Rock 'n' Roll Suicide

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"Rock 'n' Roll Suicide"
Single by David Bowie
from the album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
B-side"Quicksand"
Released11 April 1974
Format7" single
RecordedTrident Studios, London
February 1972
GenreGlam rock
Length2:57
LabelRCA Records
LPBO 5201
Producer(s)David Bowie, Ken Scott
David Bowie singles chronology
"Rebel Rebel"
(1974)
"Rock 'n' Roll Suicide"
(1974)
"Diamond Dogs"
(1974)
The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars track listing
Side one
  1. "Five Years"
  2. "Soul Love"
  3. "Moonage Daydream"
  4. "Starman"
  5. "It Ain't Easy"
Side two
  1. "Lady Stardust"
  2. "Star"
  3. "Hang On to Yourself"
  4. "Ziggy Stardust"
  5. "Suffragette City"
  6. "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide"
 
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"Rock 'n' Roll Suicide"
Single by David Bowie
from the album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
B-side"Quicksand"
Released11 April 1974
Format7" single
RecordedTrident Studios, London
February 1972
GenreGlam rock
Length2:57
LabelRCA Records
LPBO 5201
Producer(s)David Bowie, Ken Scott
David Bowie singles chronology
"Rebel Rebel"
(1974)
"Rock 'n' Roll Suicide"
(1974)
"Diamond Dogs"
(1974)
The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars track listing
Side one
  1. "Five Years"
  2. "Soul Love"
  3. "Moonage Daydream"
  4. "Starman"
  5. "It Ain't Easy"
Side two
  1. "Lady Stardust"
  2. "Star"
  3. "Hang On to Yourself"
  4. "Ziggy Stardust"
  5. "Suffragette City"
  6. "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide"

"Rock 'n' Roll Suicide" is a song by David Bowie, originally released as the closing track on the album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars in June 1972. It detailed Ziggy’s final collapse as an old, washed-up rock star and, as such, was also the closing number of the Ziggy Stardust live show. In April 1974 RCA issued it as a single.

Music and lyrics[edit]

Bowie saw the song in terms of the French chanson tradition,[1] while biographer David Buckley has described both "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide" and the album's opening track "Five Years" as "more like avant-garde show songs than actual rock songs".[2] Critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine similarly found it to have "a grand sense of staged drama previously unheard of in rock & roll".[3]

Although Bowie has suggested Baudelaire as his source, the lyrics "Time takes a cigarette..." are somewhat similar to the poem "Chants Andalous" by Manuel Machado: "Life is a cigarette / Cinder, ash and fire / Some smoke it in a hurry / Others savour it".[1] The exhortation "Oh no, love, you're not alone" references the Jacques Brel song "You're Not Alone" ("Jef") that appeared in the musical Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris.[4] Bowie covered Brel's "My Death" during some Ziggy Stardust live shows, and performed "Amsterdam" live on the BBC.

Release and aftermath[edit]

"Rock 'n' Roll Suicide", recorded on 4 February 1972,[5] was one of the last songs recorded for Ziggy Stardust, along with "Suffragette City", which would immediately precede it in the album track list, and "Starman", soon to be issued as a single. As the final song on the album and climax to the Ziggy Stardust live shows throughout 1972-73, it soon became a slogan, appearing on many fans' jackets.[6]

In April 1974 RCA, impatient for new material and having already rush-released "Rebel Rebel" from the Diamond Dogs sessions, arbitrarily picked the song for single release. Two years old, and already in the possession of most Bowie fans through Ziggy Stardust, its release has been labelled simply a "dosh-catching exercise".[7] It stalled at No. 22 in the UK charts – Bowie's first RCA single to miss the British Top 20 since "Changes" in January 1972.

Track listing[edit]

  1. "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide" (Bowie) – 2:57
  2. "Quicksand" (Bowie) – 5:03

Production credits[edit]

Producers
Musicians

Live versions[edit]

Other releases[edit]

Cover versions[edit]

Appearances in popular culture[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Nicholas Pegg (2000). The Complete David Bowie: pp.174-175
  2. ^ David Buckley (1999) Strange Fascination - David Bowie: The Definitive Story: p.141
  3. ^ Allmusic album review
  4. ^ Allmusic song review
  5. ^ Kevin Cann (2010). Any Day Now - David Bowie: The London Years: 1947-1974: p.242
  6. ^ Roy Carr & Charles Shaar Murray (1981). Bowie: An Illustrated Record: p.48
  7. ^ David Buckley (1999) Op Cit: p.244

References[edit]

External links[edit]