Rock on -- gold dust woman Take your silver spoon And dig your grave Heartless challenge Pick your path and I'll pray Wake up in the morning See your sunrise -- loves -- to go down Lousy lovers -- pick their prey But they never cry out loud Cry out... Well, did she make you cry Make you break down Shatter your illusions of love And is it over now -- do you know how Pick up the pieces and go home Rock on -- ancient queen Follow those who pale In your shadow Rulers make bad lovers You better put your kingdom up for sale Up for sale Well, did she make you cry Make you break down Shatter your illusions of love And is it over now -- do you know how Pick up the pieces and go home Well, did she make you cry Make you break down Shatter your illusions of love Now, tell me, is it over now -- do you know how Pick up the pieces and go home Go home And go home... Oooh, pale shadow of a woman Black widow Pale shadow of a dragon Gold dust woman Oooh, pale shadow of a woman Black widow Oooh, pale shadow, she's a dragon Gold dust woman...woman...woman...
Live Versions Appear on Sheryl Crow and Friends: Live from Central Park (1999) and "The Dance" (1997)
Rough outtake and demo versions appears on the Rumour Reissue (2004)
Courtney Love once asked Stevie what she was talking about in this song - and Stevie didn't know! She said something like, "I don't remember - it couldn't have all been about cocaine, could it?" But there's no doubt she was really into cocaine (that probably affected her memory!), as was most of FM at that time. I think Mick and Stevie were the most into it from what I've heard, though. Anyway, cocaine was the "gold dust" that causes her to "dig [her] grave" (obviously, I'm seeing Stevie as the "Gold Dust Woman"). As for lovers as prey, maybe she was talking about the destructive effect she had on Lindsey.
The chorus is incredibly bitter, however. "Well, did she make you cry, make you break down, shatter your illusions of love? And is it over now, do you know how to pick up the pieces and go home?" These lines make you cringe - she's really rubbing salt in the wound! This is unusual for Stevie - her songs usually are much more conciliatory or wistful, but not so acrimonious - probably because she's the one who ended the relationship. But it's no surprise that she does not consider Lindsey free from blame, as she expresses in songs like Silver Springs.
I think, in the second verse, when she says "rulers make bad lovers", she was talking about a domineering and controlling Lindsey, and her own need for control. They were both "rulers", they both wanted the power, and so they made "bad lovers." This, I believe, is the main reason Stevie felt like she couldn't remain in the relationship. Not an infidelity on his part, or some kind of dramatic incident, but her increasing desire, as she became more and more famous through songs like Rhiannon, to escape any situation where she felt like she didn't have control.
BIRD IN FLIGHT speculates:
My take on this great song is that Stevie wrote this song ABOUT herself and TO herself and that Stevie IS the G.D.W. (Example: "Sober Stevie" writes to "Gold Dust (or Cocaine) Stevie" about how she didn't like the way she felt about herself after doing so much coke and all that has occurred (or not occurred) because of her cocaine problem.
I believe that in the first verse, "Rock on G.D.W., take your silver spoon, dig your grave" Stevie is sarcastically saying to herself, "Go ahead, Stevie, keep doing this coke, you are digging your own grave" and that the silver spoon portion either refers to herself as having come from a wealthy family or having made herself wealthy. In other words, she has a silver spoon and things should be fine or comfortable but she is using that same silver spoon to make herself miserable and purchase "gold dust" cocaine, and knowingly, digging her own grave.
Second verse, "Heartless challenge, pick your path and I'll pray" I believe refers to a rather "morning after" thing. I think it ties into the statement about the sunrise going down. It ties into "wake up in the morning, see your sunrise loves to go down". This means she has been doing heartless things (probably to herself, as you certainly can't be taking good care of yourself when doing drugs) and has picked the wrong path to go down. Next, the wake up in the morning part means when the day is new and fresh and the sun is coming up and the birds are singing, etc., she has totally regretted the path she has picked (doesn't want to face the day) and sees that while the sun is coming up for others, her own sun is going down and she feels she needs to pray about her lousy coke-induced choices (paths).
The verse about Lousy Lovers picking their prey but never crying out loud.... perhaps she is referring to a lousy lover, like a mistake, and she was their prey, and that the person doesn't cry out loud because the person really doesn't care about her....
The verse "did she make you cry, make you breakdown, shatter your illusions of love, is it over now, do you know how, to pick up the pieces and go home" For this portion of the song I really believe she,"Sober Stevie", may be asking herself "did she (cocaine- induced- GoldDust- Stevie) make you cry, make you breakdown (like, is the cocaine, party-girl part of Stevie the one responsible for making the sober Stevie so unhappy, tearful, did "she" shatter the illusions about love?" and further asks herself "Is it over now" which I take to mean she is asking herself, "are you going to quit doing this now? Are you going to quit damaging yourself, quit shattering your dreams?" and then the picking up the pieces and going home I believe refers to how she has to face herself, and look the people that love her most (mom, dad, self, maybe?) in the eye, and is she strong enough to do that, does she actually know HOW? That is what she means about "going home", about facing the music.
