We passed upon the stair
We spoke of was and when
Although I wasn't there
He said I was his friend
Which came as a surprise
I spoke into his eyes
I thought you died alone
A long long time ago

Oh no, not me
We never lost control
You're face to face
With the man who sold the world

I laughed and shook his hand
And made my way back home
I searched for form and land
For years and years I roamed
I gazed a gazeless stare
We walked a million hills
I must have died alone
A long, long time ago

Who knows?
Not me
I never lost control
You're face to face
With the man who sold the world

Who knows?
Not me
We never lost control
You're face to face
With the man who sold the world


Lyrics submitted by bonj, edited by RaY4451, Mellow_Harsher, LivieP

"The Man Who Sold the World" as written by David Bowie

Lyrics © EMI Music Publishing, BMG RIGHTS MANAGEMENT US, LLC, TINTORETTO MUSIC

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The Man Who Sold the World (David Bowie cover) song meanings
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193 Comments

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  • +20
    General CommentIn his youth a man was happy, ambitious, eager to embrace the world around him. Everything was going for him. Pretty much just a normal typical young boy. As he grew older he fell into depression, drugs, etc. Washed his life away. His world has ended and he's stuck in his own despair. A deep deep depression that is unbelievably hard to break the grasp of.

    I believe the song is about said man. He's walking down the stairs and perhaps there is a mirror on the wall or a picture of himself as a young boy. He stops and looks at his own face and is suddenly struck with the pain and grief of realizing he has let his life slip so shittily down the drain. He's confused by these sudden feelings and rememberances, as he thinks to himself, "I thought you died alone, a long long time ago." Referring to his younger self sinking into the depression he now carries. He's not even sure where things went wrong. "Who knows? Not me. I never lost control"

    Experiencing these old feelings he decides to embark on a journey to recovery but it is not easy and it takes years. "I searched for form and land. For years and years I roamed". Along this journey he begins to notice how many others are feeling the same way as him and it strikes him with a deep pain. "I gazed a gazely stare at all of the millions here" It hurts him that this world could be so sad, and by the end of the song he deems himself no more capable than everyone else around him. They've all sold their own world (just like he sold his own) and he's fallen back into his own depression just like everybody else. He's helpless. "WE must have died alone, a long long time ago."
    Stypticon July 26, 2011   Link
  • +8
    General Commentthis is fucking songmeanings.net you fucktards, NOT song ratings, my god.

    I think it could be about a sellout. Selling out of the music world. yeah>
    Blackhearton August 15, 2002   Link
  • +6
    Song MeaningI think it's about the man pretends to be another person for ingratiating others.
    It happens all the time when we enter into a new group.
    By time to time, we all forget what we are at the beginning.
    so the two man in this song can be explained by the "real me" and "fake me"
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    We passed upon the stair
    We spoke of was and when
    - with his friend, they look back on past / recall past

    Although I wasn't there
    He said I was his friend
    - although the real me wasn't there, fake me was there
    and it was fake me deal with his friend

    Which came as a surprise
    I spoke into his eyes
    - his eyes says :

    I thought you died alone
    A long long time ago
    - "I thought real you died alone a long time ago"





    Oh no, not me
    - the one died was not fake me

    We never lost control
    - he never leaks out the real me at the wrong time

    You're face to face
    With The Man Who Sold The World
    - the real me sold the world to fake me/
    when somebody look at him ---- with man sold the world
    it is actually with the man look at himself




    I laughed and shook his hand
    And made my way back home
    I searched for form and land
    For years and years I roamed
    - for years he searched for find place with fake mask on his face

    I gazed a gazeless stare
    - inside him, real me watch the fake me outside
    We walked a million hills
    - he has passed through many journeys (physical or mental

    I must have died alone
    A long, long time ago
    - the real me must has gone ago



    Who knows?
    Not me
    - I don't know what is wrong this world

    I never lost control
    - never lost control when to take off the mask

    You're face to face
    to the Man who Sold the World
    - they both the man who sold the world



    Who knows?
    Not me
    We never lost control
    You're face to face
    of the Man who Sold the World
    - because his friend is also with fake mask
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    And we all are, don't even try to deny
    RaY4451on October 11, 2012   Link
  • +4
    General CommentThe song gives 2 examples of people that sold the world (ie lead an empty life):
    1. An old acquaintance that never got close to anyone
    2. and me who was worried about appearances and material objects


    1.The old acquaintance:

    We passed upon the stairs,
    --I saw an old acquaintance--

    We spoke of was and when
    --we started talking about old times--

    Although I wasnt there
    --I didn't think so,--

    He said I was his friend
    --but he thought we were friends--

    Which came as a surprise
    --I didn't think we were very good friends, but he did--

