David Bowie’s instrumental track Crystal Japan has a rather odd history of how it slipped into the public attention. When it was written and recorded in 1979 and still had the title Fuje Moto San, it was intended for the album Scary Monsters, but was discarded. Instead it was used in a Japanese commercial for the sake Crystal Jun Rock which also featured Bowie himself.  As a result, the track was released as a single in Japan and mostly forgotten about afterwards.

Then in 1994, Nine Inch Nails’ ground-breaking album The Downward Spiral comes out. On it is a beautifully haunting instrumental track titled A Warm Place. The main keyboard motive isn’t just similar (as Wikipedia puts it), it’s identical to parts of Crystal Japan. And even though it’s not a direct sample from the original track, it’s clear where the melody came from.

So is this blatant stealing? No, it turns out, Trent Reznor (the man behind NIN) is quite the David Bowie fan. So much that he doesn’t just sample Bowie’s voice for a remix of that album (at 4:29), Bowie and Reznor were working together on multiple projects. Nine Inch Nails goes on tour with David Bowie. There’s multiple tracks floating on the web of Bowie and Reznor playing songs of both Bowie and NIN together live. Reznor remixed the track I’m afraid of Americans. Ironically for the video, Reznor plays a creepy stalker who follows Bowie. To top  it off in 1997 Reznor puts a track of Bowie on the soundtrack of the 1997 film Lynch film Lost Highway. If you want to know more about the influence and their views on how everything’s connected there’s a 4-part interview with Bowie and Reznor on YouTube that starts here.

David Bowie’s Crystal Japan can be heard here:

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