Tony Visconti and Woody Woodmansey reunite to perform The Man Who Sold the World live

By on May 13, 2015

Mega-producer Tony Visconti and original Spider from Mars Woody Woodmansey bring Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold the World” to full-album life in UK live shows in June

“I make records for people, not for other musicians. When people listen to an album, they want to hear passion. They want to hear the singer spilling his or her guts.”

Fortunately for David Bowie, and planet Earth, he befriended the man who made the above statement, and became the man who sold the world. Although “Space Oddity” was the hit single that my mother picked up as a 7” single and kept in the house, the b-side, “The Man Who Sold the World,” was the song that stood out for me. And right under the title was a title and name that would govern my record collection as I grew: Producer Tony Visconti.

A chance meeting with Moody Blues producer Denny Cordell in New York led to an invitation to arrange strings for Denny Laine in London, leading to a concert with The Who and Jimi Hendrix on Shaftesbury Avenue. At the urging of his mentor to find his own band to produce Visconti discovered Marc Bolan and Tyrannosaurus Rex at the UFO Club. After the show, Visconti approached Bolan, and they shortly began creating demos in the nascent producer’s flat.

Visconti’s sense of sound and knowledge of instrumentation eventually led to the success of “She Was Born to Be My Unicorn,” though just one month after meeting Bolan, Visconti met with Denny Cordell partner David Platz who played him a debut album he found was ‘all over the map,’ though ‘great’ and was invited to meet the 19-year-old singer in the next room.

The pair spent the day together, sharing their love for Andy Warhol, the little-heard-in-Britain band The Fugs, and other mutual admirations. Before parting they passed by a theater running a print of Roman Polanski’s Knife in the Water, enjoyed the film together, and history soon began. Although notably, and now regrettably, turning down the opportunity to produce the single “Space Oddity,” feeling it was ‘topical to the point of novelty,’ Visconti did take on the album.

visconti_tmwstw Tony Visconti with his The Man Who Sold The World guitar. Photo by Sebastian Visconti.

Through various band drop-outs and reconnections, Bowie would eventually meet Mick Ronson through Tony Visconti, leading up to the trio’s short-lived project The Hype, with fourth member John Cambridge. Replacing Cambridge in his earlier band The Rats, Mick “Woody” Woodmansey again took over for Cambridge when he left Bowie’s New Electric Band, and the nucleus of the Spiders from Mars was made flesh. In April 1970, Mick Ronson, Woody Woodmansey, and Tony Visconti backed Bowie in his landmark album The Man Who Sold the World.

While not a chart-topper at the time, and no singles were released for the album itself, a few songs found their way onto b-sides, such as the aforementioned Space Oddity/Man Who Sold the World pairing, though Bowie and Ronson produced Scottish singer Lulu’s rendition, which did become a hit, and has since been covered by Richard Barone of the Bongos in 1987, and the famous Nirvana Unplugged version in 1993. So famous in face, that Nicolas Pegg quotes Bowie, who really was quite honored by Kurt Cobain’s cover, as lamenting “kids that come up afterwards and say, ‘It’s cool you’re doing a Nirvana song.’ And I think, ‘Fuck you, you little tosser!'”

Here to further reclaim the song, and album’s, place in history, Tony Visconti reunited with Woody Woodmansey in 2014 for a UK minitour of the full album, which had never been played live during its original release. The tour was so popular and well-received, the pair are returning to perform the album’s entirety, along with several Bowie hits from his 1969-1973 period, for another tour in June 2015, including opening the Isle of Wight Festival, which excites Visconti as a place he’s never been. Visconti further elates, “So to say I’m in HEAVEN when I’m playing with this band is understating how satisfying it is to revisit something I’ve been wanting to do all these years, and so LOUDLY, too.” Further adding to the glam rock explosion, singer Suzanne Vega joins the band on the magical Isle.

10415728_10153179517383102_7239425488116136138_n Glenn Gregory of Heaven 17 feels it with Tony Visconti squeezing in out behind him during the 2014 Man Who Sold the World shows. Photo by Nick Hynan

With Visconti on bass for the entire set, Woodmansey on drums, Heaven 17’s Glenn Gregory on vocals, and guest spots featuring Soft Cell’s Marc Almond and Spandau Ballet’s Steve Norman and Gary Kemp, this supergroup is also releasing the double live album “The Man Who Sold the World – Live in London” on June 1, featuring the full original album live, including an additional twelve Bowie powerhouses from “Watch That Man” with Marc Almond, to Five Years, Starman, Time, White Light/White Heat, Moonage Daydream, and more deliriously performed classics.

Go here to pre-order The Man Who Sold the World – Live in London on CD

A vinyl version of the The Man Who Sold The World songs only will be available at the Visconti and Woodmansey gigs this summer and not on general sale.


The Man Who Sold the World 2015 Tour dates and tickets links:

June 12 – Colchester Arts Centre 
June 13 – Oxford Academy 
June 14 – Bournemouth Academy 
June 15 – Bristol Academy 
June 17 – Norwich Arts Centre
June 18 – Liverpool Academy 
June 21 – Leeds Academy 
June 22 – Hull The Welly 
June 24 – Dublin Olympia 
June 25 – Glasgow ABC
June 26 – Newcastle Academy
June 28 – Colchester Arts Centre
June 29 – Birmingham Academy 
June 30 – London, Shepherds Bush Empire

The band will also play the Billboard Live festival in Tokyo July 7 and 8.

Woody Woodmansey is delighted to be returning to Japan: “Really excited to be going back there, love the audiences, culture, food, Japan basically. We have a ‘black belt’ in rock and roll….So it’s the Isle Of Wight Festival to start, then UK, Ireland, and Japan….what a summer!”

Tickets for the Tokyo shows are available here.

About Shade Rupe

Shade Rupe is the author of Funeral Party 1 and 2, and Dark Stars Rising, a collection of interviews with Divine, Crispin Glover, Gaspar Noe, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Udo Kier, Tura Satana, and many more. He co-directed the live recording of Teller of Penn & Teller’s off-Broadway show Play Dead. He was a featured guest on "Bravo’s Scariest Movie Moments" alongside Stephen King, John Landis, Guillermo Del Toro, Peter Jackson, and more. He is now working on an updated edition of Dark Stars Rising to include new interviews with Norman Reedus, William Friedkin, John Boorman, and more. Visit him at
  • J.J. Woods

    I have the Original Man Who Sold The World Vinyl Album with Tony Visconti spelled ”TONNY” I am going to the Dublin Concert and I am going to ask him to sign it !! JJ Woods