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Matias Millán Gerena
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RIP David Bowie. The Chameleon. This song reminds me most of Bowie himself.

The Man Who Sold The World is about a man who no longer recognizes himself and feels awful about it. For years, Bowie struggled with his identity and expressed himself through his songs, often creating characters to perform them. On the album cover, Bowie is wearing a dress.

Some of the lyrics are based on a poem by Hugh Mearns called The Psychoed:

As I was going up the stair
I met a man who was not there
He wasn't there again today
I wish that man would go away
Some lyrical analysis: "We passed upon the stair" is a figurative representation of a crossroads in Bowie's life, where Ziggy Stardust catches a glimpse of his former self, (being David Bowie) which he thought had died a long time ago. Then he (the old David Bowie) says: "Oh no, not me. I never lost control." This indicates that Bowie never really lost sight of who he was, but he Sold The World (made them believe) that he had become Ziggy, and he thought it was funny (I laughed and shook his hand). He goes on to state, "For years and years I roamed," which could refer to touring. "Gaze a gazely stare at all the millions here" are the fans at concerts. (thanks, Peter - Montreal, Canada)

The album is one of Bowie's least known, but over the years many fans have come to appreciate it and a lot of bands have covered songs from it.

Critics weren't always sure what to make of it either, but John Mendelssohn had a good handle on it when he wrote of the album in Rolling Stone magazine, 1971: "Bowie's music offers an experience that is as intriguing as it is chilling, but only to the listener sufficiently together to withstand the schizophrenia."

British singer Lulu ("To Sir With Love") recorded this in 1974. Bowie produced her version and played saxophone on the track. It went to #4 in the UK. Lulu recalled to Uncut magazine June 2008 about her recording of this: "I first met Bowie on tour in the early '70s when he invited me to his concert. And back at the hotel, he said to me, in very heated language, 'I want to make an MF of a record with you. You're a great singer.' I didn't think it would happen, but he followed up two days later. He was uber cool at the time and I just wanted to be led by him. I didn't think 'The Man Who Sold The World' was the greatest song for my voice, but it was such a strong song in itself. In the studio, Bowie kept telling me to smoke more cigarettes, to give my voice a certain quality. We were like the odd couple. Were we ever an item? I'd rather not answer that one, thanks!

For the video, people thought he came up with the androgynous look, but that was all mine. It was very Berlin cabaret. We did other songs, too, like 'Watch That Man,' 'Can You Hear Me?' and 'Dodo.' 'The Man Who Sold The World' saved me from a certain niche in my career. If we'd have carried on, it would have been very interesting."

Nirvana recorded this for their 1993 MTV Unplugged performance. It was Chad Channing, who was Nirvana's drummer from 1988-1990, who introduced Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic to Bowie's music. Chad told us: "We were in Boston and stopped by this record store, and I found this copy of The Man Who Sold The World. It was a cool copy - it had the poster in it and everything. And those guys weren't familiar with the record. And I inquired about, 'What David Bowie do you like? Do you like David Bowie?' And they're like, 'Well, the only David Bowie we're familiar with is 'Let's Dance.' I was surprised. I was like, 'Really? Wow.' I was like, 'You've got to hear some early David Bowie, for sure.'

So when I got the opportunity, I made a tape of the record at somebody's house, and then while we were touring around I just went ahead and popped the tape in and let it roll. After a bit, Kurt turned around and said to me, 'Who is this?' kind of like knowingly, just something familiar with the voice and stuff. I said, 'Well, this is David Bowie. This is The Man Who Sold the World record.' He's like, 'Yeah, this is really cool.' I said, 'You should check out Hunky Dory and stuff.' And so eventually, I'm sure he did. But he totally dug it."

Months after the MTV show, Kurt Cobain was found dead. The acoustic set was released as an album in late 1994.

#RIPDavidBowie
#DavidBowie


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