The Man Who Sold The World (For A Fistful Of Dollars)

November 21, 2009 9:51 AM

One or two MeFites have suggested I take a shot at a Bowie cover. 'tis, played for laughs (obviously - I hope). The idea for the spaghetti garnish came from seeing the cover of the original US Mercury version - the UK equivalent featuring a shot of Dave trying hard to look all coquettish in one of his mum's best frocks. Offered up with apologies to DB, Ennio Morricone and fans of the original track.

The Man Who Sold The World was the first album I bought, more years ago now than I care to remember. It's one of the Duke's more overlooked pieces of work and still retains, for me at least, a mysterious dark power. Just as well the cover was changed to this - I recall my mother being rather concerned over my obsession with this weirdly androgynous creature: if she'd seen the original Mercury cover she'd have had kittens. Feels a bit disrespectful messing about with this track - but I think DB has a sense of humour and hopefully he'd appreciate the joke (not that he'll ever hear this of course).

Instrumentation for those who may be curious:

Martin J16-12 acoustic
Fender Stratocaster (with wang bar)
Gibson ES 335
Hohner Chrometta 8 harmonica
Korg Triton LE

posted by MajorDundee (16 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

I actually just bought this album and listened to it, as a whole, for the first time last week. I've known this track for years, and I had something like 13 other Bowie albums (not counting the live ones), but never got 'round to this one, though the title track has always been one of my favourites.

I think you did great justice to the song--it's hard to cover someone as big as the Bowie, unless you're going to do something new with it. You captured the feel, with a nice twist on it. I particularly like how the main lick (which, of course, you whistled/harmonica'd) is played back--it's not as prevalent as in the original, but serves nicely to kind of ground you back to the root of the song. Two things, though: a) needs more güiro (not really), and b) it's a man dress, and it's still better than the German cover.
posted by askmeaboutLOOM at 11:13 AM on November 21, 2009

This is excellent. (It will, however, send me back into the clutches of my Barry Adamson CDs for the rest of the day.)
posted by Lazlo at 11:26 AM on November 21, 2009

I've only actually heard the Nirvana cover, so this was definitely not what I was expecting. Super good. I'll have to give it another listen later, but that was really enjoyable (even on laptop speakers!).
posted by Corduroy at 12:20 PM on November 21, 2009

Thanks all - I had a load of fun doing this. It's an idea I've had in my mind for quite a while but I wasn't too certain I could pull it off. Don't know if anyone's spotted the lift from "Wild Is The Wind" from Station To Station (probably my favourite DB album if push came to shove)? Take your point LOOM re the guiro. Trouble is I don't have one and the approximation my Triton has is just too crap to use in any kind of upfront way.
posted by MajorDundee at 2:57 PM on November 21, 2009

Loaded with in-your-face Morricone references: lotsa fun! Hey-ho way-ha!

Your voice is very appropriate for this, I think. Nice job!

even on laptop speakers!

Like chococat, I just listened on my laptop (MacBook Pro), and it sounds great there. These days, it seems essential that a mix sound good from a laptop, I think. Mine don't always, unfortunately.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:02 PM on November 21, 2009

This is fantastic, both the arrangement and the production (sounds great on this MacBook Pro too.) I never would have thought of this treatment for the tune, but it sounds like it was written that way.
posted by usonian at 4:22 PM on November 21, 2009

Jesus - the number of you that listen to stuff on laptop speakers is really scary. Never entered my head to even play it on the speakers on the one I'm writing on right now (an Advent 5612 - not in the same league as a MacBook Pro, obviously). It always takes me by surprise how fast things change - we're really seeing the demise of the concept of "albums" and "singles" right now, and it looks like the old CD player + speakers is going the same way.... Makes you think long and hard about how to mix stuff.....doesn't it? I mean - how do you get a mix that works well on shitty laptop speakers (I mean mine, not yours!) as well as in a car, on an iPod etc etc. Shiiiiiiiiittt.............

