Suffragette City single – FranceWritten by: David Bowie
Recorded: 4 February 1972
Producers: Ken Scott, David Bowie

Released: 16 June 1972

Available on:
The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars
Bowie At The Beeb
Live Santa Monica ’72
Ziggy Stardust: The Motion Picture
David Live
Cracked Actor (Live Los Angeles ’74)
I’m Only Dancing (The Soul Tour 74)
Live Nassau Coliseum ’76
Stage
Welcome To The Blackout (Live London ’78)

Personnel

David Bowie: vocals, acoustic guitar
Mick Ronson: electric guitar, piano, ARP synthesizer
Trevor Bolder: bass guitar
Woody Woodmansey: drums

‘Suffragette City’ was originally released in April 1972 as the b-side of David Bowie’s ‘Starman’ single, and later on his fifth album The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars.

‘Suffragette City’ was just balls to the wall and go for it. It’s one of those funny grooves: you listen to it and you think ‘Is that all there is to it?’, but when I tried different beats the song was diminished. Somehow the beat that is on there keeps the listener involved and doesn’t let up. You are in there until the end.
Woody Woodmansey
Spider from Mars: My Life with Bowie

Bowie adopted a number of slang phrases on ‘Suffragette City’. The repeated “Hey man” Americanism in the verses was joined by Bowie’s own neologisms (“She’s a total blam-blam”), some innuendo (“She had to squeeze it but she… and then she…”), and even some Nadsat, Anthony Burgess’s invented idiom from A Clockwork Orange (“say droogie don’t crash here”).

The celebrated phrase “Wham bam, thank you ma’am”, meanwhile, was taken by Bowie from the title of a piece on Charles Mingus’s 1962 album Oh Yeah. A song titled ‘Wham Bam Thank You Mam’ had also been the b-side of the Small Faces’ 1969 single ‘Afterglow Of Your Love’. The phrase was suggested by Bowie’s old schoolfriend George Underwood.

I remember being at Haddon Hall when he first played ‘Suffragette City’. And at the end of the performance – he just played it on a twelve-string – I shouted out, ‘Wham, bam, thank you, ma’am!’ which was a song from a Charlie Mingus album, Oh Yeah. And it obviously ended up on the record. After Ziggy started working, he took real pleasure in moulding his success.
George Underwood
David Bowie: A Life, Dylan Jones

Bowie originally offered ‘Suffragette City’ to the band Mott the Hoople, who turned it down in January 1972. In March that year, bass guitarist Pete ‘Overend’ Watts called Bowie to tell him the band would be no more after their current UK tour.

Watts had Bowie’s number from the demo tape of ‘Suffragette City’. The conversation resulted in Bowie writing ‘All The Young Dudes’ for the band.

Overend, who had always been a big fan of Bowie, phoned him up. He’d got his phone number from a tape David sent us of ‘Suffragette City’, which he thought we might like to do for a single. He said, ‘The band’s split, y’know, what’s happening with you?’ – hoping for some job as a bass player, maybe. David was quite shocked that the band had broken and said, ‘Listen, don’t do anything, I’ll work something out, you mustn’t break up.’
Dale Griffin, drums, Mott the Hoople
Changes: The David Bowie Story, BBC Radio 1, May 1976

The ‘Young Americans’ single was released in the UK on 21 February. The b-side was a live recording of ‘Suffragette City’ from the David Live album.

The studio version of ‘Suffragette City’ was released as a single in 1976 to promote the ChangesOneBowie compilation but it failed to chart. The Station To Station song ‘Stay’ was the b-side.