dance with a girl called Annie who turns him on and "always eats her meat". In other words, sex or dancing with women is fun, and his boyfriend should not be jealous "don't lean on me man" because he's not seriously romantically involved with the suffragette woman or Annie. Suffragette is a name for women's suffrage but in this contact is used on the context of gay suffrage or liberation - Bowie wants to be free to love his boyfriend but also to have sex or to dance with women when he want to.

  9. Count
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    Dec 17th 2015 !⃝

    I'm surprised no one mentioned S&M. If you look at it from that angle, a lot of the words make sense. First of all the title itself would be a play on words alluding to "suffering" as in pain resulting from S&M acts. Going along with that is the line about the chick putting his spine out of place. Then "she had to squeeze it": I can only imagine what! "Can't afford the ticket" means his friend isn't into S&M, can't take the punishment perhaps. Then during the guitar lead, he says "Oh (or Ow), hit me" - further evidence. Then he tops it off with "Wham bam thank you ma'am", very possibly another reference to being hit or hitting.
    I love this song whatever the words mean - to me his best.

  10. anonymous
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    Apr 22nd 2014 !⃝

    Is it possible Bowie DID write the song "Suffragette City" about his future experiences in Rochester, NY but didn't know it yet or maybe the people in Rochester were waiting for him to play there so they could...make it come true??? Weird. The song does smack of Rochester and it seems hard to believe it was written four years earlier in 1972. Strange indeed. Great tune! Thanks, Mr. Bowie.

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway
  11. Cherie
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    Dec 30th 2013 !⃝

    I think there's importance to the word "suffragette" as well. It's an old term for women who fought for the right to vote. A term that isn't used much anymore. It's a certain type of woman--perhaps a strong woman--maybe a militant one. These days we might say feminist instead. So I think it makes sense in the context of Ziggy that being with a strong purposeful woman could be termed "suffragette city" as a different place, a different world from the place where Henry hangs out.

  12. anonymous
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    Jan 20th 2012 !⃝

    I agree with it possibly not being about bisexuality since Bowie has stated that he was never really attracted to men (although he could still write a song about it). I think the drug theory is probably the most likely because even though he never had a heroin habit (that I know of anyway) he was out of his mind on Cocain and PCP for several years so the meaning sticks. At least this is my opinion

  13. anonymous
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    Jul 31st 2011 !⃝

    I will sound like a crazy person but. Back in the USSR is a Bowie parody to the Beatles (back in the USA). This is a parody to the surfer sound stuff- Beach Boys music.

  14. Marina Anna Pauline Fraser
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    Jul 7th 2011 !⃝

    Bowie, himself, has stated that the whole bi-sexual persona was just part of his act at the time and that he was never sexually into men. So, I don't think the first interpretation is even remotely likely. He has, however, experimented with drugs and used them, he just never got caught up in them quite like his peers did. Nonetheless, he battled with drugs, was surrounded by friends who were brilliant junkies, and was greatly impacted by them. Ashes to Ashes is about this battle with drugs and personal demons. So, I think the song is more likely about that.

  15. anonymous
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    May 22nd 2011 !⃝

    I think that this song probably has something to do with women's suffrage. I think that the "Henry" referred to may be Henry B. Blackwell, a huge Women's Suffrage activist. You can figure out the rest.

  16. anonymous
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    Mar 25th 2010 !⃝

    I agree with the Susan B. Anthony story, very interesting. However, there's no way the song could have anything to do with his arrest in NY seeing as he was arrested 3 years after the song was written during his Thin White Duke phase. There's no way the song is about heroin either (contrary to belief, not every great rock song is about drugs)because Bowie never messed with the stuff (besides experimentation I'm sure). I would say the bi-sexual theory is a safe bet seeing as it was written during Ziggy Stardust which was when Bowie became very curious about cross dressing, other men, and the likes. That, or the Susan B. Anthony theory would be my bet.

  17. anonymous
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    Nov 28th 2009 !⃝

    I heard it was about Rochester, NY, where susan b anthony was from. A "Suffragette" who wanted womens vote, and he was arrested for marijuana possession, and "cant afford the ticket"

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway
  18. anonymous
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    Oct 6th 2008 !⃝

    In context with the Ziggy Stardust storyline, you could see it as part of Ziggys downfall. He is too busy fucking groupies and not paying attention to anyone else. Even his friends.

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