"Sons of the Silent Age" as written by and David Bowie....
Sons of the silent age
Stand on platforms blank looks and note books
Sit in back rows of city limits
Lay in bed coming and going on easy terms
Sons of the silent age
Pace their rooms like a cell's dimensions
Rise for a year or two then make war
Search through their one inch thoughts
Then decide it couldn't be done

Baby, I'll never let you go
All I see is all I know
Let's find another way down (sons of sound and sons of sound)
Baby, baby, I'll never let you down
I can't stand another sound
Let's take another way in (sons of sound and sons of sound)

Sons of the silent age
Listen to tracks by Sam Therapy and King Dice
Sons of the silent age
Pick up in bars and cry only once
Sons of the silent age
Make love only once but dream and dream
They don't walk, they just glide in and out of life
They never die, they just go to sleep one day

Baby, I won't ever let you go
All I see is all I know
Let's take another way down (sons of sound and sons of sound)
Oh baby, baby, baby, I won't ever let you down
I can't stand another sound
Let's find another way in (sons of sound and sons of sound)
(Sons of sound and sons of sound)
Baby, baby, baby, fire away!


Lyrics submitted by Catroar, edited by wharney2008

"Sons of the Silent Age" as written by David Bowie

Lyrics © EMI Music Publishing

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Sons of the Silent Age song meanings
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  • +2
    Song MeaningThe song is about fascism--please, accept no other explanation. It was on Bowie's mind; he'd been notoriously fascinated with the Nazis, not to mention European history, and was living in Berlin when he wrote and recorded this song. The sons described in the verses are incapable of reflection. They make war from time to time, Bowie tells us, and "they never die/Just go to sleep one day." A sleeping beast.

    Their being from the "silent age" would be reference to the silent-film era, which preceded the era of fascism in Germany (which isn't the same thing as causing it, needles to say). In the chorus, Bowie reaches for a world of sound--his symbolic alternative to fascism.
    Kartoumon April 20, 2013   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI think this song is about modern man. Modern men are 'sons of the silent age' Silent because they have nothing to say; they are empty minded.

    Platforms represent the grand modern world, blank looks and no books represent stupidity, ignorance, etc.

    the line 'laying in bed coming and going on easy terms' could represent how easy the modern man has life. 'cell's dimension' represents prison, Modern man imprisonates himself by living the standard home life of having a family.

    'rise for a year or two then make war
    search through their one inc thoughts
    then decide it couldn't be done'

    that phrase seems to say people have dreams, but aren't mentally incapable of truly living them. They give up easily.

    'all i see is all i know'

    another line that represents ignorance.

    'they never die, they just go to sleep one day'

    this line suggests people don't wonder about life. they don't ask why. bowie's interpretation of these people is that they don't understand life at all and he exagerates this viewpoint by saying they don't die, they just go to sleep one day.

    that's my interpretation of it anyways :P
    ejownz6on October 27, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIt may very well represent Bowie's prediction of the nature of a future generation. Children of the silent generation. Gen Xers. It sounds a bit different in recording style and song structure than much of his other work.
    Badoodon January 27, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis is about the christian right's ridiculous interpretation of their book of Revelation and the End Times theology made popular by those god-awful Left Behind books. Their BS martyr feelings that we are living in a secular age where THEY are a minority that is percecuted. What a lie! The majority of people in the U.S. are Christian and there is no threat being posed to these few fundies by their less ridiculous moderates or by atheists or secularists. But they suffer in their deluded deception, thinking the world is getting closer to it's end because (finally) homosexuals are getting the rights they deserve, and people are shrugging off supertitious views of the world.
    TheThornBirdson June 15, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think the guys David Bowie sings about in this song exist, and they have been around since human beings learned to speak, and judge each other (since Exodus). I will say nothing more about it.
    willharneyon October 22, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis song is about abortion. It took me forever to realize but once I did realize that, it is so obvious. Brilliant song and now the chorus means ten times more, knowing that he ACTUALLY means BABY when he says "baby".

    (Or in the chorus he could be giving a voice to the soon-to-be aborted soul in the womb. I still don't know about that part.)

