Originally published at YouTube on March 31, 2016.
According to the BBC documentary film “Seven Ages of Rock,” the late David Bowie admitted in an interview that Pink Floyd’s originator, Syd Barrett, was his chief influence when he began his psychedelic rock career in the late 1960s. Indeed, it was Syd’s space rock themes that inspired Bowie’s song “Space Oddity,” which later became a major hit. But it was also Syd Barrett’s slow descent into madness and withdrawal from society which influenced the young Bowie. Concerning his brilliant album, The Man Who Sold The World, insanity crops up as an intermittent theme, no more so than on the track “All The Madmen.” In his version, which could be called observed social commentary mixed with speculative fiction of the future, the truly mad (psychotic) are “out there” in society and pulling the strings while the ones being locked away are either sane or at worst simply neurotic. The song also mentions, more than once, the procedures known as frontal lobotomy and electroshock therapy. Also, according to Wikipedia, which I am quoting now, “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.” “All The Madmen” seems to end on a celebratory note, nevertheless, with the chanting and singing of “Zane zane zane, ouvrez le chien” by the liberated and empowered masses.
I have been somewhat reluctant to do any more David Bowie videos since the news of his death. My mindset when doing the other three videos was one where I knew he was alive and, as far as I knew, in good health. His death took me completely by surprise and was a terrible shock … and I wasn’t sure I could ever do another video of his music for a long time to come. But I was able to resume the mindset that made the other three videos possible, partly because of something only marginally related to the video that captured my interest for several hours. It also kept my mind off Bowie’s death for a time.
Additionally, this song is listed as a major influence on the bands Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Cure, and Nine Inch Nails.
“All The Madmen” by the late, great David Bowie … a genius of a song from a truly super and brilliant album, The Man Who Sold The World.