As the follow-up to David Bowie’s first hit “Space Oddity,” the album known as “The Man Who Sold the World” is itself an oddity in the David Bowie canon. With dark, surreal lyrical themes and music that’s proto-heavy metal, the album, recorded in 1970, is an outlier, a drastic change of direction from the folk-rock that preceded it and the piano-based, melodic songs like “Changes” and “Life on Mars?” that followed on “Hunky Dory.” Most scandalous of all for the time, the album’s cover featured Bowie with very long hair, wearing a full-length dress.
While it marks the debut of guitarist Mick Ronson and drummer Mick Woodmansey, who would accompany Bowie on his rise to superstardom two years later, the album largely sank without a trace at the time of its release 50 years ago — although it marked the beginning of Bowie’s nearly unparalleled run of innovative albums throughout the 1970s, which also included such classics as “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars,” “Young Americans,” “Station to Station,” “Heroes” and “Scary Monsters.” “The Man Who Sold the World” also has had an odd second life. Bowie performed the title track on “Saturday Night Live” in 1979, and the song was famously revived by Nirvana during their legendary “Unplugged” performance in 1993.
As part of the Bowie estate’s ongoing reissue campaign, the album was re-released last year under its original title, “Metrobolist,’ with a new mix by original producer Tony Visconti, but without the usual bevy of bonus tracks — apparently because they were saving them for “The Width of a Circle,” a 21-track album consisting entirely of concurrent that comes out on May 28. Taking its name from the album’s opening track, which was named after a painting by Bowie’s friend George Underwood, the new two-CD set “The Width Of A Circle” acts as a complementary piece to that album, with non-album singles, a BBC In Concert session, music for a TV play and further Visconti remixes, wrapping up David’s recordings from 1970 and revealing the first steps toward “Hunky Dory.”
The full track list and release lineup appears below:
DAVID BOWIE – THE WIDTH OF A CIRCLE
THE SUNDAY SHOW INTRODUCED BY JOHN PEEL
Recorded on 5th February, 1970 and broadcast on 8th February, 1970
God Knows I’m Good *
Buzz The Fuzz
London Bye, Ta-Ta
An Occasional Dream
The Width Of A Circle*
Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud
Unwashed And Somewhat Slightly Dazed*
Fill Your Heart
The Prettiest Star
Memory Of A Free Festival*
Performed by David Bowie and The Tony Visconti Trio (a.k.a. The Hype)
THE LOOKING GLASS MURDERS AKA PIERROT IN TURQUOISE:
When I Live My Dream
When I Live My Dream (Reprise)
The Prettiest Star (Alternative Mix)
Single mix released on 6th March, 1970 on Mercury Records MF 1135. This is the unreleased alternative mix created for promotion in the US market.
London Bye, Ta-Ta*
Originally recorded and rejected as the follow up single to ‘Space Oddity’. This mono mix was finally released on the Sound & Vision box set in 1989.
London Bye, Ta-Ta (1970 Stereo Mix)*
This stereo mix of the above remained unreleased until the reformatted reissue of the Sound & Vision box set in 2003, replacing the mono mix.
Memory Of A Free Festival (Single Version Part 1)*
Memory Of A Free Festival (Single Version Part 2)*
The re-recorded electric version of the closing track from the David Bowie (aka Space Oddity) album released as a single on Mercury Records 6052 026 on 26th June, 1970.
This non-album single A side, backed by the album version of ‘Black Country Rock’ from The Man Who Sold The World album, was released on Mercury Records 6052 049 on 15th January, 1971.
SOUNDS OF THE 70’S: ANDY FERRIS SHOW
Recorded on 25th March, 1970 and broadcast on the 6th April, 1970
Waiting For The Man
The Width Of A Circle
The Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud*
The Supermen (Bowie At The Beeb vinyl only)*
Performed by David Bowie and The Hype
The Prettiest Star (2020 Mix)
London Bye, Ta-Ta (2020 Mix)
Memory Of A Free Festival (Single Version – 2020 Mix)
All The Madmen (Single Edit 2020 Mix)
Holy Holy (2020 Mix)
(*denotes previously released)
THE WIDTH OF A CIRCLE 10” SINGLE & 96/24 digital E.P.
Available only from the official David Bowie store.
1. The Prettiest Star (2020 Mix)
2. London Bye, Ta-Ta (2020 Mix)
1. Memory Of A Free Festival (2020 Mix)
2. Holy Holy (2020 Mix)