This title track to one of Bowie's hardest rocking albums is easily one of his most mysterious ever. Beginning with a slithering snake charming riff, the narrator sings about meeting another person "upon a stair."
Bowie presumes that the person he meets had "died alone, a long, long time ago." The person tells him that no, he "never lost control" and that Bowie is "face to face with the man who sold the world." But who is this person the narrator meets? The answer is simple.
Bowie is meeting Christ, the one who "sold" or convinced the world that he was God. Christ "died alone a long, long time ago" and Christ has enabled the "millions" in the song who also died alone, to yet still be alive, resurrected.
What is the setting of this song? The song takes place in heaven. Bowie is there with the millions of others who "never lost control" and are now "face to face" with the one who convinced the world.
The song fades with a chant of joyous triumph as millions sing together in heaven, reunited with their loved ones.