All the Madmen
David Bowie Lyrics


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Day after day
They send my friends away
To mansions cold and grey
To the far side of town
Where the thin men stalk the streets
While the sane stay underground

Day after day
They tell me I can go
They tell me I can blow
To the far side of town
Where it's pointless to be high
'Cause it's such a long way down

So I tell them that
I can fly, I will scream, I will break my arm
I will do me harm
Here I stand, foot in hand, talking to my wall
I'm not quite right at all, am I?

Don't set me free, I'm as heavy as can be
Just my librium and me
And my E.S.T. makes three

'Cause I'd rather stay here
With all the madmen
Than perish with the sad men roaming free
And I'd rather play here
With all the madmen
For I'm quite content they're all as sane
As me

(Where can the horizon lie
When a nation hides
Its organic minds
In a cellar, dark and grim
They must be very dim)

Day after day
They take some brain away
Then turn my face around
To the far side of town
And tell me that it's real
Then ask me how I feel

Here I stand, foot in hand, talking to my wall
I'm not quite right at all

Don't set me free, I'm as helpless as can be
My libido's split on me
Gimme some good 'ole lobotomy

'Cause I'd rather stay here
With all the madmen
Than perish with the sad men
Roaming free
And I'd rather play here
With all the madmen
For I'm quite content
They're all as sane as me

Zane, zane, zane
Ouvre le chien
Zane, zane, zane
Ouvre le chien
Zane, zane, zane (ah ah ah)
Ouvre le chien
Zane, zane, zane (ah ah ah)
Ouvre le chien
Zane, zane, zane (ah ah ah)
Ouvre le chien
Zane, zane, zane (ah ah ah)
Ouvre le chien
Zane, zane, zane (ah ah ah)
Ouvre le chien
Zane, zane, zane (ah ah ah)
Ouvre le chien
Zane, zane, zane (ah ah ah)
Ouvre le chien




Zane, zane, zane (ah ah ah)
Ouvre le chien

Overall Meaning

David Bowie's song "All The Madmen" is a reflection of the artist's personal struggles with mental illness and society's perception of those who are deemed "crazy." The lyrics describe a protagonist who is being sent away by society to the "far side of town" where the "thin men stalk the streets" and the "sane stay underground." The singer expresses a desire to stay with "all the madmen" rather than "perish with the sad men roaming free." The lyrics also suggest that society is suppressing the creativity and intelligence of those who are mentally ill by locking them up and shutting them away. The singer's refusal to conform to this societal norm is represented by his desire to "fly," despite the consequences.


The song is a reflection of Bowie's personal experiences with mental illness. His half-brother Terry Burns was diagnosed with schizophrenia and institutionalized, inspiring Bowie's interest in the topic. At the time of writing this song, Bowie was also struggling with his own mental health and had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He had several close family members with mental illness and was heavily influenced by the work of R.D. Laing, a Scottish psychiatrist known for his alternative approaches to treating mental illness.


Line by Line Meaning

Day after day They send my friends away To mansions cold and grey To the far side of town Where the thin men stalk the streets While the sane stay underground
Every day, authorities take away the singer's friends and send them away to mental institutions, cold and grey places located in the far side of the city, where mentally ill people walk the streets, while the normal ones stay hidden from view.


Day after day They tell me I can go They tell me I can blow To the far side of town Where it's pointless to be high 'Cause it's such a long way down
Every day, the authorities tell the singer he can leave and go to the part of town where being high is not worth it, as the journey is too long and the destination too low.


So I tell them that I can fly, I will scream, I will break my arm I will do me harm Here I stand, foot in hand, talking to my wall I'm not quite right at all, am I?
The singer responds by saying that he would rather hurt himself than go where they're telling him to go. He feels unstable and not completely sane, while standing alone and talking to his wall.


Don't set me free, I'm as heavy as can be Just my librium and me And my E.S.T. makes three
The singer asks not to be set free because he feels very heavy and weighed down. He only has his medication and treatment to rely on.


'Cause I'd rather stay here With all the madmen Than perish with the sad men roaming free And I'd rather play here With all the madmen For I'm quite content they're all as sane As me
The singer would rather stay with the other mentally ill people, as he feels more comfortable with them than with those who are considered sane. He would rather stay with them, even if it means he won't survive, as they are all as sane as he is.


(Where can the horizon lie When a nation hides Its organic minds In a cellar, dark and grim They must be very dim)
The singer questions where the future is when a society hides people with mental illness in bleak and shady places. He implies that those who allow this must not be very intelligent.


Day after day They take some brain away Then turn my face around To the far side of town And tell me that it's real Then ask me how I feel
The authorities continue to take away pieces of the singer's mind and then send him to the same part of town. They then try to convince him that it is real and ask how he feels about it.


Here I stand, foot in hand, talking to my wall I'm not quite right at all
The singer, standing alone and holding his foot, admits he is not completely sane.


Don't set me free, I'm as helpless as can be My libido's split on me Gimme some good 'ole lobotomy
The singer asks not to be set free because he feels helpless and lost. He also says his libido is not functioning properly and he would rather have a lobotomy than continue living like this.


Zane, zane, zane Ouvre le chien Zane, zane, zane (ah ah ah) Ouvre le chien
This final stanza resembling a chant or mantra, is open to interpretation. 'Zane' and 'le chien' can be seen as a reference to insanity or liberty. It could also be a case of phonetic wordplay with no actual meaning behind it.




Lyrics © BMG Rights Management, Universal Music Publishing Group, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC
Written by: David Bowie

Lyrics Licensed & Provided by LyricFind
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