"After All" as written by and David Bowie....
Please trip them gently, they don't like to fall, oh by jingo
There's no room for anger, we're all very small, oh by jingo
We're painting our faces and dressing in thoughts from the skies, from paradise
But they think that we're holding a secretive ball
Won't someone invite them
They're just taller children (ooh) that's all, after all

Man is an obstacle, sad as the clown, oh by jingo
So hold on to nothing, and he won't let you down, oh by jingo
Some people are marching together and some on their own
Quite alone
Others are running, the smaller ones crawl
But some sit in silence, they're just older children
That's all, after all

I sing with impertinence, shading impermanent chords
With my words
I've borrowed your time and I'm sorry I called
But the thought just occurred that we're nobody's children at all, after all

Live your rebirth and do what you will, oh by jingo
Forget all I've said, please bear me no ill, oh by jingo
After all, after all


Lyrics submitted by scottathon1

"After All" as written by David Bowie

Lyrics © EMI Music Publishing, BMG RIGHTS MANAGEMENT US, LLC, TINTORETTO MUSIC

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After All song meanings
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  • +1
    General CommentI have loved this song from the second time I heard it, two years ago. Here's what I think it means, though this may be colored by a recent Nine Inch Nails addiction:

    Bowie seems to be talking about how futile our searches for meaning are.

    "Please trip them gently....we're all very small"
    Explain to them gently what life is really about, they don't like to be told differently than they believe. We can't begrudge them this, we're the same way.

    "We're painting our faces...a secretive ball"
    The way we behave in our beliefs, though is no different than cavemen or "pagans" before us. Its just an update on the same eternal search for meaning beyond our senses.

    "Won't someone...taller children after all"
    We can't just hold what we believe is true to ourselves, though. The older generation is no different and no more advanced than us--they only look older--so they deserve to know what we know.

    "Man is an obstacle...he won't let you down."
    People and humanity as things we hold onto are only trouble. If we let people and humanity flow in and out of our lives, our attachments can't bring us any trouble.

    "Some people are marching...smaller ones crawl"
    Everybody is headed through life, towards death. It doesn't matter how old you are, how many people you love or align yourself with or anything else.

    "But some sit in silence, they're just older children, that's all."
    (I'm not certain about this one.) There are some people, though, who really do understand what life is and don't seek out death, but let it come to them.

    "I sing...with my words"
    The things I do are brash and unimportant

    "I've borrowed...nobody's children at all"
    You might have done more 'important' things than listen to this song, but I had to tell you, there's no God.

    "Live til your rebirth...bear me no ill"
    Don't let this all depress you...just live. There's no point in remembering all these things I've said. I didn't mean to bring you down.

    Overall it seems to be saying a few basic things:
    1. The search for meaning is getting us nowhere.
    2. Attachment is a pitfall.
    3. We're all facing inevitable death.
    4. There's no overarching deity.
    5. My efforts are fruitless.

    I've read somewhere that these points, or something like them are the basic tenets of existentialism. I think Bowie puts these forth again in the song Quicksand on Hunky Dory.
    fortheloveon January 16, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General Comment"Oh by jingo! I think I've got it!"
    Heard that before? ;)
    And then the futility of recognition...
    liplexon September 27, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentCrowley time. After the success of his first album, I wonder if someone made a deal.
    loosedloonon July 28, 2014   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis song is great, i can't believe no one commented on it yet, cause you're all turtles. This is my favourite bowie song ever and one of his best ever and its creepy and awesome and sad and awesome and really creepy and awesome and scary and sad and depressing and sad and creepy and dark and ethereal and scary and reminds me of Nightmare before christmas
    wow thats awesomeon December 24, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThere's something really touching in the line "I've borrowed your time and I'm sorry I called, but the thought just occured we're nobody's children at all".
    That could make me cry.
    Angie_is_my_nameon July 07, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentDoes anyone know what Bowie means by the phrase "Oh by jingo"?
    lmeskon July 11, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis is another one of Bowie's schizophrenic songs during The Man Who Sold The World. It's a very soothing beat, but not a soothing song, I'll tell you that much.
    davidbowiefan1on September 14, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think Jingo as in Jingoism.
    Katatoniaon July 11, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentGreat song. I particularly like the lines referring to adults as just older children. It makes me think about the social chaos of misunderstanding the world as a child. Then, as teenagers, you start to understand the world better. The average person at that point still has a very skewed of reality. Then upon adulthood humans are expected to be responsible and intelligent, but really they're no better than kids. In fact, they're just a more evolved and complicated form of the nonsense that is childhood. The world is full of insanity. Religion, which actually believes in magic, politics, a massive back and forth shifting of control via manipulation, tyrants who claim they are a god born under a double rainbow and say they have made 7 holes in one their first time ever playing golf, countries committed to destroying each other because we never really learned to share or respect our fellow man.

    Chard121on January 21, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General Comment"I sing with impertinence, shading impermanent chords, with my words"
    Bowie is singing in a non-serious nursery rhyme sing-song way and is only shadowing the catchy tune with his hidden message and secret agenda. In other words, he throws off the listener by singing in a jovial and lighthearted manner, the charm of the song is only fleeting, but the message is much more serious and has a lasting affect.
    Ysmanon May 02, 2012   Link

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