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Marlene On The Wall

Even if I am in love with you
All this to say, what's it to you?
Observe the blood, the rose tattoo
Of the fingerprints on me from you
Other evidence has shown
That you and I are still alone
We skirt around the danger zone
And don't talk about it later

Marlene watches from the wall
Her mocking smile says it all
As she records the rise and fall
Of every soldier passing
But the only soldier now is me
I'm fighting things I cannot see
I think it's called my destiny
That I am changing
Marlene on the wall

I walk to your house in the afternoon
By the butcher shop with the sawdust strewn
"Don't give away the goods too soon"
Is what she might have told me
And I tried so hard to resist
When you held me in your handsome fist
And reminded me of the night we kissed
And of why I should be leaving

Marlene watches from the wall
Her mocking smile says it all
As she records the rise and fall
Of every man who's been here
But the only one here now is me
I'm fighting things I cannot see
I think it's called my destiny
That I am changing
Marlene on the wall

single cover
Single Release : 08.1985
Lyrics : Suzanne Vega
Copyright : © 1985 Waifersongs Ltd. / AGF Music Ltd.
Album : Suzanne Vega

"Suzanne Vega" - tracklist :

Notes:

Suzanne on the title of the song:
"This song is called "Marlene on the Wall" and it was written for a poster of Marlene Dietrich that was on my wall at one time"
In concert: WDR2 Radio Session, Koln, Germany, February 28, 2002

"The idea of using a poster as a reference point is a very pop idea. It's a song about Marlene Dietrich. You kind of get that from it, or it's a song about a relationship. As opposed to "Today I am a small blue thing" in which some people think I'm speaking in code, or it's a riddle they have to break. It's more like "Let's pretend," like a kid's game. If you were a small blue thing, what would you be? Well, you'd be like a marble or an eye. It's pretty straight-forward."
Interview with Paul Zollo in Song Talk, Vol. 2, #16, Winter 1991, also published in "Language", 5:1 August 1992, (http://www.vega.net/songtal1.htm) trancription by Steve Zwanger

Suzanne explaing the motivation to write the song:
"It was written for the actress Marlene Dietrich. That's the Marlene that I am talking about in this song. And the very first time that I ever saw Marlene Dietrich was one night when I was watching television, I was in my apartment sitting in the East Village in New York City which is where I'm from. So there I was and I turned on the TV set. It was one of those old sets that take a while to warm up. So I turned on the knob and you get the little tiny dot in the middle of the screen. And I hear this man's voice saying, "You have lead many men to death with your body." I was like "Alright!". because I didn't see anything, you know, I didn't know who the guy was, who he was talking to. And for a split second I had this fantasy, what if someone came to my door and said that to me? What would I say? And I thought that I would probably apologize. I would probably be like "Oh, I'm terribly sorry, are you sure it was me? It might have been so-and-so down the hall." So, I was curious to know what who ever he was talking to would say. Of course right then the picture came on and there's Marlene Dietrich's beautiful face in close-up. And her answer, of course, which is the only proper and logical one "Give me a kiss". So right from that moment I was just hooked. I watched the rest of the movie. I became a huge Marlene Dietrich fan. The photograph on the wall I'm singing about in the song, is one that someone had given me, back in the days when I was hanging out at Folk City. They gave it to me because they knew that I was a fan of her's. I had it framed and had it on my wall. The song is written from the point of view of the photograph of Marlene Dietrich looking down into my bedroom at that point when I was in my early twenties."
In concert: El Rey Theater, Los Angeles, CA, USA, November 20, 1996 (http://www.vega.net/elreytr96.htm) transcription by William C. Andrews

Suzanne on the character of Marlene Dietrich:
"I loved Marlene Dietrich for her image. Just her image. And that cruel streak which I find attractive. Then I read biographies and feel sad. Along with her cruel streak there's all this other stuff that I wish I didn't know."
….kindness to me is only powerful if it has the cruel streak behind it. If someone is kind all the time under all circumstances, they're just simple-minded. Kindness is only worth something if you have the cruel streak to back it up."
Salon.com interview, by David Nowman, February 17, 1999

Suzanne on the song:
"Well, it's accessible and people do like it, but for me, personally, inside myself, I feel I had something in mind, and I kind of did it, it was stylish, it was interesting, but I didn't feel it was quite the bulls-eye that some of the others were. The idea of using a poster as a reference point is a very pop idea. It's a song about Marlene Dietrich. You kind of get that from it, or it's a song about a relationship. "
Interview with Paul Zollo in Song Talk, Vol. 2, #17, Spring 1992, also published in "Language", 5:1 August 1992, (http://www.vega.net/songtal2.htm) trancription by Steve Zwanger