    I spoke into his eyes -- I thought you died alone
    A long long time ago
    --He could tell I didn't remember him as a friend and more of a loner--

    Oh no, not me,
    We never lost control,
    --He tries denying the fact that he never got close to anyone--

    Youre face to face,
    With the man who sold the world
    --Your looking at an example of someone that sold the world--

    ------------------------------------------------------

    2. Me:

    I laughed and shook his hand,
    --I said goodbye,--

    I made my way back home,
    --and went on my way--

    I searched for form and land,
    --I cared about outward appearances and property--

    Years and years I roamed,
    --my whole life I spent looking for these material things--

    I gazed a gazely stare,
    --I finally realized that form and land isn’t everything--

    We walked a million hills -- I must have died alone,
    A long long time ago.
    --I didn’t realize it until now, but I wasted my life in search of these things--

    Who knows, not me,
    I never lost control,
    --I try denying that I wasted my life and neglected the important things--

    Youre face, to face,
    With the man who sold the world.
    --Your looking at another example of someone that sold the world--
    sbloomon May 08, 2007   Link
  • +2
    General CommentIsnt this a cover?
    cerealkillaon December 13, 2001   Link
  • +2
    General CommentYeah, Kurt wasn't a great guitar player. Musically, Nirvana was barely average.

    Anyways, TMWSTW is probably my favorite Nirvana song, and Unplugged is easily my favorite Nirvana album. There's just something about this song that makes it so badass.
    Crocon May 07, 2002   Link
  • +2
    General CommentThe Nirvana version live on Unplugged is one of the greatest live performance ever...then i heard it when bowie did it on SNL...i wanted to stab him in the toe for butchering his own song...oh well nirvana will always be remembered as a great live band
    DeAdBoLton May 10, 2002   Link
  • +2
    General Commentto those who dont understand the concept of songmeanings:

    i dont go here to talk about the greatest songs and bands
    im come here to get some fucking knowledge on music and get help interpreting songs. if youre gonna offer a comment can you at least try to write some kind of meaning????? nobody cares about who's favorite song this is. if youre gonna say something like that though..try not to make it sound like a damn fact. it offends many people as you are making it seem like what you say goes. once someone says "this song sucks," those who disagree will attack you, calling you musically challenged or some crap like that. im not ragging on the people who leave a comment saying its their fave song. im pissed at the people who think theyre the shit casting insults on songs which a lot of people may like PLUS MAKING IT A STATEMENT, not opinion. and i realize i said "nobody cares about who's favorite song this is" i didnt quite mean that---i just get annoyed when im looking through 5 pgs of 'good song" over and over again when the purpose of this site is for posting possible meanings to songs.

    excuse my thoughts all over the place, when i get mad i speak out of order and bizarrely


    OH YEAH!!
    the person who said nirvana was barely musically average on the first page:
    GO TO HELL!!! its comments like that that anger me so.
    nirvana must have been good--they turned rock into an entirely new direction. its fine if you dnt like them and think theyre terrible--im just saying that nothing below average can be so popular. what a stupid thing to say!
    dnt fucking diss any band like that
    i could go on a completely different rant on this but i think ppl reading this are prolly getting mad at me :p

    whatever-- just dnt be ignorant ppl

    and thank you "ill stylie"
    you made an OPINION and made an effort to INTERPRETATION
    writtenspikeson November 20, 2007   Link
  • +2
    My InterpretationThis seems to me to be about two old friends in the after life (which I get from "we passed upon the stair" like a stairway to heaven or something.) The friend seems to be saying that his death is his fault, be it suicide or an overdose. ("I never lost control") But the narrator, interestingly enough, seems to be bliss to the fact that he's even dead. Like maybe he thinks it's all a dream or a hallucination.

    "I laughed and shook his hand
    And made my way back home
    I searched for form and land
    For years and years I roamed"

    And then he starts to realize:

    "I gazed a gazeless stare
    We walked a million hills
    I must have died alone
    A long, long time ago"

    And then now by the narrator singing the chorus, he seems to be sort of ok with it and kind of brushes it all off. Or maybe he's in denial or something. Maybe he prefers death over pain ad doesn't really care if it was his fault. Not sure. This is a very interesting song though, and it's definitely well executed by both Kurt and David Bowie in my opinion.
    Super_Ultra_Megaon May 14, 2014   Link
  • +1
    General CommentBite me, maybe he played it that way on purpose, most covers aren't exactly like the orignal.
    scandoron May 05, 2002   Link

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