Dave Grohl would make his childhood dream a reality in 1997, a moment when he was invited alongside the Foo Fighters to join the irreplaceable David Bowie for a powerful rendition of ‘Hallo Spaceboy’ at the one and only Madison Square Garden.
The night was a celebration of Bowie turning 50 and the birthday bash reads like a who’s who of rock royalty. The legendary singer welcomed Frank Black, the Foo Fighters, The Cure’s Robert Smith, Sonic Youth, Billy Corgan and Lou Reed to the stage for a series of impressive performances. While the moment Foo Fighters joined Bowie on stage to perform ‘Hallo Spaceboy’ doesn’t manage to eclipse the moment Lou Reed appeared on stage, it still remains an incredible moment of rock history nevertheless.
The track, which epitomised Bowie going through his Nine Inch Nails-influenced industrial period, arrived as the stand out number from his 19th studio album Outside. The song was later re-recorded the following year and given a pop music makeover with the help of the Pet Shop Boys. However, with the assistance of the Foo Fighters, Hallo Spaceboy’ returned to its original venomous form at Madison Square Garden.
This period of Bowie’s career, in truth, was a very odd time for the Starman. It’s strange to imagine a mercurial talent of Bowie’s excellence even suffering from a slight career lull but, in actual fact, people had started to write The Thin White Duke off. He hadn’t been a darling of the critics since 1983 effort Let’s Dance, and a month after this performance he released Earthling which was loathed mainly by critics following the release. That said, one night at Madison Square Garden and more fool to anybody writing him off.
This collaboration was a moment that Grohl has never taken for granted and, like millions of other people who are of a similar age, he had his musical awakening arrive at the magical hands of David Bowie. A whole generation was swallowed up by the Starman, then taken on an incredible journey following the course of his career as he shifted between different personas and sounds.
To some extent, this has been something that Grohl has attempted to integrate into his career, one which has seen him progress from the drummer of Nirvana to becoming the singer in one of the biggest stadium rock bands in the world with Foo Fighters.
After the performance, Grohl successfully managed to keep the communication flowing with Bowie over the decades, and he even naively felt like he could call upon him to work together in 2014. The Foos frontman had been asked to create a soundtrack for a blockbuster film but felt like the track needed a different voice to add some flavour to it and, perhaps audaciously, attempted to get Bowie on board.
The Starman initially politely turned down the request, saying that he watched the film that Grohl had sent over to him and it was “not his thing”. Undeterred by Bowie’s polite way of saying no, Grohl’s correspondence with Bowie continued until the late singer put an end to their chat by bluntly telling the Nirvana drummer: “All right, now that’s settled, then fuck off.”
Check out the thunderous performance of ‘Hallo Spaceboy’, below.