“Fashion” is followed by “Telling Lies,” another frenetic drum’n’bass number from Earthling that was much loved by its creator, if not by anyone else. This is a good performance, though, and visually notable as the first appearance of the weird screen heads that would return many years later in the “Where Are We Now?” video. And the big bouncing eyeballs are cool.
For “Hallo Spaceboy” David is joined by the Foo Fighters, at the time a pretty new band. By now they’ve been fighting Foo for more than 25 years, and do you know, I still couldn’t name a single one of their songs. Dave Grohl seems like a nice guy but is one of the most boring frontmen in the history of rock’n’roll. At least here he’s behind the drum hit where he belongs:
The three-drummer lineup is excessive but it’s the right kind of excess for this song. The result is not unlike drinking a Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster, which in turn is like “having your brains smashed out by a slice of lemon wrapped round a large gold brick.” (We miss you, Douglas.)
For “Seven Years in Tibet” Grohl shifts to guitar, but he doesn’t get in the way, mainly just playing the two chords of the chorus. The real star of the show is Gail Ann Dorsey, whose slinky bassline provides the unifying thread between the calm verses and stormy refrains.
This is one of the better songs on Earthling, stretching its Pixies-style dynamics out onto a larger canvas. As Chris O’Leary points out, the quiet parts owe more than a little to Fleetwood Mac’s “Albatross.” The loud parts, meanwhile, stick to a rigorous structure: G and B sharp, and back again. (“All you need is one chord. Two is pushing it, and by three you’re getting into jazz.” —Lou Reed)
Next up is the song that Dave Grohl’s old band stole from Bowie. The popularity of Nirvana’s version led David to reincorporate “The Man Who Sold the World” into his live sets, though in an updated version that almost eliminates its signature riff.
No doubt some of the younger folks in the audience thought that David was doing a Nirvana cover. “How hip,” they may have said. “But it lacks the, like, raw authenticity of Kurt’s original.”
Many, many versions of “TMWSTW” exist, though DB’s favorite may be the one he produced for British chanteuse Lulu in 1974. “I still have a very soft spot for [Lulu’s] version,” he said, “though to have the same song covered by both Lulu and Nirvana still bemuses me to this day.”
And that’s probably enough for today. OK, wait, one more thing… I see that in 2016 Beck did a version with the living members of Nirvana. That means Grohl’s back on the drums again. It sounds an awful lot like Bowie’s original, which brings things some sort of full circle. Ta-ta for now.