The Man Who Sold The World arrived on store shelves during a bizarre time in Bowie's career. After years of failed efforts, he'd finally scored a hit the previous year with "Space Oddity." His subsequent singles, however, failed to generate any heat, and it seemed like he might be a One Hit Wonder. Always one to know how to get attention, Bowie decided to wear a dress on the cover of his third album, The Man Who Sold The World. This was long, long before the days of Boy George, back when such a move was still shocking. He wore the gown to his first interview with Rolling Stone in early 1971. "I refuse to be thought of as mediocre," Bowie said. "If I am mediocre, I'll get out of the business. There's enough fog around. That's why the idea of performance-as-spectacle is so important to me . . . Tell your readers that they can make up their minds about me when I begin getting adverse publicity: when I'm found in bed with Raquel Welch's husband." The entire interview was conducted in the gown.
Despite his best efforts, the LP didn't make much of a commercial impact. When his career exploded about three years later with Ziggy Stardust, fans went back and discovered this album, and now "The Man Who Sold the World," "The Width of a Circle" and "The Supermen" are all classics.