Tuesday, November 10, 2015

the man who sold the world

David Bowie never lost control in the face of gloomy browed superfear and collaborated with the hype to negotiate the was and when of this black country rock, running gun blues, psychedelic folk and heavy glam.   With the success of two eponymous albums (1967's 'David Bowie' and 1969's 'David Bowie' aka 'Man of Words/Man of Music' aka 'Space Oddity') on three different labels, and the worldwide hit single "Space Oddity", the new star decided he needed a special band and brought together The Hype with the rhythm section of  John Cambridge and  Tony Visconti.   Guitarist Mick Ronson was invited to audition at Bowie's new home in a converted Edwardian mansion in Beckenham called Haddon Hall, where he had just moved into with his new wife Angie.  

Ronson recalls:   "We just sat around in his flat. I picked up a guitar and jammed with him. He said, ‘Hey, do you wanna come down to this radio show and play with me … ‘ So we went down to this radio show and I played along with him. After that he was, ‘Well, how about coming along and playing with me all the time … ‘ So I agreed, and that was pretty much straight after the show. He said something like,  ‘How about going back to Hull, packing your bags and coming down to work with me’, that was about it. So I did and came down to live in Haddon Hall."

During the leadup to his next album, Bowie found a new drummer in  Mick Woodmansey and a new manager in Tony Defries, leading to years of legal trouble with a disenfranchised Kenneth Pitt.  'The Man Who Sold the World'  was recorded in London during April and May of 1970 at Studio Trident Studios  and Advision Studios  with producer Tony Visconti and engineer Ken Scott.   The sessions featured  David Bowie on vocals, guitars, Stylophone, organ, and saxophone;   Mick Ronson on guitars and backing vocals;   Tony Visconti on bass guitar, piano, guitar, recorder, producer, and backing vocals;   Mick Woodmansey on drums and percussion;    and  Ralph Mace on Moog modular synthesizer.

Visconti looks back on his creative process with Bowie:        "His method’s pretty much the same as we set on The Man Who Sold the World in 1970. It’s just that he writes at the very last minute. He doesn’t get all nervous about going into a studio beforehand. He has to actually get into the situation of being in a recording studio before he can do anything. At the beginning of albums, he’s pretty laid back, smokes a lot, reads the newspaper and gives...a few chords perhaps...David’s a great believer in chemistry. There’s no chemistry when he’s sitting alone at home, but he has this way of getting very interesting people together and then to interact. That is his method...One of Bowie’s great attributes is that he allows his musicians to do their thing. He would often give any of us a kernel of an idea and let us ride with it to our specific abilities. He always had great ideas but he doesn’t play bass and drums, or lead guitar like Ronson did. It’s fair to say that we all collaborated and pitched in arrangement ideas, but Bowie wrote the songs, the chord changes, the melodies and the lyrics. Writing and arranging are blurred lines, it depends on so many factors whether one is arranging or writing."

Bowie would express:   "I've always written all my own songs. I've had 137 published so far and my latest L.P. is all my own. I also did another one years ago when I was the first singer to record an L.P. before doing a single...My stage act consists entirely of my own material, apart from one or two songs that I like very much - "Port of Amsterdam" by Jacques Brel and "Buzz the Fuzz" by Biff Rose....I don't know. I never plan ahead, and I'm very fickle. I'm always changing my mind about things. If I thought another media would mean more to me, I would move into it...I never expected "Space Oddity" to be the success it was, and it's all rather overwhelmed me. I couldn't tell you what I'll be doing this time next year, but I'm quite happy at the moment...I refuse to be thought of as mediocre.  If I am mediocre, I'll get out of the business. There's enough fog around. That's why the idea of performance-as-spectacle is so important to me...Should anyone think that these things are merely distractions or gimmicks intended to obscure the music's shortcomings, he mustn't come to my concerts. He must come on my terms or not at all...My performances have got to be theatrical experiences for me as well as for the audience. I don't want to climb out of my fantasies in order to go up on stage - I want to take them on stage with me...What the music says may be serious, but as a medium it should not be questioned, analysed, or taken so seriously. I think it should be tarted up, made into a prostitute, a parody of itself. It should be the clown, the Pierrot medium. The music is the mask the message wears - music is the Pierrot and I, the performer, am the message."

'The Man Who Sold the World'  didn't chart until after the success of  'The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars' in 1972, selling its way to number one hundred and five in the US. forty-four in Australia, and number twenty-six in the UK.   


"The Man Who Sold the World"

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 and years I roamed
I gazed a gazeless stare, at all the millions here
We must have died alone
A long long time ago

Who knows? not me
We never lost control
You're face to face
With the man who sold the world

'The Man Who Sold the World'  
full album:

All tracks written by David Bowie. 

Side one
1. "The Width of a Circle"   8:05
2. "All the Madmen"   5:38
3. "Black Country Rock"   3:32
4. "After All"   3:52
Side two
5. "Running Gun Blues"   3:11
6. "Saviour Machine"   4:25
7. "She Shook Me Cold"   4:13
8. "The Man Who Sold the World"   3:55
9. "The Supermen"   3:38

live on John Peel May 2, 1970

bonus tracks
 "Lightning Frightening," 

 "Holy Holy,"

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