Lightning Frightening

Lightning Frightening.

“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.

9 Responses to Lightning Frightening

  1. billter says:

    I actually quite like this song. It’s a frivolous little tossed-off piece of pastry that is quite refreshing in its way. Give me this one over a ponderous piece of work like “Width of a Circle” any day.

    • Andy says:

      I just listened to this record for the first time possibly since 91 or so. This song and Holy Holy came as a huge relief after what has always felt like an adolescent, convoluted record. I guess it might be a ripoff ( haven’t checked out the other yet), but I have no problem with something being casual and simple if it’s good, and this was charming and natural, two things MWSTW lacks (okay, it came later).

  2. Remco says:

    Chris, in the book you’ve given this song a specific recording date; 23 april 1971. What changed between writing this entry and writing the book?

  3. The longer, stereo version that is circulating … is it a true stereo mix or pseudo-mix by someone?

    • col1234 says:

      no that’s the real one. the ryko is the edit

      • Sorry, I wasn’t clear. I’m more interested in the mono vs. stereo differences, not the fade-in edit. Ryko is mono, and the bootlegged version is stereo. Was the original master ever in stereo? I’m wondering if the bootleg version is an actual stereo mix from Bowie’s camp, or if some fan created a pseudo-stereo mix in a DAW.

  4. billter says:

    Almost a year later, I finally listened to the Crazy Horse song. It’s a ripoff alright. But I still like “Lightning” anyway.

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