David Bowie: ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Suicide – Analysis.

By Mollie Campbell

David Bowie’s ‘The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars’ album is a journey between the five years before earth is supposed to die, the album ends with the song ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Suicide’ which is significant because he almost foreshadowed the end to his own character’s life (Ziggy). He envisioned himself as the classic shell of a ‘Rock Star’ in which he could let out a possible artistic yearning without jeopardizing his own mental health, something which concerned him greatly. Rock and Roll suicide marks the end of Ziggy, who has now been affected by the hollowness and superficiality of stardom, he is lost, a prediction that slowly comes true throughout the album. The song seems to capture the idea of the version of him that is ‘sane’, talking to Ziggy. This is delving into the concept of ‘two selves’ or personalities, which links to his fascination with mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, which links to his family’s mental history.  The song also heavily portrays the progression of time, which is a recurring theme within the album and character itself.

Rock N Roll Suicide lyrical analysis:

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 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

You’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 with me and you’re not alone (wonderful)

Let’s turn on and be not alone (wonderful)

Gimme your hands cause you’re wonderful (wonderful)

Gimme your hands cause you’re wonderful (wonderful)

Oh gimme your hands

 

Rock N Roll suicide has this overall sense of conclusion, as the last song on the album, it embodies this constant feeling of fading youth, and enthusiasm dying… many of the lyrics to indicate a sudden awareness of the finality to his young and creative mind. Also, as this person is growing older, time is slipping away and they are no longer young enough to be in denial about time and age.

“That was sort of a 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) (on the opening lines of the song).

This cigarette could be perceived as a metaphor for time and life, as some people rush time, and waste their lives, whereas others savour life and enjoy its wonders. This backs up the point of ‘Ziggy’ sending a message to humans to change their ways. The symbolism and metaphorical meaning within Bowie’s album made him a pioneer in influencing society, in intelligent and complex ways, still within the field of art and music. The song continues to talk about things that could signify the passage of time, but he keeps reminding himself that there is a bigger picture.  The next line again encompasses what David Bowie was always trying to portray, different people and contrasting personalities. He sings ‘you’re too old to lose it, too young to choose it’ and describes the classic tale of the older generation being in charge and the young being powerless and how in time, this will repeat itself. This was another comment on the error of our ways, and another way of Bowie being able to write about issues that meant something to him, in a comfortable environment (music). The next line is a reference to human mortality. In the context of the line before, time which seems to be used in the form of ‘it’, and how it is slowly ticking away.

Bowie is clever here in the fact that he shifts time into the form of an actual living thing, and this person that is masked as time is actually a very dangerous and deviant figure because it restricts people on what they can do and how they live their lives and spend their time. This sinister character is Bowie’s way of tackling an issue through the form of a persona, much like the way he created his own persona in the first place.  “Your song” could be a reference to many things, it could be interpreted as a metaphor for someone’s life, and when the song finishes, it means that you are no longer alive. The line beginning with ‘chev breaks’ is a metaphor for the partying lifestyle of rock stars in the 60’s/70’s which is the sole character Bowie was initially embodying.  The character of Ziggy is generally perceived as being depressed, and he partly blames the restrictions of time on this. He tries to convince himself to stay living happily by not letting the ‘sun cast your shadow’ which is a link to the theory of his persona being a way to exert his demons in a healthy space.  The line ‘you got your head all tangled up’, signifying that whatever happened to Ziggy psychologically, left his mental state in a bad way. Ziggy (or Bowie) is desperately seeking help and reaching out in his own deluded or foolish way. He hangs onto the belief that he can change the people of the world and make them care about the things he does, things of value, not instant gratification. He believes this will guide him into a better state of mind. The song contains themes that will stand the test of time, which is why David Bowie’s lyrics were so innovative and important.

Published by molliewrites

I am a 22 year old British writer with a passion for words, I love writing in all styles and formats, covering many subject area's within my articles and reviews. My passions are all centred around creativity, I am constantly looking for inspiration in all forms.

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