"Sweet Thing" as written by and David / Bowie....
It's safe in the city, to love in a doorway
To wrangle some screens from the door
And isn't it me, putting pain in a stranger?

Like a portrait in flesh, who trails on a leash
Will you see that I'm scared and I'm lonely?
So I'll break up my room, and yawn and I
Run to the center of things
Where the knowing one says

Boys, boys, its a sweet thing
Boys, boys, its a sweet thing, sweet thing
If you want it, boys, get it here, thing
'Cause hope, boys, is a cheap thing, cheap

I'm glad that you're older than me
Makes me feel important and free
Does that make you smile, isn't that me?
I'm in your way, and I'll steal every moment

If his trade is a curse, then I'll bless you
And turn to the crossroads, and hamburgers, and...


Lyrics submitted by saturnine, edited by thither, Quinling

"Sweet Thing" as written by David Bowie

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

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Sweet Thing song meanings
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  • +3
    General CommentSounds kind of like meeting with a prostitute and then falling in love with her...

    "It's safe in the city to love in a doorway" would describe their intial meeting. They're making love in the doorway of some old building, feeling safe because no one is around. The line "And isn't it me putting pain in a stranger" is very evocative- finding comfort and release through the act of sex with a stranger. I also love "Like a portrait in flesh that trails on a leash," as if through sharing his emotions, "putting pain" into her, he has turned her into a living work of art (as art is born from the artist's emotions). "Trails on a leash" could mean that she is expected to be obediant to him.

    My favorite delivery in this song is "Will you see that I'm scared and I'm lonely?" Amazing. The character is giving his reason for sleeping with the girl- he just doesn't want to be alone. "So I break up the room and yawn and run to the center of things" sounds vague, but makes me think of someone desperately trying to get rid of boredom and rushing out to find action somewhere- maybe another reason for visiting the prostitute, but it seems to relate to a different aspect of the character's life... The chorus is most likely what the women are telling the men to entice them. "Boys, it's a sweet thing... if you want it, get it here..." and I think "hope is a cheap thing" means that it's not hard for the women to make their customers feel hopeful, or it could be that no one is hopeful anyway so why not throw your life away with meaningless sexual encounters?

    After that, the narrator seems to be talking to a lover, maybe having fallen in love with the prostitute after seeing her more than once. I thought the line "I'm glad that you're older than me, makes me feel important and free" was ironic, but I realize that a younger person can feel important because the older person is in charge of taking care of him. He must have said this to the woman he's meeting with, because she reacts- "Does that make you smile? Isn't that me?" The most romantic line in the song follows- "I'm in your way and I'll steal every moment." He is really in deep with her, wanting to spend every moment in time with her. "If this trade is a curse, then I'll bless you..." refers to the woman's work as a prostitute, and how the narrator loves her anyway. The last line in the song is his mind wandering, as Candidate begins and he abadons his love momentarily for the promises that the candidate makes.

    This whole trio on Diamond Dogs is incredible. My favorite part of the album.
    EnduringChillon May 14, 2013   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI very much agree with your posts. Mr. bOWIE was simply in a genius moment when he created the Diamond Dogs album. It's almost as if, in response to the disallowing of his Orwellian adaptation, he took it upon himself, in the paranoid and barren state that he was in, to compose an epic work that makes it's own mark in the expression of our most dark and apocolyptic thoughts. Bowie is again singing from the perspective of a young male hustler being preyed upon by the seedy city and at the same time using his sexual prowess (and in the process selling his soul) to help himself feel better about his lot in life. The overall suite of Sweet Thing and Candidate seems to be about how far people will go when they are at their darkest hour, approaching animalism in a tortured city landscape.
    davidbeauyon October 23, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI love this song. I love the chorus, especially the last line, and the imagery of the first verse. It goes with the whole post apocolyptic image of "Diamond Dogs." I honestly think it's one of his more successful songs, in terms of pacing and style.

    Er, as to what it means, I have no idea. Something grungy and weird and feral in a city somewhere. But I love it!

    Mostly because it's absolutely AMAZING live.
    lauramarson May 08, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI just re-visited Diamond Dogs on a cassette in the car on a ride where I got to hear it end to end. When I first listened to it Sweet Thing was just a bridge from Diamond Dogs to Rebel...but now that is - together with Candidate and the Sweet Thing Reprise - the best part of the album to me. LM said something about the pacing and style, and I could not agree more.

