10 bands that may not have existed without David Bowie

16 June 2022, 11:00

David Bowie in 1972, 1976 and 1983
David Bowie in 1972, 1976 and 1983. Picture: Photo 12/Collection Christophel/TCD/Prod.DB / Alamy Stock Photo

As the influential album Ziggy Stardust turns 50 years old we ponder: which great artists might not have had a career if it were not for the genius of Bowie?

  1. Suede

    Like Numan, David Sylvian of Japan and Peter Murphy of Bauhaus before him, Suede's Brett Anderson is a true child of Bowie. "I'm a bisexual man who's never had a homosexual experience," he said in in a famous interview.

    Most Bowie-like moment: Trash (1996)

  2. Sex Pistols

    The first wave of British punks took Bowie's glamorous take on outsider status and made it their own. Even his art school take on classic rock’n’roll filtered through into The Pistols’ music. Sid Vicious was the ultimate Bowie fan, creating his own cartoon-like persona with spiked, Ziggy-like hair and extravagant posturing.

    Most Bowie-like moment: Pretty Vacant (1977)

  3. Pulp

    Jarvis Cocker was the 90s King Of The Misfits, and told the Evening Standard: “Bowie made a real impact on our culture: he brought a lot of those quite subversive and alternative ideas right into people's living rooms.” Cocker's gangly, yet graceful stage persona is pure Thin White Duke.

    Most Bowie-like moment: Mis-Shapes (1995)

  4. Joy Division

    Manchester was a huge Bowie-worshipping city. The nightclub Pip’s was the place to go if you wanted your regular fix in its “Bowie Room”. A young Manchester-based punk band named called themselves Warsaw after the first track on side two of Low (Warsawza) and played their first show at Pip’s under their new name, Joy Division.

    They modelled their music on the bleak soundscapes of that album and let’s not forget, also, that singer Ian Curtis was listening to Iggy Pop’s Bowie-produced album The Idiot the night he died…

    Most Bowie-like moment: The Eternal (1980)

  5. The Smiths

    Morrissey was a huge admirer of Bowie as a youth, being a fan of all things glamorous and androgynous. He later had the superstar’s wingman Mick Ronson as producer of his 1992 album Your Arsenal. Bowie returned the compliment by covering Moz’s I Know It’s Gonna Happen Someday, although the relationship was somewhat soured over a disagreement over the use of a Bowie photo on a Morrissey sleeve. Johnny Marr later named Bowie as his ultimate icon, telling the NME: “He really understood what a great artform commercial pop could be."

    Most Bowie-like moment: Panic (1986)

  6. The Cure

    Young Robert Smith was a Bowie fan in the early 1970s, but it was the release of ’77’s Low that changed his life. He called it the greatest album he’d ever heard and based The Cure’s patented early 80s gloom sound on the ambient side of Bowie’s masterpiece. His dream came true in 1997 when he was invited to perform at Bowie’s 50th birthday show in New York. There he met Tin Machine guitarist Reeves Gabrels, who now plays with The Cure.

    Most Bowie-like moment: A Forest (1980)

  7. Siouxsie And The Banshees

    In the wake of the Pistols’ breakthrough, young Susan Ballion reinvented herself as Siouxsie Sioux, creating a new Bowie-like personality with outrageous hair and striking make-up. The cold, minimalist sound of the first Banshees album, The Scream, was a reaction to the raucous sound of punk and embraced Bowie’s Berlin period.

    As Sioux's confidence as a performer grew, she turned into a striking apparition with a shock of black hair and theatrical make-up that dwarfed Ziggy Stardust's elaborate garb.

    Most Bowie-like moment: Mirage (1978)

  8. Gary Numan And Tubeway Army

    Gary Webb of Hammersmith was another artist who reinvented himself in the Bowie mould. His breakthrough hit, Are “Friends” Electric? has the Bowie-esque quote marks (see "Heroes") and his stage persona was firmly based on The Thin White Duke, neon lights and all.

    Most Bowie-like moment: Down In The Park (1979)

  9. Placebo

    Led by androgynous Brian Molko, the trio worked with Bowie on the song Without You I’m Nothing.

    The band’s Stefan Olsdal told Radio X: “He supported Placebo before our first album came out. We supported him live on the strength of our first demo. He was ready to champion a band he hardly knew at the time, so as a human being he will be missed as well."

    Most Bowie-like moment: Without You I'm Nothing (of course!) (1998)

  10. The Kooks

    The Kooks might not strike you as looking or sounding much like Bowie but the band were very inspired by the "Heroes" singer. In fact, their very name was taken from the track of the same name on Bowie's Hunky Dory album.

    Most Bowie-like moment: Their band name

Watch Ricky Gervais talk about his relationship with David Bowie:

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