Features and Columns · Movies

The Soundtrack That Fell to Earth

Here’s the story of why Nicolas Roeg decided not to use David Bowie’s proposed soundtrack for ‘The Man Who Fell to Earth’.
Man Who Fell To Earth
British Lion Films
By  · Published on October 8th, 2020

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video about the story behind the lost David Bowie soundtrack for Nicolas Roeg’s The Man Who Fell to Earth.

There’s an air of detective work to loving and obsessing over “lost” cultural artifacts. And it applies to soundtracks as much as it does to films. From Lalo Schifrin’s rejected (and reportedly harrowing) score for The Exorcist to Wendy Carlos‘ omitted synth stylings for The Shining, lost scores have an enticing flavor all their own.

David Bowie‘s proposed OST for Nicolas Roeg‘s The Man Who Fell To Earth is similarily missing in action. Not without reason, mind you. Bowie was originally contracted to star in and score Roeg’s film, a poetic LSD trip about a homesick alien tasked with saving his parched planet with Earth’s water.

Initially, Bowie planned to record the soundtrack once shooting wrapped. However, like his alien counterpart, Bowie was waylaid by earthly matters (namely, working on his Young Americans follow up, Station to Station). Ultimately, Bowie produced five (or six, depending on who you ask) disparate tracks, which, in Roeg’s estimation, were unusable.

There are those who believe Bowie’s score resides (sneakily) on the decidedly more cinematic second side of Bowie’s album Low. There are rumors that Bowie’s soundtrack lives in a studio vault. Others simply don’t believe it exists.

Whatever the case, the story behind The Man Who Fell to Earth‘s score is almost as enigmatic as Roeg’s film. For a deeper dive into Bowie’s involvement in the film’s soundtrack and the direction Roeg ultimately took, we recommend the following video essay.

Watch “Video Essay: The Man Who Fell To Earth“:

Who made this?

Founded in 1962, Film Comment is a bi-monthly nonprofit publication operating under the auspices of Film at Lincoln Center. You can check out Film Comment‘s website here. You can check out their Vimeo presence here. The essay in this film was written by Sean Doyle, and the video is edited and narrated by Violet Lucca.

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Meg Shields is the humble farm boy of your dreams and a senior contributor at Film School Rejects. She currently runs three columns at FSR: The Queue, How'd They Do That?, and Horrorscope. She is also a curator for One Perfect Shot and a freelance writer for hire. Meg can be found screaming about John Boorman's 'Excalibur' on Twitter here: @TheWorstNun. (She/Her).