As fans continue to reflect on the prolific legacy of David Bowie, one unique story is worth commemorating on its 52nd anniversary. That, of course, would be Bowie’s first visit to the United States on January 27th, 1971, in support of his then-recently-released studio effort, The Man Who Sold The World. Pictured above is a press photo from that year, as the artist aimed to make a name for himself by confidently exploring his androgynous appearance.
The Man Who Sold The World marked the departure from Bowie’s folk-influenced sophomore LP, Space Oddity, and the 1970 release was not faring as well as expected in the U.K. Bowie’s record label urged the musician to go on a publicity tour through the U.S.—he wasn’t allowed to perform due to work permit restrictions—and Bowie overcame his fear of flying for the occasion.
The British version of The Man Who Sold The World featured Bowie in drag on the cover, as the androgynous image was something the musician consciously cultivated throughout this era of his career. Naturally, Bowie took the dress with him for the U.S. tour, and rock critics were certainly intrigued by his appearance. Rolling Stone even called him “ravishing, almost disconcertingly reminiscent of Lauren Bacall.”
Unfortunately, not everyone was as open-minded. Bowie recalls, “In Texas, one guy pulled a gun and called me a fag. But I thought the dress looked beautiful.”
Looking back on this anniversary, David Bowie seems particularly legendary for his total self-confidence in his androgynous image. Bowie’s life was lived as an artistic statement through various forms, including his own appearance. At a time when LGBTQ+ issues finally have a place in the public forum, Bowie again proves himself a visionary.
Though he wasn’t allowed to perform in the country, Bowie was able to make media appearances including this one in Philadelphia shortly after his arrival.
David Bowie Interview 94WY Radio Philadelphia Feb 1971
[Video: DB and TM]
Naturally, Bowie would make many more appearances in the U.S., performing throughout the country numerous times over. From relative anonymity, David Bowie continually captured our hearts through his incredible career, and we’re certainly thankful for all of his music.