"Marlene On The Wall" as written by and Suzanne Vega....
Even if I am in love with you
All this to say, what's it to you?
Observe the blood, the rose tattoo
Of the fingerprints on me from you

Other evidence has shown
That you and I are still alone
We skirt around the danger zone
And don't talk about it later

Marlene watches from the wall
Her mocking smile says it all
As the records the rise and fall
Of every soldier passing

But the only soldier now is me
I'm fighting things I cannot see
I think it's called my destiny
That I am changing

Marlene on the wall

I walk to your house in the afternoon
By the butcher's shop with the sawdust strewn
Don't give away the goods too soon
Is what she might have told me

And I tried so hard to resist
When you held me in your handsome fist
And reminded me of the night we kissed
And of why I should be leaving

Marlene watches from the wall
Her mocking smile says it all
As the records the rise and fall
Of every man who's been here

But the only one here now is me
I'm fighting things I cannot see
I think it's called my destiny
That I am changing

Marlene on the wall


Lyrics submitted by Novartza, edited by daan8336, hyperides, anban, karen81963

"Marlene on the Wall" as written by Suzanne Vega

Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

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Marlene On The Wall song meanings
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27 Comments

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  • +3
    My InterpretationReading some comments here are different to how i interpret the song! It has never evoked the idea of abuse when I hear it... more the psycological effects of love! The uncontollable effects of life and destiny or fate. The strong imagery in the song definitely strikes as the narrator being internally damaged by her own feelings of love for another. I feel it's a song about someone who is used to playing with other peoples' emotions, has had many lovers but has never really felt affected by them although they (the soldiers/ men) have been hurt or in love with her. She has now fallen in love with someone and is feeling the pain and torment. She recalls all the lovers who where in love her and how she never really cared about how they felt when they fell. It was all just a game to her- hence the mocking smile of Marlene (Marlene Dietrich) who she aspired to be while she played the field, a kind of playful fantasy, taking on the role of a cruel femme fatale. But now she is the one who falls hard..she sees the dark side of it all. The imagery of blood portrays her damage, this lover leaves 'fingerprints' which we associate with crime or murder. She is beginning to realise what she has done to others with reference to a butcher. She is changing now realising that her past promiscuity was not really much fun for others as it was for her. It gives the sense that she has been shocked or traumatised into changing the way she behaves through realisation!
    pinkcloud77on June 23, 2010   Link
  • +2
    General CommentSuzanne Vega once had a poster of the great Marlene Dietrich on her wall. This song is sung from the point of view of Marlene Dietrich looking down at Suzanne Vega living her life. There is obviously a forbidden relationship taking place and the song switches from Suzannes point of view of things and then to how Marlene Dietrich would view it.
    "Marlene watches from the wall, her mocking smile says it all......"
    "Don't give away the goods too soon is what she might have told me....."

    Very clever and very toughing actually.
    noelsguitaron September 24, 2007   Link
  • +2
    General CommentIt's about loss of virginity. Possibly also in a taboo relationship. I don't think the relationship is abusive, I can see where this comes from though.

    On one occasion she sings "my destiny, AND I am changing" so it's her destiny to change (grow up, lose virginity). The blood is from loss of virginity, rose tattoo is a love bite/hickie, reference to evidence is fear of being discovered.

    "Reminded me of the night we kissed" = exciting like the first kiss, "why I should be leaving" = if she stays (which she did) they'll have sex, "tried to resist" succumbing to temptation. "Don't give away the goods too soon".

    The relationship is either taboo or insecure and she doesn't know what it means to the other person, if he/she is in love too (what's it to you?), whether he views her as meat (a conquest) and she's given him sex too soon (the butcher's shop - sawdust would be strewn in a butcher's to cover/clean blood; giving away goods too soon). She has been compelled by desire (the "handsome fist") to act in a way she thinks is unwise.

    Marlene's perspective is the perspective of the knowing other who has seen it all and for whom all of this which seems contingent and important, seems predictable and trivial. I assumed Marlene was a historic portrait which had seen much history, but since it refers to Marlene Dietrich the soldiers might refer to her popularity as a WW2 pinup. Hence the emotional turmoil as analogous to the emotional impact of combat.

