10 Bands That Owe Their Existence To David Bowie
8 January 2019, 13:35
As the dust settles on the terrible news of the death of David Bowie, Radio X looks at the huge influence this one artist has had on generations of musicians.
Back in 1972, a whole generation saw David Bowie perform Starman on Top Of The Pops and knew immediately their lives were changed forever. They went away with their instructions - here was someone who was not afraid to be odd, different and "out there". A kook, if you like.
Some of the faithful considered art and literature and how they could incorporate new concepts into their work. Others came to terms with their sexuality and resolved to live their lives as they wanted, just like David. And a great many formed bands and began making music. Here are just a tiny, tiny handful of artists who owe a huge debt to David Bowie.
1. 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)
2. 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)
3. 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)
4. 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)
5. 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)
6. 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)
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)
Androgyny. "I'm a bisexual man who's never had a homosexual experience." Passionate lyrics. Europe Is Our Playground. Nice shirts. Trash. Like Numan, David Sylvian of Japan and Peter Murphy of Bauhaus before him, Brett Anderson is a true child of Bowie.
Most Bowie-like moment: Trash (1996)
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)
Back in 2013, Black Francis offered the band’s services as backing for Bowie should he ever tour again. It was not to be, but there was mutual admiration between the superstar and the legendary Boston rockers. Frank Black (for he was called that at the time) performed at Bowie’s 50th birthday show in 1997, while David returned the favour by recording Pixies’ tune Cactus for his Heathen album in 2002.
Most Bowie-like moment: Where Is My Mind? (1988)