“Lightning Frightening” was first officially released as a bonus track on Ryko’s CD reissue of The Man Who Sold The World, which noted the track was from that LP’s sessions. However, a consensus has formed over the past decade that “Lightning Frightening” was recorded a bit later, anywhere from very late 1970 to (best guess) the Arnold Corns sessions of March-April 1971.
That’s because in part the ever-reliable Nicholas Pegg notes that “Lightning” is pretty much a blatant rip-off of Crazy Horse’s “Dirty Dirty,” from Crazy Horse’s self-titled LP released in February 1971. If you buy this theory (I certainly do—just listen to ’em back-to-back), then Bowie’s “Lightning Frightening” couldn’t have been cut any earlier than that (though it’s possible, though unlikely, that Bowie had an acetate of the record prior to its release).
I’ve dwelt on this minutiae because the actual song is a dud. Three chords—A, G, E—repeated over and over again; a chorus that seems like it was designed for a English instruction class; some vague talk about “farmland” and being free. Bowie’s saxophone, some harmonica and slide guitar serve as distractions.
Top: Fassbinder, Whity.