Suffragette City

Originally Performed ByDavid Bowie
Original AlbumThe Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972)
MusicDavid Bowie
Lyrics ByDavid Bowie
VocalsTrey Anastasio
Phish Debut2016-10-31
Last Played2016-10-31
Current Gap240
Recommended Versions2016-10-31
HistorianMartin Acaster (Doctor_Smarty)
Last Update2017-05-08


Like most really memorable popular music songs, David Bowie’s “Suffragette City” is obviously a fast and loose treatise upon either one or both of the other two apices of the Sex, Drugs, and Rock-n Roll holy trinity upon which the art form is based. Considering the Thin White Duke’s known openness to both male and female lovers, most listeners will likely lean towards the sexual interpretation. However, with the reference to Henry (AKA Hank or heroin) getting his lean on, the high-rev pace of the song, and Bowie’s own admission that he was more into fast drugs; the lyrics can just as easily be ascribed to the rush of a good stimulant kicking into overdrive.  Either way, Ziggy has no time for Henry because he is ready for more “Wham Bam, Thank you Ma’am!” with his special lady friend.

David Bowie “Suffragette City” Live 1972

Written in 1971, “Suffragette City” was first offered as a musical lifeline to Ian Hunter and Mott The Hoople. Hunter, knowing they needed a hit, refused the track and opted to record “All the Young Dudes” instead. Based on the outcome of that decision, they made the right choice, and Bowie was consequently free to include the song as the penultimate cut on his 1972 album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Featuring the aforementioned distinct nod to either a Charles Mingus (Oh Yeah, 1962) or Small Faces (Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake) song (I’m going with the “Lazy Sunday Afternoon” meets “Wild Thing” vibe of the latter) and a reference to the infamous droogies of the Alex Burgess novel (1962) and Stanley Kubrick film (1971) A Clockwork Orange; “Suffragette City” is a snapshot anthem for the equally fast and loose times in which it was released.

To my ears, Phish strolled quite triumphantly into “Suffragette City” and were equally resplendent in their 10/31/16 Ziggy costume. There is pep in their collective step during this number. The mellow thighed backing vocals which substitute for the ARP synthesized saxophone in the original further elevated the song’s potential to stimulate and arouse. This tune is well within the band’s wheelhouse and has to be the odds on favorite of any of the Ziggy songs to make another appearance. Oh hit me! If there’s only room for one, she shall be the one with the highest likelihood to come.

”Suffragette City” 10/31/16 Las Vegas, NV

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