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Bowie cover of the week: Dennis Graumann performs “Hallo Spaceboy”

I heard several intriguing Bowie covers this week including “Space Oddity” by Don’t You Overthink?, “Absolute Beginners” by Steve Harley and “Fame” by Infectious Groove, but my selection for cover of the week is one of my favorite songs, “Hallo Spaceboy,” by Dennis Graumann. Like most of the artists who end up with a “cover of the week,” I was not previously familiar with Dennis Graumann. According to his YouTube page, he’s a guitar player for the bands Cryodeath and Void Machine, neither of which I know. In a sign of advancing technology, he maintained a web site, but it’s down now in favor of YouTube and social media. Anyway, he does a great job covering this song.

“Hallo Spaceboy,” of 1. Outside, has an interesting origin story that I won’t write here because the story is told elsewhere. What I’ve read about the song tends to ignore what seems obvious to me, that consciously or not, Bowie was trying to create almost a pastiche of a Bowie song. Released in 1995, 1. Outside was presented as Bowie returning to form after the 80s, Tin Machine, the eclectic Black Tie White Noise and the unknown-in-America-at-the-time Buddha of Suburbia. 1. Outside was Bowie working once again with Brian Eno, his collaborator from the Berlin period. True to stereotype, this song has references to confusion about sexual orientation, space, and some kind of “dust” coming from space (Moon dust rather than star dust).

Bowie was aware that every album he released after Tonight was inevitably called his best since Scary Monsters. “Hallo Spaceboy” invites the comparison, starting with the first word of the title, “hallo,” being a cockney pronunciation of “hello.” Bowie’s previously best known use of cockney was in the song, “Scary Monsters.” I don’t think it’s coincidence that there’s a line in “Hallo Spaceboy” about “your silhouette,” and the word, “silhouette,” being the first (English) word articulated on the Scary Monsters album, from the song “Its No Game.” “Hallo Spaceboy” is also the loudest song Bowie did since that opening track from Scary Monsters.

I have written before that Bowie largely avoided space as a topic after Ziggy Stardust, well, until “Ashes to Ashes,” off Scary Monsters, and he largely avoids it again until this song. Yes, there are one or two exceptions, but by 1995 Bowie had distanced himself from the Starman image. But now, he’s inviting the comparison— “Hallo Spaceboy” isn’t too far from, “welcome back, Starman.” Indeed, Bowie’s presentation went from being fashionable for the time, which is how he had been presenting himself for several years, to exotic and even demonic around the time of 1. Outside. In all these respects, Bowie was saying that he had returned to being Bowie.

For me, the song and the entire album were a triumph. I count them among my favorites. This was not a universal fan reaction at the time, and I’d be interested in someday reading the perspective of someone who comes to know Bowie for the first time, hearing Ziggy Stardust and 1. Outside without having experienced more than two decades between them.

Or, you can just enjoy this cover by Dennis Graumann. I did!

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