Where the Story Really Starts

The Man Who Sold the World is the third studio album by David Bowie, originally released on Mercury Records in November 1970 in the US, and in April 1971 in the UK. The album was Bowie’s first with the nucleus of what would become the Spiders from Mars, the backing band made famous by The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars in 1972. Though author David Buckley has described Bowie’s previous record David Bowie (Space Oddity) as “the first Bowie album proper”, NME critics Roy Carr and Charles Shaar Murray have said of The Man Who Sold the World, “this is where the story really starts”. Departing from the folk music of Bowie’s debut album, The Man Who Sold the World is a hard rock and heavy metal album. It has been claimed that this album’s release marks the birth of glam rock.

The album was written and rehearsed at David Bowie’s home in Haddon Hall, Beckenham, an Edwardian mansion converted to a block of flats that was described by one visitor as having an ambience “like Dracula‘s living room”. As Bowie was preoccupied with his new wife Angie at the time, the music was largely arranged by guitarist Mick Ronson and bassist/producer Tony Visconti. Although Bowie is officially credited as the composer of all music on the album, biographers such as Peter Doggett have marshaled evidence to the contrary, quoting Visconti saying “the songs were written by all four of us. We’d jam in a basement, and Bowie would just say whether he liked them or not.”

Much of the album had a distinct heavy metal edge that distinguishes it from Bowie’s other releases, and has been compared to contemporary acts such as Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. The record also provided some unusual musical detours, such as the title track’s use of Latin rhythms to hold the melody. The sonic heaviness of the album was matched by the subject matter, which included insanity (All the Madmen), gun-toting assassins and Vietnam War commentary (Running Gun Blues), an omniscient computer (Saviour Machine), and Lovecraftian Elder Gods (The Supermen). The song She Shook Me Cold was an explanation of a heterosexual encounter. The album has also been seen as reflecting the influence of such figures as Aleister Crowley, Franz Kafka and Friedrich Nietzsche.

 
 

The original 1970 US release of The Man Who Sold the World employed a cartoon-like cover drawing by Bowie’s friend Michael J. Weller, featuring a cowboy in front of the Cane Hill mental asylum

 
 

 
 

The first UK cover, on which Bowie is seen reclining in a Mr Fish “man’s dress”, was an early indication of his interest in exploiting his androgynous appearance. The dress was designed by British fashion designer Michael Fish, and Bowie also used it in February 1971 on his first promotional tour to the United States, where he wore it during interviews despite the fact that the Americans had no knowledge of the as yet unreleased UK cover. It has been said that his “bleached blond locks, falling below shoulder level”, were inspired by a Pre-Raphaelite painting by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

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Looks Like a Scream

“Like to take a cement fix
Be a standing cinema
Dress my friends up
just for show
See them as they really are
Put a peephole in my brain
Two New Pence to have a go
I’d like to be a gallery
Put you all inside my show

Andy Warhol looks a scream
Hang him on my wall
Andy Warhol, Silver Screen
Can’t tell them apart at all

Andy walking, Andy tired
Andy take a little snooze
Tie him up when he’s fast asleep
Send him on a pleasant cruise
When he wakes up on the sea
Be sure to think of me and you
He’ll think about paint
and he’ll think about glue
What a jolly boring thing to do”

 
 

David Bowie as Andy Warhol. Promotional picture for Basquiat (Julian Schnabel, 1996)

 
 

Andy Warhol is a song written by David Bowie in 1971 for the album Hunky Dory. This is an acoustic song about one of Bowie’s greatest inspirations, the American pop artist Andy Warhol. The song starts with some studio chat where Bowie explains to producer Ken Scott, who has just been heard to mispronounce Warhol’s name when introducing the take, the right way to say it. Scott solemnly reintroduces the take with the correct pronunciation. There follows several seconds of silence before Bowie asks if the tape is rolling. Upon realizing they are indeed recording, Bowie bursts into laughter and begins playing. The song is memorable for its distinctive, flamenco-sounding opening riff on the acoustic guitar that continues through the song.

Bowie later played the song to Andy Warhol, who reportedly disliked it as he thought the lyrics made fun of his physical appearance. When the song had finished playing, Warhol and Bowie reportedly just stared at each other for a while until Warhol said “I like your shoes” and the pair then had a conversation about shoes.

 
 

David Bowie and Dana Gillespie. Photo: Brian Ward

 
 

Originally the song was written for Dana Gillespie in 1971, but her version of the song was not released until 1973 on her album Weren’t Born a Man. This version features Mick Ronson on guitar.

They Call Them the Diamond Dogs

Diamond Dogs Session (contact sheet), Terry O’Neill, 1974

 
 

Taken as a publicity shoot for the LP Diamond Dogs. As Terry started to shoot with the dog sitting quietly besides Bowie, it suddenly got over excited and reared six feet into the air barking madly. This terrified the life out of everyone in the studio, except Bowie who didn’t even flinch.

 
 

This portrait of David Bowie was part of a studio session in Los Angeles to promote the Diamond Dogs album. Bowie picked up the scissors absent-mindedly and O’Neill decided to keep them in the shoot to symbolize the cutting edge nature of Bowie’s music.

 
 

Diamond Dogs is a concept album by David Bowie, originally released in 1974 on RCA Records, his eighth album. Thematically, it was a marriage of the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell and Bowie’s own glam-tinged vision of a post-apocalyptic world. Bowie had wanted to make a theatrical production of Orwell’s book and began writing material after completing sessions for his 1973 album Pin Ups, but the author’s estate denied the rights. The songs wound up on the second half of Diamond Dogs instead where, as the titles indicated, the Nineteen Eighty-Four theme was prominent.

