All the Madmen (song)

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"All the Madmen"
Song by David Bowie from the album The Man Who Sold the World
Released November 4, 1970 (U.S.)
April 1971 (UK)
Recorded Trident and Advision Studios, London
18 April - 22 May 1970
Genre Psychedelic rock, hard rock, glam rock
Length 5:38
Label Mercury Records
Writer David Bowie
Producer Tony Visconti
The Man Who Sold the World track listing
"The Width of a Circle"
(1)
"All the Madmen"
(2)
"Black Country Rock"
(3)

"All the Madmen" is a song written by David Bowie in 1970 for the album The Man Who Sold the World, released later that year in the U.S. and in April 1971 in the UK. One of a number of tracks on the album dealing with insanity, it has been described as depicting "a world so bereft of reason that the last sane men are the ones in the asylums".[1]

Music and lyrics[edit]

The track opens with acoustic guitar and recorder, creating an atmosphere that Bowie biographer David Buckley called "childlike dementia",[2] before transforming into a heavy rocker featuring distorted chords from the electric guitar played by Mick Ronson, augmented by Moog synthesizer played by Ralph Mace. Later, Ronson plays melodic lead guitar, before return to heavy riffing and then melodic lead guitar as the song concludes. Coincidentally, in the same year, Ronson played lead guitar on Elton John's recording of "Madman Across The Water".

It ends with the chant "Zane zane zane, ouvrez le chien", the latter phrase literally meaning "open the dog" in French.

The production of the song also made use of varispeed vocals, which Bowie had first employed – though only for comic effect – on "The Laughing Gnome" in 1967. Bowie has said that the song was written for and about his half brother, Terry, a schizophrenic and inmate of Cane Hill mental institution (pictured on the original U.S. cover of The Man Who Sold the World) until his suicide in 1985.[3] The lyrics include references to lobotomy, the tranquilliser Librium and EST, or Electroshock Therapy, a controversial treatment for some types of deep depression and mental illnesses.

Release and aftermath[edit]

The second track on The Man Who Sold the World, "All the Madmen" was released by Mercury Records in edited form as a promo single (featuring the same song on both sides) in the U.S. in December 1970, prior to Bowie's promotional tour there in early 1971.[3] An official release, featuring "Janine" from his previous album Space Oddity as the B-side, was planned but shelved.[4] In June 1973 RCA Records, who had re-released the song's parent album the previous year, issued "All the Madmen" as a single in Eastern Europe, backed with "Soul Love" from The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.

Bowie performed the song live on his 1987 Glass Spider tour, though it was not included on the video release from the concerts.[3] Along with "After All", from the same album, "All the Madmen"'s "gothic melodrama" has been cited as a significant influence on such bands as Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Cure and Nine Inch Nails.[2]

Other releases[edit]

As well as its 1973 release as a single in Eastern Europe, the song appeared on the Russian compilation Starman in 1989.

Cover versions[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Roy Carr & Charles Shaar Murray (1981). Bowie: An Illustrated Record: p.38
  2. ^ a b David Buckley (1999). Strange Fascination - David Bowie: The Definitive Story: pp.99-102
  3. ^ a b c Nicholas Pegg (2000). The Complete David Bowie: p.22
  4. ^ "All the Madmen" at Illustrated db Discography

External links[edit]