    TheHeroicDavidBowieon November 25, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General Comment@TheHeroicDavidBowie lolololol you're kidding, right?

    That's the most ridiculous thing I've heard this week. Maybe this month, maybe even this year.

    How do you interpret this song as being about abortion? It is far from obvious how you came to this conclusion, unless you are projecting your own worldview onto Bowie's song (a worldview which, in light of your comment, it is unlikely Bowie shares).

    Are the "sons" the unborn babies? If so, then why do they "rise for a year or two then make war," "search through their one-inch thoughts then decide it couldn't be done?" Or are the "sons" the abortion-givers? If so, then the questions still stand; furthermore, why do they "make love only once but dream and dream," or "never die they just go to sleep one day?"

    And for god's sake... why would Bowie be singing to a baby, "let's find another way in" and "let's take another way down"?

    Let me remind you that Bowie wrote this in 1977. It is far more likely that "let's take another way down" refers to coming off of a drug high, and that many of the gloomy verses about Sons of the Silent Age refer obliquely, as if from a dream, to various men on various drugs.

    And of course this was right after Bowie started to clean up, himself. In 1977, Bowie would have been in Germany and decreasing his cocaine usage after a long time spent using all kinds of drugs. The previous year, he had overdosed a number of times.

    At the time he was also deeply interested in mythology and the occult. The song Quicksand, for instance, written in 1971, was full of references to the Golden Dawn and metaphysical notions Bowie himself had synthesized.

    So, abortion? Totally not. What then? I don't really know. Why not take it at face value? These men with blank looks, notebooks, crying and making love only once, rising for a year or two, "make war" whatever that means, then turning around and saying "it" couldn't be done--whatever that is, be it the war, or peace, or world government, some high achievement or plan of some sort. These characters and possibilities are interesting enough without foisting upon them some banal idea about abortion.
    lolololol00nothingon February 04, 2012   Link
  • 0
    General CommentTo be clear, I don’t mean the song is about abortion the political issue. It’s about aborted existences and by extension, existence itself. The chorus is the essence of existence singing to the baby in the womb ready to be aborted.

    Look at the format of the song. Two stanzas and one chorus. The first stanza is 7 normal lines, and three repeats of “Sons of the Silent Age”. The second stanza is 5 normal lines, and three repeats of Sons of the Silent Age.
    Sons of the Silent age = aborted existences.

    The first words in the first 5 normal lines in the first stanza are all related words, but directly conflicting with each other. “Stand”, “sit”, “lay”, “pace”, and “rise”. They are all mutually exclusive. (stand and rise are in the context they are used) So while the whole stanza is talking about sons of the silent age, since these 5 words are mutually exclusive each line is talking about different groups of sons of the silent age. In other words, all the different kinds of lives all the aborted existence would’ve had. You have to notice things like this. Bowie expertly sings the stanzas all together so you assume each line in the stanza builds on each other, but they are completely and utterly separate. He sings them all together to express how existence all blurs together.

    Look at each of these 5 lines. Each one is a one-line summary of a certain lifestyle/presence on this planet.

    Stand on platforms blank looks and note books (in charge, but oblivious)

    Sit in back rows of city limits (people SO close, but still isolated from society/people)

    Lay in bed coming and going on easy terms (either apathetic people, or people who would have had aborted an existence had they not been aborted themselves)

    Pace their rooms like a cell's dimensions (Thinkers! They’re the thinkers!)

    Rise for a year or two then make war (People who die young but make a huge impact.)

    The last two lines in the stanza step away from the contemplation of potential livelihoods the aborted would’ve had, and this is specified because they start with words “search” and “then”.

    Search through their one inch thoughts
    Then decided it couldn’t be done (these last two lines refer to the people depriving existences of existence on this planet.)

    Then you have the chorus. The chorus is the essence of existence itself crying out to the baby while it’s in the womb. Existence just isn’t going to let this created conceived human life form be deprived of existence! If it isn’t deemed worthy or lucky enough for Earth then it will find existence in some other way God Damn it!

    Baby, I'll never let you go
    All I see is all I know
    Let's find another way down
    (sons of sound and sons of sound)
    Baby, baby, I'll never let you down
    I can't stand another sound
    Let's take another way in (kicking the fucking door open for existence! We’re getting there baby.)