 
 

The cover art features Bowie as a striking half-man, half-dog grotesque painted by Belgian artist Guy Peellaert. It was controversial as the full painting clearly showed the hybrid’s genitalia. Very few copies of this original cover made their way into circulation at the time of the album’s release. According to the record-collector publication Goldmine price guides, these albums have been among the most expensive record collectibles of all time, as high as thousands of US dollars for a single copy. The genitalia were quickly airbrushed out for the 1974 LP’s gatefold sleeve, although the original artwork (and another rejected cover featuring Bowie in a sombrero cordobés holding onto a ravenous dog, an image captured by Terry O’Neill) was included in subsequent Rykodisc/EMI re-issues.

 
 

Though the album was recorded and released after the ‘retirement’ of Ziggy Stardust in mid-1973, and featured its own lead character in Halloween Jack (“a real cool cat” who lives in the decaying “Hunger City”), Ziggy was seen to be still very much alive in Diamond Dogs, as evident from Bowie’s haircut on the cover and the glam-trash style of the first single Rebel Rebel. As was the case with some songs on Aladdin Sane, the influence of The Rolling Stones was also evident, particularly in the chugging title track. Elsewhere, however, Bowie had moved on from his earlier work with the epic song suite, Sweet Thing/Candidate/Sweet Thing (Reprise), whilst Rock ‘n’ Roll With Me and the Shaft-inspired wah-wah guitar style of 1984 provided a foretaste of Bowie’s next, ‘plastic soul’, phase. The original vinyl album ended with the juddering refrain (actually, a tape loop) Bruh/bruh/bruh/bruh/bruh, the first syllable of “(Big) Brother”, repeated incessantly. The track Sweet Thing was Bowie’s first try at William S. Burroughs‘ cut-up style of writing, which Bowie would continue to use for the next 25 years. Although Diamond Dogs was the first Bowie album since 1969 to not feature any of the Spiders from Mars, the backing band made famous by Ziggy Stardust, many of the arrangements were already worked out and played on tour with Mick Ronson prior to the studio recordings, including 1984 and Rebel Rebel.

Tales of Doom and Gloom

 
 

The video was strategically released when some people were afraid of Mayan prophecies about the world ending. The opening shots of the video images of an Atomic explosion, images of war, and critics to the wrong side of consumerism like a “hellfire and brimstone” preacher would do in front of subdued churchgoers is nothing, if not perfectly timed.

 
 

Noomi_Rapace_1624164a

 
 

The Rolling Stones Doom and Gloom video was conceptualized by costume designer and fashion stylist Susie Coulthard, who from 1994 to 2001 designed and built costumes for London’s acclaimed Hull Truck Theater. Among the more notorious plays she designed were Tennessee WilliamsGlass Menagerie; William Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Romeo & Juliet; Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. All of this was accomplished while she studied for her degree in fashion and as she opened her first shop, which she had done by the time she graduated (with honors). She also designed contemporary and period dramas for the BBC. Coulthard supports what is referred to as “ethical fashion” and her editorials have been published in glossies like Wallpaper*, Tatler and 125.
 
Her design roster includes work with visionary musicians such as Mark Ronson, Dame Shirley Bassie, Kaiser Chiefs, Siouxie Sioux and The Kooks, just to name a few. She has been nominated twice at the UK Music Video Awards, winning Best Stylist for Cops and Robbers performed by The Hoosiers. She has also performed art direction for The Libertines.
 
Make-up artist Darren Evans assisted Coulthard in capturing all the unique looks that Swedish actress Noomi Rapace rocks throughout the visually stunning video  . Rapace is best known for playing the angry heroine, Lisbeth Salander, from the Millenium film series, (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; The Girl Who Played with Fire; The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest).

 
 

 
 

Listening to Mick Jagger singing lyrics railing against capitalism is certainly ironic. A protest song doesn’t ring true coming from Sir Mick’s mouth but we appreciate his good intentions and are reminded of Salvador Dali’s statement “…Picasso is a communist, neither am I”.

 
 

 
 

D.A. Pennebacker titled his documentary, which featured Bob Dylan and Allen Ginsberg as special guests, “Dont Look back.” It may be the best advice for curing any homesick feelings. On the other hand, it’s hard for a rebel – no matter what age they are- to take any advice into consideration.

 
 

 
 

We should remember, Doom and Gloom is almost at the end of the track list of a compilation album and as such it offers us a perspective of the RS’ lifetime. There are resemblances to the friends who collaborated with them, by instance, Andy Warhol (Have you noticed the t-shirt wore by Noomi?) and moments made famous or successful by the Stones. The opening riff of Doom and Gloom has a taste of Brown Sugar with a twist of Jumpin’ Jack Flash, (a song which was the departure of Beggar Banquet’s concept), although finally wasn’t chosen for the album. Visually we can feel a likeness to the artwork from that classic Stones’ album.

 
 

rain fall down

 
 

In 2005, Swedish Jonas Åkerlund directed the first music video for the Stones’, Rain Fall Down; a single from A Bigger Band. Darkness, filth, pessimism, diluvium and graphic content related to war or sex… those are his remarkable hallmarks. Come Undone (2003) by Robbie Williams; Ray of Light (1998) and American Life (2003) by Madonna; Try, Try Try (2000) by The Smashing Pumpkins; et al. Mick Jagger himself was featured as an actor in the dystopian Sci-Fi movie, Freejack (Geoff Murphy, 1992).