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Reznor Takes Bowie On A Hellish Ride

November 1, 1997 12:00 AM ET

The thought of Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor as a menacing taxi driver would be enough to strike terror in the hearts of the calmest of men. All the more reason he's the absolutely perfect villain for David Bowie's new video, "I'm Afraid Of Americans," which premiered at 1 a.m. Oct. 28 on MTV's "120 Minutes" and went into heavy rotation on the channel that day.

"Trent is the personification of the foreigners' idea of paranoia in America," says Bowie, with a charming laugh. "The cipher is the (Robert) De Niro character in 'Taxi Driver.' Trent offered to do it; he got quite off on the idea."

The video was directed by the hot British team of Dom&Nick. Bowie played the paranoid foreigner in the clip, which features a few nice inside jokes for those familiar with the music video community and New York taxis.

Despite his obvious fondness for Reznor now, Bowie says he wasn't instantly smitten when he first heard Reznor on Nine Inch Nails' 1990 album, Pretty Hate Machine. "I thought 'Pretty Hate Machine' was interesting (but) fairly one-dimensional," says Bowie. "Then when I heard (1994's) 'The Downward Spiral,' I thought this was a really gifted musician." The two finally met during rehearsals for a 1995 tour in which Nine Inch Nails opened for Bowie.

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Song Stories

“American Girl”

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers | 1976

It turns out that a single with "American" in its title--recorded on the Fourth of July during the nation's Bicentennial, no less--can actually sell better in Britain. Coupled with the Heartbreakers' flair for Byrds jangle and Animals hooks, though, is Tom Petty's native-Florida drawl that keeps this classic grounded at home. Petty dispelled rumors that the song was about a suicidal student, explaining that the inspiration came from when he was 25 and used to salute the highway traffic outside his apartment window. "It sounded like the ocean to me," he recalled. "That was my ocean. My Malibu. Where I heard the waves crash, but it was just the cars going by."

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