I've Been Waiting For You single artwork – CanadaWritten by: Neil Young
Recorded: August-September 2001; October 2001 – January 2002
Producers: David Bowie, Tony Visconti

Released: 10 June 2002

Available on:
Heathen

Personnel

David Bowie: vocals, guitar, keyboards, synthesizer, Theremin
Dave Grohl: guitar
Tony Visconti: bass guitar
Matt Chamberlain: drums, loops

David Bowie recorded a version of Neil Young’s ‘I’ve Been Waiting For You’ for the 2002 album Heathen.

Young’s recording of the song appeared on his self-titled debut album, released in 1968. Along with ‘Cactus’ and ‘I Took A Trip On A Gemini Spaceship’, it was one of three cover versions on Heathen.

I do three covers on this album, in homage to the writers as much as any other reason. The Neil Young song ‘I’ve Been Waiting For You’ was from his very first album. When I got that album in 1969, I was dazzled by the overall complexity of sound. It was so majestic but aloft or lonely sounding at the same time. A real yearning. And I’d always wanted to do that song on stage or someplace.
David Bowie
Livewire magazine, 16 June 2002

‘I’ve Been Waiting For You’ had been covered by Pixies, and was a b-side of their 1990 single ‘Velouria’, with Kim Deal on lead vocals. Their arrangement became the template for Bowie’s future versions.

A pivotal act in the alternative rock scene in the late ’80s and early ’90s, Pixies were much admired by Bowie, who described their 1989 song ‘Debaser’ as “one of the greatest rock songs”.

I think the first [Tin Machine] album was important as it was sort of a proto-grunge album. David was listening to bands like Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr and the Pixies, but none of those bands had broken into the top 20 US albums. Tin Machine I think opened the door to some of the more chaotic-sounding guitar bands.
Tim Palmer
Strange Fascination, David Buckley

Tin Machine played ‘I’ve Been Waiting For You’ live in 1991 during their It’s My Life Tour, with guitarist Reeves Gabrels on lead vocals. A performance from 24 October 1991 in Hamburg was released on the Oy Vey, Baby concert video.

We were playing 1,500-5,000 capacity places, trying to keep it relatively small, because if we played bigger places that implied we’d be playing songs from David’s career, including the hits. And we weren’t. But we did add some extra songs. I remember we did a Pixies song [‘Debaser’] and I had ‘I’ve Been Waiting For You’, the Neil Young song that David ended up redoing later.
Reeves Gabrels
David Bowie: Ultimate Record Collection (Uncut)

In the studio

Bowie’s own studio version was recorded at Allaire Studios in New York state in the late summer 2001, with overdubs following the next year and into 2002 at Looking Glass Studios in Manhattan.

The recording features Foo Fighters frontman and former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl on lead guitar. Grohl had played at Bowie’s 50th birthday concert in New York in 1997, and had collaborated with Bowie, Reeves Gabrels and Pixies’ Black Francis on the song ‘Jewel’, on Gabrels’ second solo album Ulysses (Della Notte).

As with Pete Townshend’s guitar solo on ‘Slow Burn’, Grohl’s part was recorded separately and sent to Bowie and producer Tony Visconti.

He just called and asked if I’d play guitar on a song. And I said, yes sure; he sent me the copy of the songs, I played guitar and sent it back. I mean, I went and bought the album last week and it sounds pretty good.
Dave Grohl
Dotmusic, 9 October 2002

Guitarist Gerry Leonard performed on ‘I’ve Been Waiting For You’, but his parts were cut to make way for Grohl’s.

That was another one where I played a bunch of stuff on it but Grohl ended up on the end of it. You have to jump into the stream and sometimes the bigger personalities win out. I need to do a bit more shouting, a bit more argy-bargy, I guess!
Gerry Leonard
David Bowie: Ultimate Record Collection (Uncut)

The release

‘I’ve Been Waiting For You’ was first released on 10 June 2002 as the sixth track on Heathen.

In October 2002 it was issued as a single in Canada. The CD also contained ‘Sunday’ (Tony Visconti mix) and ‘Shadow Man’.

The SACD edition of Heathen contained a version of ‘I’ve Been Waiting For You’ lasting 3:16, sixteen seconds longer than the standard album version.

Live performances

David Bowie performed ‘I’ve Been Waiting For You’ on 49 occasions between 2002 and 2004, during the Heathen Tour and A Reality Tour.

The first was on 11 June 2002 at New York’s Roseland Ballroom, at a show for BowieNet subscribers in which he performed Low and Heathen in their entirety. Bowie went on to perform the song at every show on the Heathen Tour.

It was performed on just one occasion in 2003, at the Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy in Paris, an early A Reality Tour show.

Eleven further outings for the song took place in 2004. Bowie’s final performance of ‘I’ve Been Waiting For You’ was on 2 April at the Corel Centre in Ottawa, Canada.

Previous song: ‘Afraid’
Next song: ‘I Would Be Your Slave’