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9″ of Bowie

Duet on their 1994 tour

Duet on their 1994 tour

“I’m Afraid of Americans” is a song David Bowie wrote with Brian Eno that is about Bowie’s horror at American culture taking over the world. His apprehension doesn’t stem specifically from the qualities of American culture so much as from the concept of homogenization—really, this song could have been applied to England during its empire days, or to Rome for that matter. (I like how at the end of the song, he worries that “God is American.” So some evangelicals would have you believe.) Anyhoo, I found out that a rough draft of this song appeared in the movie Showgirls, hilariously enough, although at that time the line read “I’m afraid of the animals” (??). Later, Nine Inch Nails got a hold of it, remixed it, and made it a hit. Then they made the music video together (which you can see below), with Bowie making his way around NYC looking stylish, urbane, and slightly concerned (so, just like Bowie on any given day) while being chased by the glowering, menacing Trent Reznor (so, just like Trent Reznor on any given day).

These guys toured together in 1995 and formed a bond, which is not surprising, considering both are consummate, independent-minded artists. Here’s a wonderful account of that tour, during which they merged their bands and sang each other’s songs. During that tour, Reznor turned to Bowie for help with his drug addiction and describes the advice he received as “shamanish.” (That sounds about right, doesn’t it? David Bowie is an otherworldly creature, after all. He should really have an advice column.) When Bowie released his surprise album (The Next Day) last January, Reznor wrote a lovely essay in response, giving the album the ultimate praise of “when I’m sitting alone to listen to music, I reach for The Next Day.” Aw, that’s so nice! These guys! By the by, Nine Inch Nails released Hesitation Marks last September, and it is my favorite NIN in years; you can hear it in its entirety on Spotify or Youtube.

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