The Width of a Circle
|"The Width of a Circle"|
|Song by David Bowie|
|from the album The Man Who Sold the World|
|Released||November 4, 1970 (United States)
April 1971 (UK)
|Recorded||Trident and Advision Studios, London
18 April – 22 May 1970
|Genre||Hard rock, heavy metal, progressive rock, psychedelic rock|
|The Man Who Sold the World track listing|
"The Width of a Circle" is a song written by David Bowie in 1970 for the album The Man Who Sold the World, released later that year in the United States and in April 1971 in the UK. It is the opening track to the album, a hard rocker with heavy metal overtones. Bowie had performed a shorter version of the song in concerts for several months before recording it.
Featuring Mick Ronson's lead guitar work and occasional choral effects from the band, this 8-minute song is divided into two parts. The music takes on a heavy R&B quality in the second half, where the narrator enjoys a sexual encounter – with God, the Devil or some other supernatural being, according to different interpretations – in the depths of Hell.
Some sources claim that the song was released as a single by RCA in Eastern Europe, with "Cygnet Committee" from Bowie's 1969 album Space Oddity on the B-side. However, this 'Russian' single was pressed by a fan and therefore is unofficial.
Several live versions of the song have been released:
- A 10-minute, 43-second version recorded at Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, on 20 October 1972, has been released on Santa Monica '72 and Live Santa Monica '72.
- A 14-minute version recorded at the Hammersmith Odeon, London, on 3 July 1973 was released on Ziggy Stardust – The Motion Picture in edited form in 1983, the complete performance being issued on the 30th Anniversary 2CD Special Edition in 2003. The additional length, featuring an extended instrumental break by Mick Ronson and the band, allowed for Bowie's costume change, a common occurrence during the Ziggy Stardust tours.
- A version from Bowie's 1974 North American tour was released on David Live in 1974.
- A version recorded with the Tony Visconti Trio (aka The Hype) on The Sunday Show introduced by John Peel, on February 5, 1970, was released on Bowie at the Beeb in 2000.
The song appeared on the Japanese compilation The Best of David Bowie in 1974.
- Spurge – Crash Course for the Ravers – A Tribute to the Songs of David Bowie (1996)
- The Spiders from Mars – The Mick Ronson Memorial Concert (2001); the Spiders here consisting of Joe Elliott (vocals, acoustic guitar), Trevor Bolder (bass), Woody Woodmansey, (drums), Billy Rankin (guitar), and Nicky Graham (piano)
- David Bowie: lead vocals, acoustic guitar
- Mick Ronson: electric guitar, backing vocals
- Tony Visconti: bass guitar, backing vocals
- Woody Woodmansey: drums