David Bowie, “The Man Who Sold the World” (Saturday Night Live, 1979, with Klaus Nomi and Joey Arias)

David Bowie & Klaus Nomi – The Man Who Sold The World from André Goldvasser on Vimeo.

This was a great rock’n’roll moment. Bowie’s appearance on SNL, doing this song as well as “Boys Keep Swinging” and “TVC15” was unlike anything anyone had seen before. I clearly remember seeing this show when it was, in fact, live. It was completely mindblowing.

Bowie came to New York and sought out Klaus Nomi. Bowie brought in Arias for the SNL performance along with Nomi, because Arias and Nomi had a gig together dancing together in the window of Fiorucci. Bowie’s rigid suit was based on a similar get-up used by Dada poet Kurt Schwitters. Nomi, an eccentric and unique artist, sadly died from AIDS only a few years later. Jimmy Destri from Blondie is on the keyboards.

Bowie reignited his career with this appearance.

(If you go to this Bowie biography and search “Nomi” there are a few pages about this show which are available for free.)

5 thoughts on “David Bowie, “The Man Who Sold the World” (Saturday Night Live, 1979, with Klaus Nomi and Joey Arias)”

  1. This was absolutely where I gave up trying to understand David Bowie.

    “Planet Claire” as the musical bed for the Fiorucci piece is solid gold.

  2. Scattered, random thoughts:

    – I like the SNL graphics/artwork at the beginning of this clip.

    – I love the Queen/David Bowie single “Under Pressure.” Love it, and the remakes don’t ruin it for me at all.

    – I have a vivid memory of watching Duran Duran on SNL in the early eighties. I recorded the songs and watched them over and over. I swear, Simon Le Bon gave Julia Louis-Dreyfuss (she was on the show for a bit) a good looking over at the end of the show. The strange things that stay with you….

    – Madhu

  3. Scott:

    That is a great song. That is a nutty clip. A real period piece. You can see Joey Ramone for a second in the store.


    I never really liked Duran Duran. Then, late one night, I was getting something at some grocery store that was open 24 hours. This was maybe five years ago. There was hardly anyone in the store. They were mopping the floor in part of the place. Then Rio came on. And I realized it has a great chorus. “Her name is Rio and she dances on the sand … .” And I forgave everything and decided to relent, and to like Duran Duran and not feel bad about it.

  4. Thank you!

    I was blessed to have parents who somehow knew that letting me stay up to watch SNL every week from start until 12:30 (no good skits after the second song by the band) would prove to be absolutely foundational in my appreciation of humor and music.

    I was 13 when that show aired and I distinctly remember that Bowie performance – the image of the two freaks that lifted Bowie to the mic is etched into my brain. Thanks for bring it front of mind this morning.

    I distinctly remember the Elvis Costello performance where he starts into some new track, and after about three bars into it, Elvis yells at the band to stop, whereupon he goes right into the keyboard riff at the beginning of Radio, Radio. Brought the house down.



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