David Bowie Performs 'Teenage Wildlife' in 1995: Flashback - Rolling Stone
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Flashback: David Bowie Performs ‘Teenage Wildlife’ in 1995

The 1980 ‘Scary Monsters’ classic rips into Bowie’s New Wave adversaries

The newest archival David Bowie live album to hit streaming services is Ouvrez Le Chien, which was recorded at the Starplex Amphitheater in Dallas, Texas, on October 13th, 1995. This was a co-headlining show with Nine Inch Nails and the two acts performed five songs together, but this collection is limited to the 15 tunes that Bowie and his band played after Trent Reznor left the stage along with two bonus tracks from a Birmingham, England, show later in the year.

The tour came at a time when Bowie’s popularity in America was at an extreme low point and Nine Inch Nails were ascendent thanks to the huge success of The Downward Spiral. The vast majority of fans came every night to see NIN, but Reznor couldn’t stand the idea of his hero playing before him. It lead to an unprecedented move where NIN played first and Bowie came out at the end of their set for duets on songs like “Hurt” and “Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps).” With each song, more members of NIN left the stage and were replaced by performers in Bowie’s band. By the end, only Bowie and his musicians remained and they went right into their set without any pause.

Despite their best efforts, there were nights where young NIN fans still walked out in droves the minute that Reznor was off the stage. “A lot of the audience knew [Bowie] because they knew Nirvana’s version of ‘The Man Who Sold the World,'” Bowie bassist Gail Ann Dorsey told Rolling Stone in 2016. “I thought that was funny. We played pretty much all of the Outside record, which was pretty out there at the time. I wasn’t even sure I liked it myself at first.”

This was five years after Bowie pledged to stop playing his hits in concert, meaning he and his band had an even more difficult time winning over casual fans. But with songs like “Heroes,” “Let’s Dance” and “Changes” off the table, they were able to dig deep into the Bowie catalog and resurrect wonderful obscurities like “Andy Warhol” from Hunky Dory, “Joe the Lion” from “Heroes” and “Subterraneans” from Low.

One of the nightly highlights of the set was “Teenage Wildlife” from 1980’s Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps). Bowie was in somewhat of a defensive crouch when he wrote the song because his prior LP, 1979’s Lodger, had underperformed commercially and the New Wave scene suddenly filled the Top 40 airwaves with a fresh set of rivals gunning for his throne. According to multiple reports, he was particularly troubled by the rise of Gary Numan, whose 1979 breakthrough LP The Pleasure Principle led rock some critics to hail him as the new Bowie.

This didn’t sit well with the old Bowie and many read the lyrics to “Teenage Wildlife” as a direct attack on Numan. “A broken-nosed mogul are you,” Bowie snarls in the song. “One of the new-wave boys/Same old thing in brand-new drag/Comes sweeping into view/As ugly as a teenage millionaire.”

Here’s video of Bowie performing “Teenage Wildlife” in Birmingham, England, on December 13th, 1995. This is the exact show where Ouvrez Le Chien bonus tracks “Moonage Daydream” and “Under Pressure” were recorded.

Ouvrez Le Chien is one of many amazing archival Bowie live albums that have quietly appeared on streaming services in recent months. Here’s hoping that a future one explores his A Reality Tour of 2003–04. A November 2003 Dublin show already came out on CD and DVD, but the set list changed wildly throughout the long tour. It deserves at least one more live album, especially since it was his final tour.

In This Article: David Bowie, Nine Inch Nails


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