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Revisit the moment David Bowie provided a modernist cover of a Neil Young classic


There isn’t much that David Bowie couldn’t add to musically. A mercurial creator, Bowie always championed originality above all else. It led to him having one of the most widely-regarded artistic careers in rock music history. It meant that the odd occasion he picked out a song of another to cover, you knew it was well-thought-out and well delivered. The same can be said for Bowie’s rendition of Neil Young’s song ‘I’ve Been Waiting For You’.

Neil Young and David Bowie aren’t natural bedfellows. The glam rock icon operated as the antithesis of the machismo rock and roll that Young had slung during the late sixties and early seventies. However, they connect perfectly on this cover as Bowie drags the track, kicking and screaming, into a brand new future.

Shared as part of Bowie’s album Heathen, Bowie gives the track a rock overhaul, who lends his always ethereal vocal to the song. Somehow, he kicks the song into science-fiction territory with dissonant chords and a captivating orchestral moment. It resonates deeply with the kind of music Bowie was trying to make at the time. With his recently “lost” album from 2001 Toy showcasing the dystopian dramatics Bowie would add to his work with the dawn of a new millennium.

It was the case for many songs on Bowie’s 2002 release Heathen. The acclaimed Starman drew from his little black book of contacts to bring in The Who’s Pete Townshend to work on some of the tracks on the album. He saved a special spot on this cover of Neil Young for another friend, Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters fame. Grohl delivers an astonishing heavy-driven guitar on the album track, providing a perfect hefty bit of ballast for Bowie’s spaceship delivery.

The original song was recorded as part of Neil Young’s debut solo album. Finding its home among the folk-rock jaunts of Young, the track was never envisaged as a piece of 21st-century crunch. Yet, Bowie has a habit of providing moments of modernist bliss for seemingly dusty old records.

It wasn’t just on record; Bowie took the heavy rock into the live performances of the song too. Below, we can see one of the final times Bowie ever performed the song live as he delivers a simply raucous rendition of Neil Young’s ‘I’ve Been Waiting For You’.