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Rock N' Roll Suicide

Side One: Five Years / Soul Love / Moonage Daydream / Starman / It Ain't Easy
Side Two: Lady Stardust / Star / Hang On To Yourself / Ziggy Stardust / Suffragette City / Rock N' Roll Suicide

Albums:  The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars (1972), David Live (1974), Ziggy Stardust: The Motion Picture (1983), Santa Monica '72 (1994),

Singles: Rock N' Roll Suicide

Time: 2:57



Video credit: HJ84Esquire
Mick Rock Promo
For the 11 April 1974 re-release of the single, Mick Rock shot this unreleased video

Final song on THE RISE AND FALL OF ZIGGY STARDUST AND THE SPIDERS FROM MARS (1972) which was performed live at all Ziggy Stardust concerts in 1972 and 1973 and typically used as the final number. It was later performed in a similar manner for the Diamond Dogs, and in initial concerts for the Stage and Sound + Vision Tours.  It was recorded at London's Trident Studios sometime between 12-18 January 1972.

A special recording of this song was broadcast on the Sounds of the Seventies (Broadcast: 19 June 1972

Interestingly, Bowie's reported belief at this time was that a famous rock star (he feared it would be him) would be killed on stage. 

"At this point I had a passion for the idea of a rock star as meteor and the whole idea of The Who's line Hope I die before I get old. At that youthful age you cannot believe that you'll lose the ability to be this enthusiastic and all-knowing about the world, life and experience.  You think you've probably discovered all the secrets to life.  Rock n Roll Suicide was a declaration of the end of the effect of being young" - Bowie

La vida es un cigarillo
Hierno, ceniza y candela
Unos la furnan de prisa
Y algunos la saborean.
Manuel Machado, "Chants andalous"

The lyrics "Time takes a cigarette..." has its original roots in the poem Chants Andalous by Spanish poet Manuel Machado where he writes: "Life is a cigarette / Cinder, ash and fire / Some smoke it in a hurry / Others savour it." 

Zabalím její duši do své
a pak ji houpám v modré menícíse síti…
Charles Baudelaire, "Dýmka"

Bowie has also referred to its source as being from Baudelaire.

"That was sort of plagiarized line from Baudelaire which was something to the effect of life is a cigarette, smoke it in a hurry or savour it" - Bowie (1997)

Rock N Roll Suicide Original Lyrics

According to Angie Bowie, the idea of Bowie reaching out to the audience while singing the words "Give me your hands" was hers. The song is also her favourite on the album:

"Rock n’ Roll Suicide spoke to me personally and it was my personal anthem for everyone everywhere who had endured the humiliation of growing up with stupidity and I am that all-embracing in my interpretation. That’s the incredible thing about David’s music: here we are, 30 years on still discussing a solo, a chorus, the meaning of the words....Rock n’ Roll Suicide has the positive affirmative - "you’re wonderful" and "Give me your hands you’re not alone" refrain, that I could hear as I walked into a restaurant or jumped up in the morning." - Angie Bowie (2000)

"That one was going to be the last track on the album, so we had to leave an emotional impact there. It wasn't hard to think like that, given the subject of the song. With a lot of Bowie's songs, you found you were not only being a musician, but a bit of an actor as well. You had to get in there and use your imagination at the same time as your drumming skills to communicate those lyrics with any sort of conviction. You didn't want to say: 'Go out and commit suicide', of course, so you had to find a way of playing it so it didn't communicate that but rather identified with how someone like that might feel at the end of the world – that whole concept. It's one of my favorite tracks. It doesn't need a lot from the drums, bass and guitar. There are times when it breaks down to just the bass drum, and that bass drum needs to be played with despair. So, it was interesting as an emotional song to play. Everything seemed to leave it hanging on that bass drum, so you couldn't play it flippantly. It was how you emotionally felt and getting that across with just your foot on the drum pedal. You look back on that track and think it was pretty risky – especially on his part!" - Woody Woodmansey

"The only track with a completely planned punch for David's vocal.  We needed two distinct vocal sounds for this song, very close up and controlled and then David blasting.  We set the level for David to sing quietly and really close to the mic, then recorded the first take of the first three verses and stopped.  David stepped back a little, I got a new level setting, we recorded until the song's end and that's the performance you hear". - Ken Scott


 Rock n' Roll Suicide (Bowie)

Time takes a cigarette, puts it in your mouth
You pull on your finger, then another finger, then your cigarette
The wall-to-wall is calling, it lingers, then you forget
Oh, you're a rock 'n' roll suicide

You're too old to lose it, too young to choose it
And the clocks waits so patiently on your song
You walk past a cafe but you don't eat when you've lived too long
Oh, no, no, no, you're a rock 'n' roll suicide

Chev brakes are snarling as you stumble across the road
But the day breaks instead so you hurry home
Don't let the sun blast your shadow
Don't let the milk-float ride your mind
They're so natural - religiously unkind

Oh no love! you're not alone
You're watching yourself but you're too unfair
You got your head all tangled up but if I could only make you care
Oh no love! you're not alone
No matter what or who you've been
No matter when or where you've seen
All the knives seem to lacerate your brain
I've had my share, I'll help you with the pain
You're not alone

Just turn on with me and you're not alone
Let's turn on and be not alone
Gimme your hands cause you're wonderful
Gimme your hands cause you're wonderful
Oh gimme your hands


---This page last modified: 14 Jan 2019---

Ziggy Stardust Scarf (1973)