The iconic line “Oh no, not me/never lost control/you’re face to face with the man who sold the world” is hard to imagine without the circular and sensational guitar riff that follows. The kind of guitar riff that lodges into your brain and refuses to ever be forgotten until you’re stuck humming it to yourself for hours at a time, lost in the irreplaceable echo of Bowie’s voice.
The first time I heard those words, I was eleven and at the height of my adolescent antics – trying to figure out exactly who I was meant to be. When I first discovered David Bowie, my only goal in listening to his music was to get a boy I liked to find me attractive. The Man Who Sold the World was the first album I ever listened to and the title track, the first of Bowie’s songs. It didn’t take long until I became utterly obsessed with Bowie’s metallic voice and often haunting lyrics, losing myself in the worlds and personas he had created; forgetting about the boy who had introduced him to me in the first place.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of this legendary album. As of 6th November, it has been released once again under the title ‘Metrobolist’ – which was what Bowie originally intended it to be.
Though considered by some as one of the less meaningful projects Bowie worked on – to me, the album brings back good memories and a time of self-reflection; remembering the countless existential crises and all the sleepless nights that came with it.
More than remembering the past, some of the songs in the album are still valid in the present day. In ‘Saviour Machine’, Bowie sings, “President Joe once had a dream/the world held his hand/gave them their pledge/you can’t stake your lives on a Saviour Machine.”
The lyrics to this song are still relevant today. As an American relieved by the results of the recent presidential election, it is Bowie that reminds me to be cautious; to not believe in the concept of a saviour in the form of another white man taking the presidency.
To this day ‘She Shook Me Cold’, still stands as one of the most sexual and aggressive songs I have ever had the pleasure of hearing. “She sucked my dormant will/she blew my brain/she caved my head” simultaneously chills me to the bone and grosses me out. However, the sinister effect of the lyrics coupled with the eerie and menacing guitar solo towards the end is unforgettable, to say the least. The slower, acoustic tones of ‘After All’ somehow embody a surprisingly wistful tone accompanied by an ominous and playful melody that reminds me of a disturbing song from The Nightmare Before Christmas by Tim Burton.
Though it is ‘All the Madmen’ that perhaps takes the cake in eliciting a deep and dastardly conversation. With lines such as “…rather stay here/with all the madmen/than perish with/the sad men roaming free”, it is easy to see why. The psychedelic tones and resonating bass present in the song embed the lyrics deep into one’s mind – leaving its substantial presence in your brain for years to come. Every song in this sinister yet brilliant album feels disjointed, weird, and possibly supernatural.
This album, like almost every other one of Bowie’s projects, is ultimately satisfying and fulfilling – in an inexplicable manner one becomes accustomed to after gorging on his music for several years. Since his passing in 2016, it has become ever more significant to me – reminding me every day, why I fell in love with David Bowie in the first place.
Image: Eve Miller