Amazon Advent Calendar Day 07: “The Man Who Sold The World”

The Man Who Sold The World (Live)


MTV Unplugged In New York: Nirvana

Genre: Soul

Amazon MP3: The Man Who Sold The World

This track is a compromise. Wait, I mean, I’m settling. Or do I mean that I’m knucking under to the crushing disappointment that the world is the way it is, not the way we want it to be?

The point is that I am recommending a David Bowie song called “The Man Who Sold The World.” It is a cover version recorded by Nirvana. Nice boys. I understand that the lead singer was a bit of a hunting enthusiast or something.

Nothing agains them. But it’s not as cool as the David Bowie version. And that version isn’t available on the Amazon MP3 Store or the iTunes Store.

“Wait, yes it is!” you say, fumbling to open a new tab and do a search. “Yes, right here!”


No, that’s just Bowie’s original version of the song. A trippy, dippy, hippie version that smells like a pair of orange velour pants that were worn to a party where a lot of pot was being smoken and not washed in the three days since.

No. I want this version:

This is a frame from an SNL from 1979, hosted by Martin Sheen. From right to left: Mr. David Bowie, Mr. Klaus Nomi, and Mr. I Must Google For This Information. “Joey Arias.” Fine. But this Nomi fellow was a sensation. He was a classically-trained countertenor. If you don’t know what a countertenor is, think “pre-operative castrato” and you’ve pretty much got it; he had the ability to sing female soprano range with male power and volume. He would have had a terrific career if he hadn’t died just a few years after this appearance.

And he made one hell of a contribution to this song. Bowie commissioned the fiberglass tuxedo for the gig but he also commissioned a new arrangement that was fresh, modern, relevant, and free of patchouli oil. Nomi’s birdlike highs were the perfect counterpoint to Bowie’s baritone.

WON-derful stuff.

But it’s never been released as a single, never been released on video, and as far as I know, that particular arrangement has never been recorded.

This QuickTime is an MP4 I burned from a YouTube. No, it isn’t still up there. I’ve looked, but I’m sorry. NBC’s flying monkeys are all over the video sites and any SNL content that hits YouTube is not long for this world.

I dig this version so much that I not only captured it to my hard drive but also GarageBanded it into an MP3. SNL has been releasing complete seasons on DVD at a rate of one per year…so with any luck, they’ll continue to do it chronologically and the 1979 season will come out soon.

When it does: Netflix ? HandBrake ? Quicktime Pro ? iTunes. In a heartbeat.

But again, these Nirvana fellows did a fine job with a version that’s true to the original Bowie recording without making you feel as though you’ve been sitting in a Barcalounger made from recycled soda cans for the past hour.

Buy it from Amazon MP3:

Amazon MP3: The Man Who Sold The World

Or you can buy it from iTunes. If you’ve hated everything I’ve ever written, said or done and you’ve been looking for a way to just strike back at me for every offense I’ve ever committed against you, both real and imagined, then go right ahead and buy it from iTunes. “I could have sent somewhere between a nickel and seven cents rocketing into Andy Ihnatko’s ‘I Want A VR-Stabilized Nikon Zoom Lens’ Fund,” you snicker, as you click the appropriate buttons. “But he didn’t deserve it. No. No, he didn’t deserve it. Feel the burn, you Mac-loving bastard!”

Juvenile. Now I’m not even sorry that I’ve been peeing on your newspaper every morning for the past three years.

9 thoughts on “Amazon Advent Calendar Day 07: “The Man Who Sold The World”

  1. Matt Gibson

    In fact, I’ve done something even worse: I was forced to buy it from Amazon without giving you a nickel, due to the complete lack of Amazon international joined-up-ness. If I click the link, I get the US Amazon store, which won’t let me buy it, and in fact tells me that “Amazon MP3 Purchases are limited to U.S. customers”.

    So I went directly to the UK Amazon mp3 store, searched, found the same version of the song, and bought it. Sorry, Andy, but I’m afraid that while you’re making the nickels, Amazon UK are keeping all the five pence pieces…

  2. pupdog

    Aw Jeez Andy, I loved that clip – I remember seeing a rerun of the show probably, and then you blogged about it a while ago. I watched it a couple dozen times over a few days I think. Went to look for it the other day and couldn’t find it anywhere and was disappointed, hopefully It’ll be available soon…

  3. Noah Ramon

    (A) Klaus Nomi was awesome. I first learned about him from Urgh : A Music War! – a delightful live anthology of important music from 1981. (End titles : the Police and XTC and others on stage together – Andy Partridge and Sting share a mic.) (Also where I learned that Lux Interior buys his pants too small.)

    (B) The first version of “Man Who Sold the World” was Midge Ure’s version on the soundtrack to Party Party, an abominable movie with one of the most amazing soundtracks in recent memory. Elvis Costello (with an original song), Sting, Dave Edmunds, Bananarama, Madness … THAT was amazing. Highly recommended.

  4. Grover Smittle

    I was in college in 1979 and I dimly remember seeing this SNL (something about it being college in the ’70’s has dimmed my memory) when it first aired. David and Klaus were both awesome, although at the time I said something like, “Man, that’s totally kickin,’ man.” Thanks for the great memory.

    Just out of curiosity, why QT Pro instead of HandBrake?


  5. Noah Ramon

    (The first version I’d HEARD. BIG FREAKIN’ “Doh” on my part. Oy. Never type a response like that at that time in the morning.)

  6. Rich Anderson

    Ah, I remember being lucky enough to catch that episode in rerun, late at night on NBC after a new SNL. They had a thing where they would rerun a mid-to-late 70s episode every Saturday. I caught quite a few amazing performances, including the one that changed my life forever: DEVO from 1978. (Seriously, the performance of Jocko Homo from that episode is the most amazing thing that I ever watched.)

    There’s two other Bowie/Nomi performances from that episode that I would love to get ahold of: one being a simply insane performance of TVC15, and bizarre version of “Boys Keep Swinging” with Bowie’s head superimposed on some sort of marionette puppet thing.

    Also, if any of you have not watched The Nomi Song, you should.

  7. That Ray Guy

    Andy –
    There is hardly a week that passes without me muttering thanks to you for some imparted wisdom, data or witty comment. At 62, no groupie I, but I have followed you since your beginnings on the back pages of some MAC magazine (memory is the second thing to go in old age – I can’t remember the first). You were good then, even better now.
    This time I thank you for the musical answer to the Life On Mars last (final?) episode of the same title. The show is a fave of mine – each one uses ancient music to tie up the plot in a sweet sounding ribbon of foggy memory. My wife is now hooked as well, just in time for the lack of more episodes.
    We live in a 50 year old lodge on the outskirts of a big city (less than 100 miles from Gig Harbor) with no TV signal, while cable is available only for the interweb. So iTunes is our source for all things music and video, while your PodCasts bring me nerd news PLUS. I’ll close for now with a repeated thanks for all you do. Merry Holidays and Happy Winter times to you and yours.

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