"The Width of a Circle" as written by and David Bowie....
In the corner of the morning in the past
I would sit and blame the master first and last
All the roads were straight and narrow
And the prayers were small and yellow
And the rumour spread that I was aging fast
Then I ran across a monster who was sleeping
By a tree
And I looked and frowned and the monster was me

Well, I said hello and I said hello
And I asked, why not, and I replied, I don't know
So we asked a simple black bird, who was happy as can be
And he laughed insane and quipped Kahlil Gibran
And I cried for all the others till the day was nearly through
For I realized that God's a young man too

Ho
Oh I said so long and I waved bye-bye
And I smashed my soul and traded my mind
Got laid by a young bordello
Who was vaguely half asleep
For which my reputation swept back home in drag
And the moral of this magic spell
Negotiates my hide
When God did take my logic for a ride
(Riding along)

Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh
Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh

He swallowed his pride and puckered his lips
And showed me the leather belt round his hips
My knees were shaking my cheeks aflame
He said you'll never go down to the Gods again
(Turn around, go back)

He struck the ground a cavern appeared
And I smelt the burning pit of fear
We crashed a thousand yards below
I said do it again, do it again
(Turn around, go back)

His nebulous body swayed above
His tongue swollen with devil's love
The snake and I, a venom high
I said do it again, do it again
(Turn around, go back)

Breathe, breathe, breathe deeply
And I was seething, breathing deeply
Spitting sentry, horned and tailed
Waiting for you, oh

Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh
Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh


Lyrics submitted by lilavati

"The Width of a Circle" as written by David Bowie

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, BMG RIGHTS MANAGEMENT US, LLC, TINTORETTO MUSIC

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The Width of a Circle song meanings
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18 Comments

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  • +3
    Song MeaningClearly Bowie's having some fun with this fun... if you know what I mean. I mean I feel like its obvious that Bowie is singing about sleeping with a man.
    Ccorkoon April 28, 2013   Link
  • +2
    General CommentWhat an epic way to open "The Man Who Sold The World." Partially a faustian tale -- the singer appears to have sold his soul to the devil for rock and roll stardom, partially a metaphysical cautionary -- he hints at the retribution that takes place when one sides with the dark side ("And the moral of this magic spell
    Negotiates my hide
    When God did take my logic for a ride.") In regards to the above comment, I agree with everything except "Shame about the second half of the song." What? The guitar work is at it's psychedelic best then and the psuedo-folk outro is lovely in it's near religiousness. I think all of the elements lend themself to creating what is one of Bowie's greatest opening numbers. Also worth noting is the similarity in the opening riff to the patriotic song "This Land Is Your Land" as well as the subtle homoeroticism in his description of his "dance with the devil" -- as well as his general disinterest in the "young bordello."
    davidbeauyon February 12, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI think you all are WAY overanalyzing this thing. It's just a typically human struggle between doing what's right but difficult (god's path) and what's pleasurable but easy (satan's path), and facing the less-than-divine aspects of yourself (the monster). In this case, the figure in the song ends up in Hell-oops... The imagery of the lyrics is pretty bog-standard rock-n-roll-religious stuff. Not too far removed from the stuff coming out of the likes of Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, etc.

    Good song, though, one of my favorites of Bowies, on one of my favorite Bowie albums.
    telegramsam17on October 22, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI'll keep this short cause if I go into detail I'll go on forever;)I think this song is about a youth that doesn't want to age,when he sees the monster and refers to it as him self It could be an aged version of him.So after seeing what he'd be like in a few years he decides to live live life to the full as in sex,drugs,alcohol(smashed my soul and traded my mind)But the these things make his mind so hazy that in the line(got laid by a young bordello I was faintly half asleep)he doesn't realize the wrong of what he is doing. The bordello then reveals himself to be a demon,and sends the youth to hell, where the devil then commits sexual acts on him(his nebulous body swayed above his tongue swollen with devils love)and although the youth feels the pleasure of it(I said do it again do it again)his life has become evil and sinful.I didn't keep it short did I lol oh well=D One of my favorite songs=)<3<3<3
    ZiggySaidToZaneon September 11, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General CommentTo me, this song envelopes several of the parables and themes in Also Sprach Zarathustra. Especially the second half of the song. "Turn around go back" is the spirit of gravity. "Do it again, do it again" overcoming once more, eternal recurrence. But, as it appears, it is seemingly a sexual encounter with a "devil". Regardless, Nietzsche's work did influence parts of this album.
    NuclearFunkometeron March 22, 2012   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationThe song is about realising your sexuality and rejecting not speicifically religion. I think he's using God as a metaphor for society and their expectations.

