Suffragette City

Album: The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972)

Songfacts®:

  • A "Suffragette" is a woman involved in the women's suffrage movement (trying to get the right to vote). A London newspaper was the first to use the term, and did so in a derogatory manner. In England, women got voting rights in 1918. In the US, it was 1920.
  • Bowie offered this to the band Mott The Hoople, but they turned it down. Bowie was a big fan of Mott The Hoople, but they weren't selling well and were about to break up. To keep them going, Bowie offered to produce their next album, and although they rejected this, they did record Bowie's "All The Young Dudes," which became a big hit and got them out of a financial mess.
  • The heavy saxophone backing sound is not a saxophone. It was created by an ARP synthesizer. Bowie wanted a larger-than-life sax sound, so they used the synth to create the sounds that a real sax couldn't.
  • The famous "Wham Bam Thank-you Ma'am" lyric was the title of one of the tracks on Charles Mingus' 1961 Oh Yeah album (according to Mingus it was also a phrase that his drummer, Max Roach, used when he was "unable to express his inner feelings") and most likely one which Bowie was aware of, being a jazz lover himself. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Klasic Rok - Battle Ground, WA, for all above
  • The word "droogie" (from the line "Aw, droogie, don't crash here") is from the book (later made into a movie) A Clockwork Orange. It means "friend." Like most of the words in the book's teen-slang language, Nadsat, it's based on Russian. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Beth - San Francisco, CA
  • This is one of Bowie's all time personal favorites.
  • When Bowie played this live in 1972, he started doing a bit at the end of the song where he went underneath his guitarist, Mick Ronson, and played the guitar with his mouth. This made it look like Bowie was simulating oral sex, and it caused a stir when Bowie talked his Manager into buying a whole page of advertising space in the British magazine Melody Maker to get the infamous "oral sex" picture published immediately after it was shot at a show in Oxford Town Hall in June 72. That's the way photographer Mick Rock tells the tale in his book Blood And Glitter. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Peter - Berlin, Germany
  • The year after this was released, Paul McCartney put the word "Suffragette" into his song "Jet."

Comments: 22

  • Damia from FloridaAlways heard the lyrics as "mellow black chick," (were Bowie and Iman together yet?) and "you can't afford the ticket...back from Suffragette City" and "no, not Suffragette City, it's out of sight." I took the last two to mean Henry had been whining because he didn't have whatever it took to take out another girl like Bowie's liberated and sexy one, and Bowie didn't feel sorry for him - just wanted him out of the flat. ("don't lean on me man")
  • Mel from California Brian from Vancouver you are really stretching credulity. I've been listening to this song since I was 14, and the first time I heard it I heard "you can't afford the ticket," not chicken. Give me a break. I understood "ticket" in plain Queens English long before I knew what a suffragette was. Come on man.
  • Oakley from ArlingtonPeople are taking these lyrics too seriously- it's just a song about a guy telling his roommate/friend to give him some personal space (don't lean on me man) because he just hooked up with a feminist chick who rocks his world and he wants more time with her. The wham-bam, thank you ma'm isn't political, or significant. it's merely meant in an ironic way.
  • Steve from Boston, MaNot to be obvious, but people don't seem to realize that "wham, bam, thank you, ma'am" is a man having sex with a woman without getting her to orgasm. There are reverse meanings - as in a man falling in love with a woman abruptly, e.g., Dean Martin's "Wham, Bam" - but one wonders which meaning Bowie meant here.
  • Kadir Köz from Istanbul, TurkeyIt is a very unusual Bowie. In here he puts his genious at music.
  • Austin from Smallsville, New EnglandAlice In Chains covered this song for their demo tape.Heres the link
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lx0p2MIO_vo
  • Brian from Vancouver, BcI read the lyrics but what I here him saying is "Dont lean on me man cause you cant afford a Chicken back from Suffragette City". This translates to "Dont lean on me man cause you cant afford a chicken (slang for young gay man) back from Suffragette City (San Francisco when the Suffragette movement started). He had openly gay stuff on the Honky Dory album but by this time he had to disguise it.
  • Allie from A Little Ol' Town In, MiTotally agree with you mark. Very well done, i love the piano and the synth mixed together.
  • Mark from Byrdstown, TnThe whole Ziggy Stardust album is just great! Every song is strong and as a whole the album kicks ass!
  • Jena from Bonner Springs, KsDoes anyone think the guitar riff toward the end of this song sounds reminiscent of Heart's "Crazy on You"? (Or, I guess, vice-versa...since this song predates it!)
  • Tommy from Flanders, NjThis song is referenced in the Paul McCartney & Wings tune "Jet".
  • Nathan from Defiance, OhDilated, that's what I meant to say. I didn't know Ronny Milsap was blind though.
  • Jeremy from Warren , RiHe's not blind in one eye, he has permanantley dialated pupil, Stevie Wonder and Ronny Milsap were blind. lol
  • Frank from Pittsburgh, Pa"wham bam thank you ma'am" is how British Women described how American soldiers in the UK during WW2 had sex with them--fast with no frills "wham bam, thank ya ma'am" :)
  • Nathan from Defiance, OhDavid Bowie is blind in one eye after getting punched in the eye in a fight in his youth.
  • Stefanie Magura from Rock Hill, Scthat's odd that David biwie would play the guitar like that. What a cool song, though. My dad has the album, but I haven't listened to it yet.
  • Joe Aragon from Austin, TxA picture of the picture where Bowie is playing the guitar with his mouth is in the booklet for the remastered Ziggy Stardust CD. Awseome song.
  • Paul from TeddingtonThe 'Wham Bam Thank-you Ma'am' line was influenced by the Small Faces song of the same name - despite his futurist image he's (was) heavily into the 60s, hence the Pin-Ups LP
  • Steve from Chino Hills, CaAccording to KROQ Radion (Los Angeles) Richard Blade, Bowie originally consider the verse

    "Wham bam, thank you mam, I'll call you in the morning."

  • Janelle from New York City, Nytrue i saw the photo of the controveresal performance with david in an interesting sitituation! ....
  • Daniel from The North West, EnglandFrom what I can gather, based on the album, Henry is kicked out the house to be replaced by the "mellow" chick, because Ziggy has finally overcome his "gender" issues.
  • Michael from Baltimore, MdThis song is about Bowie kicking a friend "Henry" out of his house because he just meet this "mellow thigh chick".
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