    The relationship is covert, carried on around a "danger zone" (risk of being caught), not talked about, she's frightened of evidence being exposed, the couple are alone. It could be covert for all kinds of reasons (class or ethnic or other differences, underage, disapproved of, adulterous), but one possibility is that it's a lesbian relationship - hence "held in handsome fist" and "fingerprints" could be a reference to fisting, and "changing" could be a reference to realising one's sexuality (changing from assumed heterosexuality to knowing oneself to be gay).
    Ldxar1on August 19, 2008   Link
  • +2
    General CommentThe title of the song refers to a picture of Marlene Dietrich. And clearly, the song is about a woman who has a habit of being in abusive relationships. However, there is more to it than that. As Vega writes in the chorus, "I am changing." That is the key to the song. I write about this in detail on the following webpage (I assume you will have to copy and paste the link):

    franklycurious.com/…

    Also, the line in the third verse is not "By the butcher shot [sic] with the sawdust strewn." Rather, it is, "By the butcher's shop with the sawdust strewn." Although "butcher shot" has a certain poetic beauty.
    FranklyCuriouson December 17, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General CommentSuzanne Vega needs to be more appreciated. There are no comments on her songs! This is a great song, and although I'm not really sure what it's about, I'm pretty sure it has to do with sex. Especially in the thrid verse when she says,
    "I walk to your house in the afternoon
    By the butcher shot with the sawdust strewn
    "Don't give away the goods too soon"
    Is what she might have told me
    And I tried so hard to resist
    When you held me in your handsome fist
    And reminded me of the night we kissed
    And of why I should be leaving "
    She's speaking of lust. Both lovers know it's wrong but they can't help themselves. As she leaves, "Marlene watches from the wall." "Marlene" (a painting or portrait most likely) has seen all the other lovers that have been there, hence her mocking smile. The narrator reminded that this is really nothing more than just another ordinary relationship. Finally she walks away from that relationship, "I think it's called my destiny/ that I am changing."
    not sure if that's correct, but that is how I see it.
    ItsAllIWanton March 17, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThe other opinions on this song are really nice but im sorry, Im pretty sure this is about domestic abuse. Theres too many references to violence - "Observe the blood, the rose tattoo Of the fingerprints on me from you" Thats bruising from where he has gripped or slapped her. "We skirt around the danger zone
    And don't talk about it later" Thats a fight they've had. "I'm fighting things I cannot see" Shes fighting her love for him and her desire to stay.

    And I tried so hard to resist
    When you held me in your handsome fist
    And reminded me of the night we kissed
    And of why I should be leaving

    He's forced her into something, and I suspect the night they kissed was what he was like before he became violent. Shes realised she should go.

    I think she loves him but he hurts her. I agree with the 'marlene is a picture' interpretation, I never really got that before.
    jenpage50on September 20, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI think this is talking about a series of relationships "of every soldier passing" refers to the various people she has had relationships with. I think the current one from the first verse they have not formed a relationship yet, and he does not know why she is nervous. The third verse she is talking to the person who made her afraid.

    I think Marlene Dietrich is giving her strength, the wise older woman, the one who tells her to stand up for herself and not be afraid to be alone sometimes. I heard her talk about that poster in an interview once.

    I think she is changing her destiny from being a victim to being self confident.
    joannajoyon April 25, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentSounds like a it's about a forbidden relationship. The guys using her, but she's letting him, even though she knows it: "Even if I am in love with you/All this to say, what's it to you?" It's obviously something that shouldn't be happening:

    "Of the fingerprints on me from you
    Other evidence has shown
    That you and I are still alone
    We skirt around the danger zone
    And don't talk about it later"

    She knows she should stop, but she can't:

    "And I tried so hard to resist
    When you held me in your handsome fist
    And reminded me of the night we kissed
    And of why I should be leaving"

    Marlene is a picture or painting in the guys house, and she's always watching girls coming to & from getting up to know good, which is why she's got a "mocking smile"
    missmeon February 04, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti love this song. definitely agree on the first comment about suzanne being underappreciated
    so_fetch!on July 11, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti love this song. definitely agree on the first comment about suzanne being underappreciated
    so_fetch!on July 11, 2006   Link

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