Marlene On The Wall

Album: Suzanne Vega (1985)
Charted: 21

Songfacts®:

  • Vega wrote this about coping with loneliness; she finds comfort by looking up to a poster of Marlene Dietrich on the wall. Vega really did have a poster of Dietrich on her wall. She explained in SongTalk magazine: "That was a truthful song. The lines came out of my life. But you want to be careful, too, because you don't want to get into 'Oh, my boyfriend left me...' I have a problem with specifically confessional songwriting. I think you have to craft it in some way. I don't think you can come on stage and blurt out your innermost feelings. My niece can blurt out her innermost feelings. She's four years old. I wouldn't want to pay $25 to go see her do that. You need to put it in a form. Although it is truthful, you have to give it some respect, or a certain kind of dignity, by putting it into a kind of form. Because these people are not my friends. They're paying to see a show, some form of entertainment. So I'm not gonna sit there and talk to them like Ronee Blakely in Nashville."
  • Marlene Dietrich was a German actress who became an international film star in the 1930s. During World War II, she put her movie career on hold in order to entertain US troops, a move that won her the Medal of Freedom, the highest military award a civilian can receive. Dietrich was 90 years old when she died in 1992.
  • Vega told SongTalk that this song always seemed "a little wide of mark, somehow." Said Vega: "It's accessible and people do like it, but for me, personally, inside myself, I feel I had something in mind, and I kind of did it, it was stylish, it was interesting, but I didn't feel it was quite the bulls-eye that some of the others were. The idea of using a poster as a reference point is a very pop idea. It's a song about Marlene Dietrich. You kind of get that from it, or it's a song about a relationship."
  • This was Vega's first single. It did well in the UK, but didn't get noticed in America. Vega, who is from New York, found success in the US 2 years later with her album Solitude Standing, which contained the hit song, "Luka."
  • Bauhaus lead singer Peter Murphy included a song called "Marlene Dietrich's Favorite Poem" on his 1989 solo album, Deep, where he makes an apparent reference to this track:

    Just wise owl tones no velvet lies
    Crush her velvet call
    Oh Marlene suffer all the fools
    Who write you on the wall

Comments: 3

  • AnonymousIn live performances, Vega told a slightly different story of this song.
    The idea came to her when she was house-sitting for a friend, and in the lonely night turned on the TV in the bedroom.
    It was one of those old tube-style TV's which had to warm up before displaying the picture, but the audio started up pretty quickly.
    As the TV went on, she saw a blank screen and heard a man telling a woman how many men she had destroyed with her smile.
    Then the picture came on, with a full screen image of Marlene, in which she responds (as Vega said, in the only way Dietrich would) simply "Kiss Me".
    This morphed into a fantasy about Marlene looking through the TV at the goings on in the friend's bedroom, and that's what the lyrics are about.
  • Max from New York, NyYeah that was clever on Tarantino's part. Man poor suzanne, she's just famous for having things done to her behind her back without permission. Like DNA and her acapella, but when it made her famous, she didn't complain... but she's actually not very proud of it and doesn't assosiate herself with it.
  • Kieran from Harlow, United StatesA gr8 artist. Fictional cousin of Vincent Vega (from Pulp Fiction) i'd like to hear her opinion on Tarantino including that into his script. Caramel is my favourite tune.
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