"Rock on Ancient Queen" (I don't know, maybe she felt like she was looking old because of cocaine abuse, no sleep)
"Follow those who pale in your shadow" (I think this refers to the fact that she was hanging around people who didn't care about her, following what they told her, those who hide from the light of day and don't care if "Gold Dust Woman" digs her own grave. Which would be very much UNLIKE those who truly LOVE her and whom she must face when she "goes home").
"Rulers make bad lovers, you better put your kingdom up for sale" (I think she is admitting to herself that she will never find love and be totally happy when she is conducting this type of life, she is making a "bad lover" and the kingdom refers to an illusion that she can live a normal, happy life while on the coke, so shed better sell that pipe dream of hers, sell that kingdom).
Pale Shadow refers to how she really isn't living her life out in the open, therefore her shadow can only be pale because she isn't living in enough light for it to be anything other than pale, and the black widow part refers to her "rulers make bad lovers", as "GoldDust- Cocaine- Stevie" will kill every relationship "Sober-Stevie" tries to have, just like a black widow spider kills her mate after mating.
The dragon part obviously refers to something about cocaine.
All I can say is that this song is about a desperate Stevie for help!
She is caught up in the addiction and is angry. The thing about the dragon, etc. is..its all about anger she has with herself for becoming dependant on such a bad drug.
It seems to me that much of the mystery of "Gold Dust Woman" results from its tremendous power - impelled by deep personal pain, or even anguish - combined with the confusion contributed by Stevie herself, who at various points has indicated the song to be about: 1) Cocaine; and, 2) (Lindsey's) groupies; or, 3) Lindsey; or, 4) Stevie herself. And, in fact, at moments it seems that any one of the above could actually be the subject, seen through the dark haze of drugs and failed love..
"Gold Dust Woman" is about a relationship between Stevie and Lindsey that is clearly over, and over in a way that can only be felt by a woman, where there is only bitter fulfillment in watching the one she once loved suffer utter emotional devastation, and where she sees herself through tears of anger and self-pity for continuing to care.
So, it seems that the song may actually be written to all three parties in this relationship, starting out by addressing the "Groupie" with a warning and a curse:
Rock on -- gold dust woman
Take your silver spoon
And dig your grave
This verse summarizes everything that one needs to know about this faceless woman - she's the new rock-and-roll "gold digger", in search of celebrity, wealth, and the self-destructive high of cocaine.
Stevie then continues with an admission that the groupie is more like a mean, uncaring, and soulless force of nature (somehow the image of a vampire comes to mind) that may be impossible to defeat:
Pick your path and I'll pray
And, in the next verse Stevie continues to draw the vision of groupie as (mesmerizing?) predator:
Lousy lovers -- pick their prey
But they never cry out loud
Lousy lovers because love (vs. sex) is not what they're interested in getting from their hypnotized & quiet "prey", who have no inkling of the emotional destruction they're about to suffer.
The meaning of the chorus is evident. Clearly aimed at Lindsey, it offers no sympathy - just bitter, taunting criticism of his naiveté; the words and voice feel like those of one (Stevie) who's already suffered through the same thing at the hands of another (Lindsey?) - and also makes it clear that Stevie's relationship with Lindsey is over ("Pick up the pieces and go home", as opposed to, "...come home...").
The final section of GDW is written to Stevie herself. Melancholy and dark, they are the words of a woman who, despite being at the acme of her art, has given up, who has lost the deepest emotional struggle for love and is left with nothing but empty bitterness. She fears that paradoxically, the art that has created her "kingdom", that has made her Queen, has also in the end made her a "bad lover". By giving her so much, it has perhaps taken away all that really matters. And, it has drawn to her those who, compared to the Queen, have little or no substance (unclear whether this is spiritual, artistic, or emotional- or perhaps all three); who can do no more than "Pale in her shadow..."
Sadly, for all her regal substance, Stevie can only continue, perhaps out of reflex - or perhaps out of not knowing what other course to take - to:
Follow those who pale
In your shadow
Those who she follows seem to be Lindsey, as well as (we're assuming) the groupies. And putting her kingdom up for sale will not automatically lead to a happy ending. All it will do is take her away from bearing daily witness to those causing her pain (and the pain of the man she loves/loved).
I think that this "woman " is a kind of a gold dust coke witch that Lindsey goes to see for sexual excitement and perverse fun..he knows he shouldn't go back..but has and is almost addicted to the thrill-- somehow he realizes that it is not a good thing to do and resolves to "never go back again"..is this little witch Stevie?? Could be..
Just a guy's perspective..
Stevie has said that this song is about her cocaine addiction. The first line " Rock on gold dust woman, take your silver spoon and dig your grave" sums up this whole song. Stevie was so determined to make it that the only way she could have enough energy was at first by doing coke. Eventually she became seriously dependent. Simply put, this song is about the trade offs of rock and roll success.
She says another reason she did coke at first was for stage courage. Stevie suffered from (and still does) stage fright. In an interview she has said before every show to this day she gets extremely nervous but as soon as she takes the stage she's totally fine.