    So then you have the final stanza. This time there are only five normal lines. The first words in the first three lines are “listen”, “pick”, and “make”. These again, conflict with each other. You pick someone, or you make something, or you listen to something. These are all mutually exclusive. But they aren’t all related like the first five lines in the first stanza are, so Bowie broke each of the first three lines up with a “sons of the silent age” to make clear that each line was a standalone projection of a potential existence.

    Listen to tracks by Sam Therapy and King Dice (no clue what this means, but definitely looks like it could be a one-sentence summary of a livelihood)

    Pick up in bars and cry only once (people whose first experience with love is intense and all chips in but when it backfires they cry hard but then never cry again, and instead pick up people in bars instead. In fewer words, people who get their heart broken and give up on love.)

    Make love only once but dream and dream (too many interpretations to bother, but you’re lying if you don’t think this looks like a one-sentence summary of a potential lifestyle.)

    So finally you have the final two lines in the last stanza. The first stanza got away with only having unrelated words starting off the last two lines since the first 5 normal lines were related. But since the first three lines in this stanza are already unrelated, Bowie had to do more to make it clear the last two lines are a separate concept, so he starts both off with “they”. While the last two lines of the first stanza talk about people depriving the existences of life on Earth, these ones simply talk about how the existence in its earliest form experiences the transformation into nothingness (until it’s given existence again by the essence of existence itself)

    They don't walk they just glide in and out of life (they have life so short it’s just a blur)

    They never die, they just go to sleep one day (they don’t “die” because they find existence elsewhere. They go to sleep on their existence on this planet)

    Now it’s time for the very condensed version. Stanza one: five one-line summaries of potential pathways/presences the aborted existences would’ve had on this planet. And two lines about the decisions for their lives never to take place. Chorus: The essence of existence itself crying out to the about to be aborted fetus in the womb and promising it that it will find existence for it somewhere. Heaven? Another dimension? Recesses of David Bowie’s mind so he can write such sickeningly brilliant music? Stanza two: three one-line summaries of potential pathways the existences would’ve had. And two lines about them experiencing their conversion into temporary nothingness.
    TheHeroicDavidBowieon March 05, 2012   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe chorus is generic
    malfredon October 11, 2012   Link
  • 0
    General Comment“sons of the silent age” = the love that dare not speak its name.

    “stand on platforms, blank looks and note books”
    In Isherwood’s Berlin Stories “Mr. Norris Changes Trains” begins on a train platform with “blank looks” and notebooks. Bowie was in Berlin when he wrote the song.

    “sit in back rows of civil limits”
    Marginalization of civil rights.

    “lay in bed coming and going on easy terms”
    Promiscuity

    “Sons of the silent age”
    The love that dare not speak its name

    “pace their rooms like a cell’s dimension”
    Marginalization of civil rights. Literally, a jail cell.
    In 1977, homosexuality was ILLEGAL in numerous countries.

    “rise for a year or two then make war”
    Incipient political agitation, aka Gay Liberation, Act Up, etc

    “search through their one inch thoughts, then decide it couldn’t be done”
    Cynical rejection of political necessities.

    “Baby, I’ll never let you go”
    Emotional plea

    “All I see is all I know”
    Sensual reductionism, implied rejection of moral consequences.

    “Lets find another way down”
    Aka ‘go the way your blood beats.’ see James Baldwin.

    “I can’t stand another sound”
    Rejection of convention.

    “Lets take another way”
    … the way your blood beats. See James Baldwin

    “Sons of the silent age”
    ‘the love that dare not speak its name’

    “Listen to tracks by Sam Therapy and King Dice”
    Accept the political convention of Psychology’s DSM, the APA’s oppressive ‘diagnosis’, a capitulation to the status quo.

    “pick up in bars and cry only once”
    Capitulation to oppression and promiscuity

    “make love only once but dream and dream”
    Capitulation, but with hope for the future

    “they don’t walk, they just glide in and out of life
    They never die, they just go to sleep one day”
    The ultimate capitulation, that life doesn’t matter, it isn’t real, death is not the end…
    marginalizedon October 07, 2013   Link

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