"21st Century Schizoid Man" as written by Robert Fripp, Michael Rex Giles, Greg Lake, Ian Mcdonald and Peter John Sinfield....
Cat's foot iron claw
Neurosurgeons scream for more
At paranoia's poison door
Twenty first century schizoid man

Blood rack barbed wire
Politicians' funeral pyre
Innocents raped with napalm fire
Twenty first century schizoid man

Death seed blind man's greed
Poets' starving children bleed
Nothing he's got he really needs
Twenty first century schizoid man


Lyrics submitted by KidArt

"21st Century Schizoid Man" as written by Ian Mcdonald Greg Lake

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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21st Century Schizoid Man song meanings
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  • +7
    General CommentIncredible song. Here's what the lyrics mean;

    The "21st Century Shizoid Man" is a person of the near future. Pretty much paints an unflattering portrait of the future-- as we see on television and such the future is going to be a place where dreams will come true, King Crimson decides to be less optimistic and more realistic.

    "Cats Foot Iron Claw"

    Means that all that is organic will be replaced with machines.

    "Neuro-surgeons scream for more"

    The future is going to be a crowded stressful mess, people will be worked to the bone and insanity will be rife. Thus the neuro-surgeons will capitalise on the madness that will ensue

    Second verse, the future is going to be a place of much suffering and war

    "Poets starving children bleed"

    Art will be shunned upon in the face of commercial superficiality. The people who try to get their messages across-- ie "the children", will be ignored in the face of conformist pop culture

    "Nothing he's got he really needs"

    Electricity, television, movies, etc, all of these things that are slowly consuming our resources in the name of keeping people happy.. things like that that greedy people of the future will consume and operate by the truckload.. we really don't need them
    Griffinfuhreron November 07, 2004   Link
  • +4
    My InterpretationThe Schizoid Man is one whose moral values are contradictory. The song is written in the context of an unwinnable war and senseless competition to consume. It is a criticism of American culture in the era of its composition and remains relevant today.

    "Cat's foot" and "iron claw" is reminiscent of Neil Young's "Kinder, gentler, machine gun hand". Here the lyrics are a reference to the dichotomy of modern man's value system. He wants to tread quietly (peacefully) but he's also the hunter (cat) who will strike without mercy (iron claw) against his opposition. The false belief that one can be more peaceful and more violent at the same time is sheer insanity.

    The "neuro-surgeons screaming for more" is a reference to men who seem to have it all. He has brilliance, wealthy, prestige, a beautiful wife, and yet somehow that is not enough for him. Fear of losing his possessions drives him to paranoia and misery. It is sheer insanity to strive for everything and yet be happy with nothing.

    "Blood rack, barbed wire" represents the amorality of war. The "politician's funeral pyre" is an unwinnable war. To stave off his own political suicide, the politician allows his military forces to burn innocents with "napalm fire". The idea of slaughtering thousands to save one is moral insanity.

    Death is sown throughout the world so that the neuro-surgeon can have even more than the everything he has now. Acquiring resources from one person means having to take resources from the "poet's starving children". Wanting what you do not need is moral inanity.
    asortofdreamon September 12, 2012   Link
  • +2
    My InterpretationFirstly it's important to note that schizoidism is not simply amorality, but rather a very complex personality disease. The schizoid man sees no need for others, he has been hurt too much and he doesn't see how others can be worthwhile or beautiful inside. He sees society as a nuisance that he must put up with in order to achieve his own solitary goals. In this context:

    Cat's foot iron claw
    Neuro-surgeons scream for more
    At paranoia's poison door.
    Twenty first century schizoid man.

    The lyrics of this song are certainly related to the Vietnam War. But it's not a twentieth century schizoid man, it's a twenty-first century schizoid man. It's a man in the aftermath of the Vietnam War, it's about those who came back from war having seen more horrible things than any man ever should. A soldier comes back from killing and seeing his closest friends killed horribly, and suddenly the fireplace looks more like trees burning with napalm, or the cat's foot that might have seemed so innocent and playful before looks more like an iron claw, an instrument of death. One of the most prominent effects of PTSD like this is flashbacks, where if a balloon pops near the old soldier, he might think it's a gunshot and go crazy for a moment thinking he's in the forests in Vietnam. And he's so fucked up, so prone to slip across the threshold into paranoia's poison door at any moment, even the neurosurgeons can't treat him. As in, the neurosurgeons are fighting against paranoia's poison door, with whatever drugs or surgery they're using, but it's not enough, they scream for more.

    Blood rack barbed wire
    Politicians' funeral pyre
    Innocents raped with napalm fire
    Twenty first century schizoid man.

    Death imagery death imagery. Unholy politicians are burned with respect, while innocents are burned with napalm. It's so fucked up it's almost easier not to care about any of those people or what's happening to them; thus is comprised the twenty-first century schizoid man.

    Death seed blind man's greed
    Poets' starving children bleed
    Nothing he's got he really needs
    Twenty first century schizoid man.

    The fat cat politicians who enrolled the entire country in war, thus seeding death, were blind to the horrors the soldiers would experience there. They were fueled only by greed for power and political status. They seeded death for everyone who wasn't them, even the starving children of poets, who embody the opposite of greed, since they practically accept poverty for the sake of the art they produce. But the world's shocking injustice and coldness, indeed schizoidism, has created this individual who no longer knows how to appreciate anything or anyone he has. Thus the new face of the twenty-first century is born, the twenty-first century schizoid man.
    eggplanton June 23, 2013   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti love this song. i love king crimson. it says alot about how america society well world socety is today.

    candyass420on April 25, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General Commentso much meaning in so few lyrics
    therymzon May 11, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General Commenta killer saxophone solo in this song
    Hindenbergon July 04, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General CommentYeah, the musicianship shown on this song was probably unseen at this time, real crazy stuff, this is. Everyone from the bass player to the drummer and brass perform to the max. The ending though.... a bit too much, no? The second breakdown part gets a little tiring just before "I Talk to the wind".
    moe2000on May 31, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentDaaaaamn this song blows me away. It's so tightly composed and preformed.
    Crimsonicityon May 31, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General Commentnormaly i hate SAX but its cool in this
    twilight_samon June 25, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General Commentyeah... wtf? i must not have the same recording of this song because i read your comments and have no idea what youre talking about. its a great song, but i hear absolutely NO brass, NO saxophone, and certainly not a sax solo. anyone want to clue me in?
    timehasrunawayon October 21, 2004   Link

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