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Bowie Essays (1 Viewer)


Senior Member
The Man Who Sold The World

The lament of plaintive chords, the short-lived sunshine of cheering, reassuring Bowie braving the hordes facing the man who sold the world, the finale of mournful, flamenco-like guitar wailing in one voice with him – it made me write something like a resolution to the song:

The Man Who Shook The World

I braved a freezing scare -
They told me he was fair -
My dreams were unprepared.
They said he was aware

Of the world and all the ice,
And the running of the mice,
Of how we had made a clone,
Of his magnum bungalow.

“Oh yes, that’s me,
It’s me at the controls,
You placed
Your fate
With The Man Who Shook The World.”

I bowed I raved I wept.
He let me hold the dome.
He stopped the time. I slept,
And saw our sad genome.

I heard the future clear,
Bulldozers and the fear,
We must have thrown the stone,
But failed to see the drone.

“You did. Not me.
You tried and lost control.
You placed
Your fate
With the Man Who Shook the World.”

Does this capure the imagery, or continue anything from within the song?


Senior Member
Teflon, I swear I will get to this :p .

My internet's collasped at home (on my break at tafe right now), I will write miniature essays for this thread soon...


Senior Member
On Bowieaudio he looks appropirately dressed up for thsi song - looks like he's tired, unshaven and in a drab coat.

But what a transformation for "All the young dudes!"


Senior Member
The Man Who Sold The World - Miniature Essay #1

‘The Man Who Sold The World’ is probably one of Bowie’s most popular songs from the 70s – after ‘Ziggy Stardust’. It’s not the most popular song overall with fans, which would probably be either ‘Heroes’ or ‘Modern Love’ only because he produced these two in the mainstream and both are kind of looked down upon by hardcore fans. Most regulars know of those two by him and that’s pretty much about it.

Except the first mini-essay aren’t talking about those and when I eventually write essays for those two, I’ll butcher them to my heart’s desire (well, I’ll butcher ‘Modern Love’…)

I start with saying ‘The Man Who Sold The World’ is one of the more popular because it’s one of Bowie’s personal favourites. He plays it pretty much at every concert (he played it almost every concert on the Reality tour) but surprisingly that despite this, it isn’t featured on the Best of Bowie CD and DVD. It’s probably pretty inspirational to other artists, ‘The Man Who Sold The World’ – the most famous remake of it is Nirvana’s. Bowie has also sung a duet with Lulu on this song, and there’s a few other remakes which I don’t remember off the top of my head at the moment.

There’s some who think there’s a connection between ‘The Man Who Sold The World’ and one of Bowie’s first movies, ‘The Man Who Fell To Earth’, in which Bowie plays an alien that comes to Earth with the intention – I’m thinking off the top of my head here – to get water for his home planet. I’ve never actually seen it. Anyway, I don’t know if there is a connection. I’m guessing people figure there is one because of the titles. This is one of those paragraphs that look long and brilliant with big words and sentences, but explains nothing.

Actually, the majority of this essay explains nothing.

Pretty much every major fan of Bowie knows the lyrics to the song, so I won’t put them here or if you don’t know them, go do your own search. Teflon rewrote them, but I’m not answering his question because that makes me think hard and this essay is me spouting random information about ‘The Man Who Sold The World’.

Something I’d like to see about ‘The Man Who Sold The World’ is it’s music video. I know it probably has one, considering ‘Space Oddity’ has one and that was way back in 1969. I like to think the music video is similar to the ‘Ashes to Ashes’ music video, but it’s probably not because ‘Ashes to Ashes’ was in the 80s (1980 if I believe correctly) and was a revolutionary music video for it’s time. If you’ve seen it, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

This is why I generally don’t write essays – I trail off on some other subject and don’t come back unless I force myself to. However, these are Bowie essays… how can I say no?

‘The Man Who Sold The World’ is found on the following albums;

- 1. Outside (1996)

- Best Of Bowie 1969 – 1974 (1997)

- Bowie At The Beeb (2000)

- Life On Mars (1973)

- Sound+Vision (1989)

- The Best Of David Bowie (1974. There’s generally only Japanese versions)

- The Man Who Sold The World (1971. This is the one with Bowie wearing a dress on it).

as well as A Reality Tour DVD

I’m done. Told you they were miniature.


Senior Member
teflon, why did you post that in the 'non-fiction' section?... shouldn't it be with 'lyrics'?... am i missing something?

hugs, maia


Senior Member
oh... ok... guess i'll go have my morning's green tea now, and engage brain before hitting the keys again...

hugs, m


Senior Member
I think Bowie captured the spirit of “The Man Who Sold The World” performing the song on NBC’s Saturday Night Life episode # 5.7, of December 15th, 1979, which was guest-hosted by Martin Sheen.

Dressed in a custom-made costume which made Bowie look like a juvenile commander of a space ship, the song made different impressions on the TV audience. I remember that one of the friends said that Bowie looked “out of this world,” Another friend said that Bowie looked like a pin-up boy for all the pederasts in the world.” A girlfriend said that Bowie looked painfully cute and unattainable.

The instrumentals were true to the flavor of the original album. Bowie’s polished stage presence and body language underscored the surreal, un-verbalized sense of the tragedy.

A music major once told me that “The Man Who Sold the World” mixed several Latin rhythm, an independent stick beat, and the main measure that is shared effortlessly by the segues that temporarily inject the song with happy, cheerful notes of a young man explaining himself in front of his parents.

The song naturally connects to “Ashes to Ashes” since Bowie maintains the imagery for the both: the out of this world, clown-like, surreal humanoid, apparently wise but visually less mature than the earthlings. This is roughly the theme of the movie, “The Man Who Fell To Earth,” but the sense of Bowie’s mission in the movie is totally unrelated to the impressionism and whatever message found in “The Ashes” and “The Man Who Sold The World.”

Bowie’s fans enamored with his personae may find that the visual effect of Bowie’s character (Thomas Jerome Newton) exposes and helps understand the otherworldly essence of Bowie’s personae – the Thin White Duke, The Man Who Sold, The Man Who Fell, the Clown. The movie seems to have been written for David Bowie, as if to enable him to reveal himself. In a shocking scene which was somewhat copied in The Terminator, Newton does reveal himself: he takes out his human-eye contact lenses, sheds the human body hair, fingernails and other human body elements, secretes alien slime, and presents his true alien self for the shocking love ritual with his Bowie-fan-like girlfriend.

The Man Who Sold the World, however, still remains a pure, Earth-bound requiem, a delicious soundtrack for a tragedy that has not yet dawned on us:

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

Oh no, not me
I never lost control
You're face to face
With The Man Who Sold The World

I laughed and shook his hand, and made my way back home
I searched for form and land, for years & years I roamed
I gazed a gazely stare at all the millions here
We must have died alone, a long long time ago…

( I always thought I heard the more captivating gazeless stare)


Senior Member
Ohhh that was good... somehow, I think you're going to be the serious essay writer and I'm going to be the vague, non-serious one...

Next topic: Ashes To Ashes


Senior Member
Ashes it is.

Meanwhile, please tell me what you know about the Roxy Music, Iggy Pop angles. There are messages and music passages craftily built into Bowie's work, as in Station to Station, else? Anything? I don't know this stuff.