All the Madmen (song)

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"All the Madmen"
Song by David Bowie
from the album The Man Who Sold the World
Released4 November 1970 (U.S.)
April 1971 (U.K.)
RecordedTrident and Advision Studios, London
18 April – 22 May 1970
GenrePsychedelic rock, hard rock, glam rock
LabelMercury Records
Songwriter(s)David Bowie
Producer(s)Tony Visconti

"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 U.K.. 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 just vocals and acoustic guitar, with the second verse adding cymbals 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 a return to heavy riffing and then melodic lead guitar as the song concludes.

It ends with the chant "Zane zane zane, ouvre 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 Burns, a schizophrenic and inmate of Cane Hill Hospital (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 illness.

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 David Bowie as the B-side, is thought to have been planned but shelved, and a handful of stock copies (73173) have been found.[4] In June 1973, RCA Records, which 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 until the Special Edition release on DVD in 2007 (on which it was released as an audio-only track).[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]

In addition to being released as a single in Eastern Europe in 1973, the song appeared on the Russian compilation Starman in 1989.[5]

In 2015, the promo mono single edit of the song was officially released for the first time, on Re:Call 1, part of the Five Years (1969–1973) compilation.[6]

Cover versions[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. ^ Altenburg, Ruud. "David Bowie - Illustrated db Discography > Songs: A". Retrieved 10 October 2018.
  5. ^ "David Bowie Starman Russian vinyl LP album (LP record) (51980)". Retrieved 10 October 2018.
  6. ^ "David Bowie Announces New 'Five Years 1969-1973' Box". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved 10 October 2018.
  7. ^ "Goth Oddity: A Tribute to David Bowie - Various Artists - Songs, Reviews, Credits - AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 10 October 2018.
  8. ^ "Jeannie Lewis". Retrieved 10 October 2018.
  9. ^ "Kiss You In The Rain-Max Lorentz Sings David Bowie". Retrieved 10 October 2018 – via Amazon.

External links[edit]