Lulu’s recording (1974)
David Bowie produced a new version of ‘The Man Who Sold The World’, with the Scottish singer Lulu on vocals, during the Pin Ups sessions.
The package was great but for me personally not for a minute did I think ‘The Man Who Sold the World’ was the greatest thing. I just thought, ‘Do what Bowie tells you,’ but that song ‘Can You Hear Me’, that was more my thing. It was a very soulful track.
The Herald, April 2015
Bowie had invited Lulu to one of his concerts, after which they met in his hotel room. Bowie expressed an eagerness to record with her, reportedly saying: “I want to make an MF of a record with you, you’re a great singer.”
I first met Bowie on tour in the early ’70s, when he invited me to his concert. And back at the hotel, he said to me, in very heated language, “I want to make an MF of a record with you. You’re a great singer.” I didn’t think it would happen, but he followed up two days later. He was über-cool at the time and I just wanted to be led by him. I didn’t think ‘The Man Who Sold The World’ was the greatest song for my voice, but it was such a strong song in itself. In the studio, Bowie kept telling me to smoke more cigarettes, to give my voice a certain quality. We were like the odd couple. Were we ever an item? I’d rather not answer that one, thanks!
For the video, people thought he came up with the androgynous look, but that was all mine. It was very Berlin cabaret. We did other songs, too, like ‘Watch That Man’, ‘Can You Hear Me?’ and ‘Dodo’. ‘The Man Who Sold The World’ saved me from a certain niche in my career. If we’d have carried on, it would have been very interesting.
Uncut, March 2008
The recordings took place at the Château d’Hérouville near Paris, France, where in 1976 Bowie also recorded Low.
He sang and played guitar and saxophone on ‘The Man Who Sold The World’, and the recording also featured Mick Ronson on guitar, Mike Garson on piano, Trevor Bolder on bass guitar, and Aynsley Dunbar on drums, and Geoff MacCormack on backing vocals and congas.
Due to an ongoing dispute with Bowie’s management company MainMan over payments, Pin Ups producer Ken Scott was told by his managers not to work on the Lulu sessions.
Unbeknownst to me, David was set to produce a version of ‘The Man Who Sold The World’ for pop singer Lulu and had asked her to come and stay at the Château for a couple of days while we were recording. I called Jack Nelson, who was looking after me and all the other producers for Barry and Norman Sheffield, and he told me not to work on the Lulu sessions under any circumstances. ‘OK, fine,’ I said, but it was a really ridiculous situation where we’d put down a track for Pin Ups, I’d have all the sounds together, then Lulu would walk in and I would walk out. Everything was already set and they didn’t have to do anything except press the record button, but that’s what I was instructed to do. Because of all the legal wrangling going on, I had to follow instructions. Nearly every time Lulu came in over the next couple of days, I had to go.
Abbey Road To Ziggy Stardust
The backing track and Lulu’s vocals were recorded on 16 July 1973. Bowie overdubbed saxophone and oversaw the mixing during the Diamond Dogs sessions at Olympic Studios in England in early January 1974, just days before its release.
Lulu is such a bright, funny and talented little thing. When I first heard her version of ‘Shout’ I was initially gobsmacked that anybody British had the nerve to cover that Isley Brothers classic. Then I realised that she had actually done a great job with it. How the idea came up for having her do a version of ‘The Man Who Sold The World’ I have no clue, but I’m so glad we did it. I used the Pin Ups line-up to back her, including Ronson and drummer Aynsley Dunbar, and played the sax section on overdubs. I still have a very soft spot for that version, though to have the same song covered by both Lulu and Nirvana still bemuses me to this day.
Lulu’s rendition was released as a single on 11 January 1974, the day after she performed it on the BBC’s Top Of The Pops. The single, which had another Bowie cover, ‘Watch That Man’, on the b-side, reached number three on the UK singles chart.
1.Outside recording (1995)
‘The Man Who Sold The World’ was given a trip-hop-style arrangement during Bowie’s Outside Tour.
The touring band recorded the song towards the end of 1995. Mixed by Brian Eno, it was included on some versions of the ‘Strangers When We Meet’ single.
Down to Westside to mix David’s live version of ‘The Man Who Sold The World’ – and what a great version. It sounds completely contemporary, both the text and the music, and could easily have been included on Outside. In fact I wish it had been – it has a clarity (there are very few instruments) which a lot of that record could benefit from. David’s singing is quite brilliant lately – he’s always discovering new nuances. He’s developing this new approach which is somewhere between voice-of-future nightclub ennui and wide-eyed young-stoned-Londoner innocence. I added some backing vocals and a sonar blip and sculpted the piece a little so that there was more contour to it. Good bass player.
A Year With Swollen Appendices