Song of the Day #2,865: ‘The Man Who Sold the World’ – David Bowie

bowie_man_who_sold_worldWhen I decided to take a deep dive into David Bowie’s catalog, I started by Googling every list of his “best albums” I could find. My goal was to come up with a top ten that averaged out those lists.

Bowie released 27 studio albums over the course of his career, but the same dozen or so dominated every list I found. In the end, I settled on 13 albums that I bought (or already owned) and studied for the purposes of these theme weeks.

I will cover those albums chronologically, starting with 1970’s The Man Who Sold the World, Bowie’s third full-length record and the first to really put him on the map.

This is a guitar-heavy album with plenty of glam and prog touches. Sometimes it veers into camp, as in a spoken-word interlude on ‘All the Madmen’ that’s straight out of Spinal Tap (“oh how they danced, the little children of Stonehenge, beneath the haunted moon.”) Elsewhere it feels thoroughly ahead of its time.

I don’t know if Jack White considers Bowie an influence, but ‘She Shook Me Cold’ sounds like a White Stripes song recorded five years before he was born. And ‘Saviour Machine’ must have been in the back of Radiohead’s mind when they made OK Computer.

It took me a little while to warm to The Man Who Sold the World but once I did I really got it. It doesn’t feel like a cohesive song cycle so much as a collection of very different but very good songs. Some of it is a bit mannered but it definitely bears the stamp of its unique creator.

Best of all is the title track, a Bowie classic that Nirvana honored in its celebrated Unplugged appearance. This song, like Bowie’s best tracks, is simultaneously unsettling and uplifting.

[Verse 1]
We passed upon the stair
We spoke of was and when
Although I wasn’t there
He said I was his friend
Which came as some surprise
I spoke into his eyes, “I thought you died alone
A long long time ago”

[Chorus]
Oh no, not me
I never lost control
You’re face to face
With the man who sold the world

[Verse 2]
I laughed and shook his hand
And made my way back home
I searched for form and land
For years and years I roamed
I gazed a gazeless stare, at all the millions here
We must have died alone
A long long time ago

[Chorus]
Who knows? not me
We never lost control
You’re face to face
With the man who sold the world

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One thought on “Song of the Day #2,865: ‘The Man Who Sold the World’ – David Bowie

  1. Dana says:

    I am quite impressed with your dedication to this Bowie tribute, purchasing and listening to so many albums. I look forward to learning more about Bowie as my familiarity with his substantial discography has been scant.

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