David Bowie: Suffragette City Meaning
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Song Released: 1976
Suffragette City Lyrics
(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...
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.
anonymous May 22nd, 2011 5:46pm report
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.
anonymous Mar 25th, 2010 3:30pm report
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.
anonymous Jul 5th, 2016 7:49pm report
The words just sounded good for a great hook,
its that simple!
anonymous Jan 29th, 2016 1:36pm report
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.
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.
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.
anonymous Jul 1st, 2012 7:12pm report
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.
anonymous Jan 20th, 2012 1:16am report
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
anonymous Jul 31st, 2011 7:23pm report
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.
Marina Anna Pauline Fraser Jul 7th, 2011 7:48pm report
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.
anonymous Oct 6th, 2008 10:22pm report
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.
LaLa_Farfalla Jun 5th, 2008 6:02am report
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.
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