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David Bowie Cover of the Week: EgoB covers “Hallo Spaceboy”

”Hallo Spaceboy” (1995) is one of Bowie’s (somewhat) later songs that I suspect would be better known had he released it earlier in his career. Both hard-driving and melodic, its lyrics call back to Bowie’s early themes of gender fluidity, space and chaos. Plus, as part of the 1. Outside album, it represents Bowie’s last collaboration with Brian Eno. Yet somehow, the song rarely shows up among the covers I review on a weekly basis. Its rarity is one one of the reason’s I’ve chosen friend-of-the-blog EgoB’s version as “cover of the week.”

Song selection is not enough, of course, and I like what EgoB does with it. EgoB is a master of electronic sound and he puts his skills to good use here, consistent with, but distinct from Bowie’s original. His husky, deliberate voice comes as something of a surprise after a fairly lengthy instrumental opening, and with that surprise EgoB marks the song as his own.

It is the sound— the sound of the music itself as well, the sound of EgoB’s voice, the sound of whatever it is that’s creating the music— that makes me like the song. But getting back to the lyrics, I have always thought the references to “Spaceboy,” “Moon dust,” the lines, “Do you like girls or boys? It’s confusing these days,” and even the phoneticized cockney “Hallo” are meant as self-references. The whole 1. Outside project was marketed as something of a comeback for Bowie, despite, at the time, not having gone more than a couple of years without a new album since his three-year hiatus after Scary Monsters in 1980 (assuming you count the two Tin Machine albums and the Labyrinth soundtrack). Bowie never really went anywhere, but his last several projects didn’t go over well with both fans and critics…sort of.

Actually, I think Bowie had already turned the critical corner by 1995. Black Tie White Noise (1993) was well received at the time and The Buddha of Suburbia (1993) was Bowie’s nearly secret gift to fans. In any case, neither project was critically skewered like Never Let Me Down (1987) or Tin Machine II (1991).

So, my theory of the week about why 1. Outside, which is one of my overall ten favorite Bowie albums remains divisive and less-well known than it should be. Bowie, didn’t heed his own advice from “Golden Years” to “never look back.” The album, and this song, are strong not because they are nostalgic or a return to the style of the Bowie-Eno collaborations form the late 70s, but because it reflects yet another new direction for Bowie. I suspect that the album will benefit over time from not being experienced in sequence. Someone new to Bowie will never be thrown off by his latest album’s veering away from the last one. They all exist at the same time, now.

So, I think EgoB does a service to the legacy of this song and the whole album. It deserves renewed attention and artistic interpretation. As has so often been the case of EgoB’s Bowie covers — good job!

Click HERE for my March 2, 2024 interview with EgoB.

A few other outstanding Bowie covers of note include (click on the song name to link to the video):

Moonage Daydream” by Dreamcar. This is an exceptional concert performance. I know nothing about the band, but the lead singer has a great voice and massive stage presence. This one is worth watching. The performance is first rate but the capture of the performance could be better— the fixed camera doesn’t do it justice and the mix is off. But it’s a great show.

Space Oddity” by Eastwood Haze. This, on the other hand is a high-quality if pretty basic video of a three member band harmonizing on one of Bowie’s most covered songs. This, too could have easily been “cover of the week” though I feel like I hear so many covers of “Space Oddity” that I give invisible bonus points to something less typical like “Hallo Spaceboy.”

The Laughing Gnome” by Laura McKee. Bowie’s infamous, corny novelty song is rarely covered because, well, it’s pretty bad. Laura McKee is in on the joke and seems like she can barely hold it together as she performs it on her piano as if it was a real song. Maybe not the overall best piece of Bowie-related music, but her understated delivery and delicate piano playing actually makes it funny.

Life on Mars” by Eliot Smart and “The Man Who Sold the World” by Musica Soberana. I’m grouping these together because they are acoustic guitar instrumental covers. No singing here. Cool! And well done.

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