    I tried to imagine creating/executing a song like it and it just would never occur to me. The sax is his best I think. Very soulful, emotive song. And the end of Sweet Thing Reprise is a wonderful chaotic noisy intro to Rebel Rebel. It fucking rocks!
    coo2kachooon June 01, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI LOVE THIS SONG.

    The organ stutter is my favorite part.
    Bowieon May 31, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI'm listening right now and to interpret Bowie into words doesn't really work you have to experience it yourself by pouring it into a bath and soak in it. It's a bit like trying to explain and orgasm. You have to allow yourself to become a part of the experience. He paints such a beautiful picture well if a streetscape of an apocalyptic city is beautiful, yet you are there on this street with a bar at the end...

    You cannot listen to Sweet thing by itself as it flows into the candidate then "...jump in a river holding hands..." and then back to Sweet Thing reprise. There are other tracks that are worthy of praise "We Are The Dead", "Rock And Roll with me", "1984" and "Big Brother". One of his best.
    froggy59on May 03, 2016   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationSo basically I think all 3 songs in the suite are loosely connected in terms of telling a basic story, just with a crap load of imagery. I don't think they're quite as political as people think. They're ultimately a cautionary tale of human interaction in the presumable post-apocalyptic world.

    In "Sweet Thing", a lonely man has a sexual encounter with a prostitute, and begins to love her. He fantasizes many things as a result of this love, like her seeing his love as a sweet, pure thing, starkly contrasting the apocalyptic environment they live in.

    In "Candidate", the two lovers, or candidates, spend time together, and eventually vow to live their lives to the fullest (drugs, concerts, etc.), and ultimately commit suicide as an act of rebellion against the government.

    In "Sweet Thing (Reprise)", drugs like cocaine have twisted the minds of the two candidates rather than helped them. They now apply the term "sweet thing" to the drugs they take, and their new lifestyle, rather than their initial love for each other. The crazy guitar thing at the end likely represents the crazy effects of the drugs on both of them.

    Wonderful suite by Bowie. About on the level of Cygnet Committee in terms of epicness.
    RenBluegadeon April 23, 2017   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI always got the impression that this was about picking up a hooker. But I've been wrong before.
    Bonehead XLon June 02, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI always took the "sweet thing" he mentions to be the "centre of things where the knowing one says..."; to me this is the same thing he's pointing out in "Black Country Rock": the center of the mind, the "rock of the black country"...the Amygdala/Pineal Gland at the center of the brain which controls sensations of fear (or lack). So "break up your room" (break down your "situation/room/space-you-take-up/self/body/position-amongst-it-all"), and yawn (evocative of sleep, but more just "close your eyes"), and meditate (to get to the center of things, figu./meta.---they both are met there where I mentioned). Hey, it's a "cheap thing"...so why not follow suit? A lot of the rest of the lyrics are putting terms to the control of undisciplined desires. The one that is "older than me" is the Body since it ages while the "me" is the internal, un-aging, conscious Self. The controlled, tempered, talky singing is the Self, while the loud, wailing parts are the Body. Makes sense when you've gone into meditation enough. Velvet Goldmine, Black Country Rock, Time...many of his lyrics are allegories speaking of the tribulations one faces in the study of the self...and for someone so advanced in yoga I don't see how else he could have cultivated such a knowledge. Man does not develop on coke and books alone...
    liplexon September 27, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentAlthough the body vs. self argument has merit, I think consciously Bowie is trying to create a mood more than an exploration of self. The mood of the song fits the apocolyptic vision of the Diamond Dogs world--I imagine that world of drugs, threesomes and depravity also was present in Bowies life. He certainly relates back to them but interestingly he doesn't really condemn or judge. They are all there --Sweet Thing and Everything --at the bar down the street or the alley. The land of Future Legend... Nontheless, the mood he hits with the dirty raw guitar and sax is key. If the song had more meaning and less mood would it work? No. This album is often maligned (read Rolling Stone's review) --I think this is one of his best works.
    I liken it more to Aladdin Sane (song, not album) than to Man Who Sold The World. Great reviews by all!
    Motown1on October 27, 2007   Link

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