Something kind of hit me today
I looked at you and wondered if you saw things my way
People will hold us to blame
It hit me today, it hit me today

We're taking it hard all the time
Why don't we pass it by?
Just reply, you've changed your mind
We're fighting with the eyes of the blind
Taking it hard, taking it hard

Yet now
We feel that we are paper, choking on you nightly
They tell me "Son, we want you, be elusive, but don't walk far"
For we're breaking in the new boys, deceive your next of kin
For you're dancing where the dogs decay, defecating ecstasy
You're just an ally of the leecher
Locator for the virgin King, but I love you in your fuck-me pumps
And your nimble dress that trails
Oh, dress yourself, my urchin one, for I hear them on the rails
Because of all we've seen, because of all we've said
We are the dead

One thing kind of touched me today
I looked at you and counted all the times we had laid
Pressing our love through the night
Knowing it's right, knowing it's right

Now I'm hoping some one will care
Living on the breath of a hope to be shared
Trusting on the sons of our love
That someone will care, someone will care

But now
We're today's scrambled creatures, locked in tomorrow's double feature
Heaven's on the pillow, its silence competes with hell
It's a twenty-four hour service, guaranteed to make you tell
And the streets are full of press men
Bent on getting hung and buried
And the legendary curtains are drawn 'round Baby Bankrupt
Who sucks you while you're sleeping
It's the theater of financiers
Count them, fifty 'round a table
White and dressed to kill

Oh caress yourself, my juicy
For my hands have all but withered
Oh dress yourself my urchin one, for I hear them on the stairs
Because of all we've seen, because of all we've said
We are the dead
We are the dead
We are the dead

Lyrics submitted by saturnine

"We Are the Dead" as written by David Bowie

Lyrics © BMG Rights Management, TINTORETTO MUSIC, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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We Are the Dead song meanings
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  • +4
    General CommentDavid Bowie is evidently versed in the art of the double entendre, and many of his songs rival even Bob Dylan's Desolation Row in lyrical complexity. This is most likely one of those songs. To me, We Are The Dead is a song of juxtaposition and comparison - the juxtaposition of tender affection and corporate avarice, and the comparison between totalitarian oppression and prostitution. The melancholy musings of the narrator as he regards his lover are broken the grotesque imagery of a corrupted society. Towards the end of the song, the juxtaposition disappears, as the beauty of a fragile relationship is crushed by the weight of the world.

    The entirety of the first chorus appears to be an explicit description of street prostitution. The narrator is pimped out, instructed to stay close enough that his employers can maintain a hold over him, but also to keep a low profile. He prowls the streets and deceives other young people down on their luck, seducing them into his world of shame and abuse. Despite the allusion that the narrator does in fact carry out these tasks, he seems to feel even more ashamed for his participation in the deconstruction of innocence. Just another pathetic minion carrying out the commands of yet another pathetic minion, and, for whatever reason, he is powerless to rebel.

    So the night-walking narrator of We Are The Dead is something of an alter-ego to O'Brien and Winston of Nineteen Eighty-Four. The Ministry of Truth is symbolised by a brothel or group of pimps, and prostitution is another word for fascism. It's fascinating to get a look behind the scenes and into the mind of the enemy. O'Brien clearly possessed humanity and even a sense of individuality at some point, but he has allowed himself to become the shadow of a monster. In blind service, he continues to convert more souls into withered caricatures of living people, passing down his legacy of guilt and colourless existence. Winston and Julia are the innocents in the song, and O'Brien seeks to turn them into copies of himself.

    And they're breaking. Winston looks at Julia or Julia looks at Winston, and both wonder whether or not they should simply give up and give in. When all is said and done, they do. They give up they're ideals, each other, and ultimately themselves. In the moment of the couple's capture, Winston implores Julia:

    "Oh, caress yourself my juicy,
    For my hands have all but withered"

    Thereby implying that his hands have not completely withered and are not completely dead. Of course, we know that both hero and heroine will be dead. A betrayal, although constituting weakened character, does not specifically indicate an utter lack of humanity on a person's part. It is the final betrayal in Nineteen Eight-Four that speaks of this deficiency. So who are The Dead? They are Winston, Julia, O'Brien. They are all who came before them and all that will follow after them, although even as they lay symbolically dying, they pray that someone will survive in a world where they themselves could not.

    So there you have it: David Bowie's intellectually and emotionally stimulating masterpiece converted into my own especial brand of philosophical masturbation. Clearly, I Am The Dead.

    NellieWhiskeyon April 29, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis one is most definitely about Winston and Julia in "1984", a couple who are two of the only real rebels in a totalitarian, freakishly paranoid and emotionless society. The line, "Son, we want you,
    Be elusive but don't walk far," is especially a clue, as it makes reference to O'Brien, a character in the book who poses as an insurrectionary leader to attract the couple, but is then outed as a member of the Ministry of Truth, a group that tortures and occasionally kills anyone daring to question Big Brother.
    WolfTicketson June 21, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General CommentBowie is a master. This is a great song and the delivery in his voice are excellent. He sets the mood, and then really creates a masterpiece...what other rock star would sing this song?
    Motown1on September 10, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis is the fragment of the book "1984" which inspired Bowie:

    She did not understand that there was no such thing as happiness, that the only victory lay in the far future, long after you were dead, that from the moment of declaring war on the Party it was better to think of yourself as a corpse.
    "We are the dead", he said.
    Biggeston October 09, 2017   Link
  • 0
    General CommentEerie, sweet, and sad - like life in a paranoid emotionless society would be.
    coo2kachooon June 01, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI know the song is about Winston and Julia but I have sort of adapted this song to be about the end of a relationship. Maybe when the couple realizes they should just cut their losses but it's never that easy... Oh, it's such a song. Makes me cry every time I hear it.
    Bonehead XLon June 03, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentWinston & Julia? I have not read the book, but those two seem like John Lennon & his mum!! His middle name was Winston, her name was Julia
    nagromnaion September 16, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis song was written more than 30 years ago. In the 70's, 30 years before that was the forties. How much changed between the 40's & 70's, than the 70's & now. Listen to this track with young, new ears & there is very little advancement in music, or the arts. All of Bowie's stuff from that period stands the test of time.
    nagromnaion October 14, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Comment'Oh, dress yourself, my urchin one
    For I hear them on the rails
    Because of all we've seen, because of all we've said
    We are the dead'
    Directly reminds me of the part where Wintson and Julia read the book and are then captured in the attic of the shop. The 'rails' part being the rails of the stairs.
    flavour countryon March 20, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentDamnit, 1984 is so famous and I still haven't read it. This dude kept telling me that this whole album was shit, but I don't think so. "because of all we've said - we are the dead" that part gets me, not sure what it means but I feel it. It DOES stand the test of time.
    DJgifon June 06, 2009   Link

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