The Man Who Sold The World


Behold the legendary 1979 Saturday Nigh Live performance of The Man Who Sold the World. In which David Bowie brought in Klaus Nomi and Joey Arias for help and inspiration. Klaus Nomi even let Bowie wear one of his Nomi suits. As if an already weird song needed to get any weirder. It didn’t particularly, but adding a little Nomi to the mix never hurt anybody, and Bowie is the indisputable master of well-curated weirdness. Sadly, the encounter failed to skyrocket Nomi into superstardom, showing that even David Bowie’s powers are finite. Klaus Nomi rocketed straight back into NYC art scene obscurity, brief pop success in Germany and finally, the AIDS ward. David Bowie moved on to serious moonlight, MTV rotation and Jim Henson movies. The song itself went on to have an unexpected second life as a grunge anthem, thanks to Kurt Cobain, who identified with – and brought out – its underlying angst. Because it is a deeply angsty song. As Bowie tells the origin story; “I guess I wrote it because there was a part of myself that I was looking for. Maybe now that I feel more comfortable with the way that I live my life and my mental state (laughs) and my spiritual state whatever, maybe I feel there’s some kind of unity now. That song for me always exemplified kind of how you feel when you’re young, when you know that there’s a piece of yourself that you haven’t really put together yet. You have this great searching, this great need to find out who you really are.” That might seem like a bit of a trite explanation to those intent on pinpointing Lovecraft and Antigonish references, but underneath the reference points and homages, the quest for a unified self has always been one of Bowie’s great themes, and it’s something that carries over with or without eccentric accessories.

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