    After experiencing some life, he realises that he needs to look at himself . Maybe after having sex with a person ( maybe a religious one ) while not quite awake ( for some reason)"I was vaguely half asleep...my reputation swept back home in drag" .. " the moral of this magic spell negotiates my hide when God did take my logic for a ride.
    "After all, at the start of the song he sings that his path before was " straight and narrow"

    He looks at himself and his desires "I looked and frowned ....and the monster was me".In other words, he was the same as that person who seduced him.

    Later, he wants and experiences on the seven deadly sins " lust " Hence the description is more of a devil lust experience. " he said you'll never go down to the gods again."

    The background voices are the strains of his concious " turn around go back " i.e. don't live this way . battling the temptation but " I said do it again, do it again".

    Given what has been well documented about is social life at this stage and him dressing in drag for the album's original cover, the fact his manager kenneth Pitt wanted him to be a spokesman for the gay community, and the continued homsexual references in the Ziggy songs "squawking like a pink monkey bird " " john I'm only dancing " and lines in "velvet goldmine" ..and the gay theme in Sweet Thing/Candidate and exploration of gay masturbation in "Time" I think Bowie used sexual ambiguity and gay themes throughout his songs in this era . Ironically, he's come the WIDTH OF A CIRCLE having seemingly settled in a heterosexual relationship and at peace with himself. Good for him I say.
    ACallejaon January 20, 2013   Link
  • +1
    General CommentGiven that Bowie used the cut-up method of randomising lyrics it is always a bit of a stretch trying to find a simple explanation or theme in his lyrics but as far as I can make out it seems to be about a young man who is conflicted between a religious upbringing and his new found desire to suck dick. Seriously. Look at the Crowley Tarot card of 'The Devil'.
    So the deal is young David gets seduced by a more experienced and self assured and probably older man... and he likes it. He will from now on only kneel to suck dick and not kneel in church. ( You'll never go down to the Gods again). The fellatio references are all over this song: Breathe breathe breathe deeply (!), He showed me the leather belt round his hips... my knees were shaking, my cheeks aflame...Tongue swollen with devil's love..." Width of a circle indeed!!
    Tell me I'm wrong!
    mousebearon February 18, 2013   Link
  • 0
    General CommentGreat song. Nice guitar work by Ronson, and the vocals are great. Shame about the secodn half of the song though.

    Is it just me, or do the lyrics seem to be about someone having sex with God/Devil?
    spawnofebilon December 16, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentOk sk8erboy this is the second time ive run into one of your dipshit comments.

    davidbeauy had a great, logical interpretation of the song and is contributing a lot more than i've ever seen in one of your posts.

    So, if you have a problem with bowie then have it to yourself or present your stance in a reasonable manner.


    I think you can see Dylan's influence on bowie in these lyrics with the imagery and vagueness he sometimes uses here.
    laocoonon February 28, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI could be totally, completely, and utterly incorrect on this but my interpretation is thus:

    In the begining the narrator does not follow god or get along with him for various reasons, such as that gods path is too straight and narrow, while the narrator wants to be different. He finally sees himself however as a monster.
    He is in disbelief until he asks a blackbird which tells him to love others if he wants to be forgiven (Kahlil Gibran wrote that redemption is possible through love). So he tried to forgive and love everyone else including god. But instead of following through he fornicates with a prostitute. He then meets god who shows him the consequences of his actions (the leather belt around his hips could be for lashing sinners) and then he drops him into hell where he meets the devil. In the end he is angry. HE goes on to say how there is a guiard to hell waiting to let you pass as well.
    I believe that the drums at the very end emphasize this point because they sound like a slave driver.

    Like I said I probably am wrong but this is my opinion anyways.
    farrellon July 26, 2006   Link

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