"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, 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

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