Bowie and the missing soundtrack: the amazing story behind The Man Who Fell to Earth

David Bowie is rumoured to have written a score to the sci-fi classic that’s locked up in some vault. But the truth is much stranger – involving screaming maids, boozy brawls and coke-induced hearing hallucinations


There is a great mystery at the heart of The Man Who Fell to Earth, Nicolas Roeg’s cult film: its soundtrack. There is a persistent rumour that long-lost music for the film – recorded by its star David Bowie – sits somewhere in a vault. There’s only one problem: Bowie’s soundtrack to The Man Who Fell to Earth doesn’t actually exist. The music that appears in the film – released for the first time next month as part of a collector’s edition by Studio Canal and a vinyl box set by Universal – was written and produced by John Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas.

The never-before-told story of its creation is almost as improbable as Roeg’s film. Signed to both star in and compose an original soundtrack for the film, Bowie, then at the peak of his early fame, intended to record the music once shooting had completed, envisioning it as the follow-up to his album Young Americans. But he began working instead on Station to Station, while deep into his cocaine and milk phase. After three months, he had managed to complete only five or six tracks in a bizarre mishmash of styles – from country rock to instrumentals on African thumb pianos and atonal electronic music.

The British arranger Paul Buckmaster worked on the demos with Bowie at his rented house in Bel Air, and at Cherokee Studios in Hollywood. Although they had composed the music playing along to a videotape of the film, none of it was actually synched to the picture, rendering it almost unusable. “I think [Roeg] just got these disparate pieces and probably said, ‘What the hell is this?’” says Buckmaster.

Finding himself without a soundtrack weeks from the film’s planned premiere in March 1976, Roeg turned to the Mamas and Papas songwriter. Phillips’ third wife, Genevieve Waite (a South African actor and model), had introduced him to Roeg in 1970, when the director was in LA to work on Performance.

You can read more at the Guardian

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