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"The Man Who Sold the World" is a song by David Bowie. It is the title track of his third album, released in the U.S. in November 1970 and in the UK in April 1971. The song has been covered by a number of other artists, notably by Lulu in 1974, and Nirvana in 1993.

In common with a number of tracks on the album, the song's themes have been compared to the horror/fantasy works of H. P. Lovecraft. The lyrics are also cited as reflecting Bowie's concerns with splintered or multiple personalities, and are believed to have been partially inspired by the poem "Antigonish" by William Hughes Mearns:

Other releases

  • A re-recorded version produced by Brian Eno appears as a B-side on the 1995 CD single for the song, "Strangers When We Meet". This version also appears on the bonus disc that followed some versions of Outside - Version 3.

Cover versions


The song was covered by the Scottish singer Lulu in 1974, who performed it in "a sleazy, almost Berlin cabaret style". It was released as a single on 11 January 1974, making #3 in the UK charts. Bowie produced this version with Mick Ronson during the Pin Ups sessions and also contributed guitar, saxophone and backing vocals. The remainder of the band included Ronson on guitar, Trevor Bolder on bass, Mike Garson on piano, and Aynsley Dunbar on drums.

Richard Barone

The song was covered by Americanmarker singer Richard Barone in 1987 on his proto-Chamber Pop album, Cool Blue Halo. Using cello, acoustic guitar and symphonic percussion in an intimate live setting, it foreshadowed the Unplugged ethos.


A live rendition of the song was recorded by the Americanmarker grunge band Nirvana in 1993 during their MTV Unplugged appearance. It was released on the band's MTV Unplugged in New York album the following year. They regularly covered the song during live sets after their memorable acoustic performance up until lead singer Kurt Cobain's death in 1994.

The song was released as a promo single for the album and received considerable airplay on alternative rock radio stations. It was also thrown into heavy rotation on music video stations such as MTV.

In the wake of this cover, Bowie bemoaned the fact that when he performed the number himself he would encounter "kids that come up afterwards and say, 'It's cool you're doing a Nirvana song.' And I think, 'Fuck you, you little tosser!'"

Nirvana cover chart positions

Chart (1995) Position
Canadian National Airplay Chart 22
French Airplay Chart 34
Poland Airplay Chart 1
Slovakian Airplay Chart 4
Sweden Airplay Chart 1
U.S. Billboard Hot Modern Rock Tracks 6
U.S. Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks 12
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Airplay 39

Other covers

  • Midge Ure on the film soundtrack Party Party (1982). This version is also included on No Regrets: The Very Best of Midge Ure, and the compilations The David Bowie Songbook and Starman: Rare and Exclusive Versions of 18 Classic David Bowie Songs, CD premium from the March 2003 issue of Uncut magazine.
  • Here & Now on the album Fantasy Shift (1983).
  • Elektri─Źni Orgazam on the album Les Chansones Populaires (1983).
  • Ed Kuepper on the album The Exotic Mail Order Moods of Ed Kuepper (1995).
  • Simple Minds on the covers album Neon Lights (2001).
  • 3 Melancholy Gypsys sampled the Nirvana version in their song "2010". which appears on the Living Legends album Legendary Music, Vol. 1.
  • Jordis Unga on Rock Star INXS, also released as a digital single.
  • Cocosuma on BowieMania: Mania, une collection obsessionelle de Beatrice Ardisson (2007).
  • Apoptygma Berzerk uses the guitar melody for a live rendition of the song Mourn, which can be heard on the album APBL2000 (2001).
  • Cross Canadian Ragweed have also covered the song on various occasions.
  • The Meat Puppets have also covered this song.
  • Nine Inch Nails have also covered this song as well as many other David Bowie covers/compilations.
  • John Cougar Mellencamp performed it as a bonus track on his album The Kid Inside (1983).
  • Marcus Van Heller on the album Hero: The Main Man Records Tribute to David Bowie (2007).

See also


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