I should have added to my epistle about TMWSTW that I can still remember the very part of it that turned me on at age 13 - and actually to rock music and guitar playing and everything else that goes with it. Which is why it's such a "sacred" album to me. There's a bridging section between the two halves of "Width Of A Circle" that features what I now know is reverse taped acoustic guitars. I vividly remember sitting in my best friend's bedroom while he played this album and thinking that was the most beautiful sound I'd ever heard - I was just transfixed and bewitched by it. I bought the album a few days or weeks later (when I got the bread together from my paper round). That was the exact moment I knew I wanted to be a guitarist. Funny how these epiphanies stick in your mind........
posted by MajorDundee at 5:01 PM on November 21, 2009

Here's the ">bit I'm talking about. Not a great reproduction, but what the hell...
posted by MajorDundee at 5:10 PM on November 21, 2009

I may grab this and add some güiro, jew's harp, and maybe some Bowie-esque Stylophone, for the classic stepwise bass line in the chorus, or even just a stylophone solo might not be bad. I'll play around with it.
posted by askmeaboutLOOM at 10:15 PM on November 21, 2009

Hmmmmm......dunno about the Stylophone LOOM. Guiro - check. Jew's harp - check(ish). It could do with one of those rattly things too - can't remmber what they're called (not maracas).

Thing is there is a deliberately created mood in this cover and the Stylophone, in my view, simply ain't gonna fit - you don't often hear Stylophones in Spaghetti Westerns and the "plastic" sound of them is going to grate against the generally organic nature of the existing instrumentation. I also deliberately left out the stepped bass because it was too "busy" and isn't, in my view, central to the structure of song - sure it works well on the original but the song doesn't fall on its arse without it (which is always a good test of whether a part is really necessary or not). I think too that the arrangement and fills on my version are very close to "tilt" - ain't a lot of room for much more twiddling and embroidery without the thing crashing.

Anyway - feel free to take a shot at it old mate. If it was an original track I'd be more concerned, but it's just a cover and, in my admittedly warped value system, it doesn't therefore amount to anything of real artistic value.
posted by MajorDundee at 3:32 AM on November 22, 2009

As one who really loves both DB and EM, I think this is fantastic. So, I totally disagree your comment, Major, about it not having artistic value. You definitely took two great things and blended them together beautifully. Damn, now I want to hear more.
posted by snsranch at 4:02 PM on November 22, 2009

Yeah, this is wicked cool. The Strat sounds great. And it definitely needs a guiro. Or just some sandpaper.
posted by uncleozzy at 5:36 AM on November 23, 2009

I don't expect anyone to agree with my idiosyncratic view on covers sns. To me it's a bit like copying a Van Gogh or something - pretty pointless really and not to be taken seriously. I can see an argument around taking a piece in another direction and thereby making it into something new and therefore of intrinsic worth, but I can't see my basic attitude changing frankly. It's a kind of "core value" of mine.

Having said all that and aware that it sounds unacceptably haughty and churlish, it's great that so many have enjoyed this pastiche and I'm very grateful indeed for all the positive and enthusiastic feedback. But for me there are only really two elements of this thing that I was genuinely happy with (by my own lights, as it were). One is that I think the actual recording and mix is pretty good from a technical perspective - everything is nicely clear and in its own aural space with no masking, clipping or bum notes, and the sound is close to what I heard in my head before I started. The other is that I did actually take the thing musically in a different direction at the back end of the track - there's a melody line there that isn't on the original (not the vocal stuff - that's just a piss-take of Wild Is The Wind).
posted by MajorDundee at 11:55 AM on November 23, 2009

Soo Cool I am the biggest Bowie fan my first album I ever bought with my own money was Bowie Images. Love this great job. I love the whistling also. I used to be able to whistle so well and was in a accident and broke my jaw and knocked out nine teeth. Full recovery except I cant whistle any more. Anyway love the cover great job!!!
posted by american caesar at 6:08 PM on November 26, 2009

posted by chillmost at 3:37 PM on November 27, 2009

Jimminey Christmas this is fun.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 7:56 AM on February 20, 2010

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