The most famous musical alter egos

4 February 2024, 18:00

David Bowie was the greatest practitioner of the musical alter ego... but he wasn't the only one.

Three rock alter egos: "Camille", "Machphisto" and "Ziggy Stardust"
Three rock alter egos: "Camille", "Machphisto" and "Ziggy Stardust". Picture: DPA Picture Alliance/Trinity Mirror/Mirrorpix/Gijsbert Hanekroot/Alamy Stock Photo
Radio X

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  1. David Bowie - Major Tom, Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane and The Thin White Duke

    David Bowie was the ultimate style and musical chameleon. After a number of years masquerading as a mod, a hippie, a folk singer, a mime artist and a cheery singer of chirpy musical theatre, the musician tried on different styles, before reinventing himself as "the Major Tom guy" with his Number 1 single Space Oddity in 1969. But it was his appearance as Ziggy Stardust in 1972 that made him a superstar.

    David Bowie – The Jean Genie (Official Video)

  2. Bono - The Fly, Mirrorball Man and MacPhisto

    During U2's 1992-3 the Zoo TV Tour, Bono unleashed three alter egos in The Fly, Mirrorball Man and MacPhisto. The Fly saw Bono clad in all leather, while Mirror Ball Man wore a shining silver lamé suit with matching shoes and cowboy hat. MacPhisto wore a shiny gold suit with gold platform shoes, pale make-up, lipstick, and devil's horns atop his head. Bono's performances and the Zoo TV Tour as a whole, marked a change in stadium concerts in terms of scale and production.

    U2 - Even Better Than The Real Thing

  3. John Lennon - Dr Winston O'Boogie

    John Lennon may have been a Beatles star and huge icon, but Dr Winston O'Boogie gave him his only US No.1 during his lifetime with Whatever Gets You Thru The Night. Recorded with Elton John, the Rocket Man bet Lennon the song would top the charts. Fulfilling the terms of his bet, Lennon performed the song at Elton's Thanksgiving 1974 performance at Madison Square Garden.

    Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Remastered 2010)

  4. Prince - Camille, Symbol

    Camille was the name Prince gave his high-pitched sped up, female-sounding vocals. An album in this style of the same name was due to be released in 1986, but was cancelled weeks before it was scheduled. You can still find Camille though, as most of the tracks were incorporated onto his Sign O' The Times album. He also wrote The Bangles' Manic Monday under the name Christopher and was a symbol from 1993-2000. We settled for calling him "the artist formerly known as Prince".

    Prince & The New Power Generation - My Name Is Prince (Official Music Video)

  5. Morrissey - Ann Coates

    The Manchester bard is known best as Morrissey or Moz, but he took on a fair few characters during the creative process and is credited as Ann Coates on Bigmouth Strikes Again - he performs backing vocals via speeded up tape. Fan forums also connect the characters Sheridan Whiteside, Eddie Riff, Terence Stomp, Whores In Retirement, Stoney Hando and Knuckle Duster to The Smiths frontman.

    The Smiths - Bigmouth Strikes Again

  6. Paul McCartney - The Fireman

    In 1993, and album called Strawberries Oceans Ships Forest appeared credited to The Fireman. The ambient electronica project turned out to be none other than Paul McCartney and legendary producer Youth (Martin Glover).

    Strawberries, Oceans, Ships, Forest

  7. Jarvis Cocker - Darren Spooner

    Ghoulish zombie/skeleton Darren Spooner was the alter ego the Pulp frontman took on for his side project Relaxed Muscle.

    Relaxed Muscle - Sexualised

  8. Jesse Hughes and Josh Homme - Boots Electric and Carlo Von Sexron

    Boots Electric and Carlo Von Sexron are the duo's ostentatious alter-egos in Eagles Of Death Metal.

    Eagles of Death Metal - I Want You So Hard (Official Video)

  9. Neil Young - Bernard Shakey

    He may have been Neil Young on the stage, but behind the camera, he was Bernard Shakey, and responsible for directing the likes of Journey Through The Past (1974), Rust Never Sleeps (1979) and Greendale (2003).

    Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Hey Hey, My My ( Into the Black ) live 1991 HD

  10. Charles Thompson - Black Francis

    Following a long line of Charles Thompsons, Charles Michael Kittridge Thompson IV probably couldn't wait to take on the role of Black Francis when playing in the Pixies. When the band split in 1993, he took on the mantle Frank Black for a solo career.

    Pixies - Monkey Gone To Heaven (Official Video)

  11. Interpol's Paul Banks - Julian Plenti

    The Interpol frontman released a solo album in 2009 called Julian Plenti Is... Skyscraper. Julian - taken from the singer's lesser-known middle name, now very much stays that way, since he now prefers to record his solo material under Paul Banks.

    Julian Plenti - "Games For Days"

  12. Jim Morrison - Mr Mojo Risin'

    The Doors frontman gave himself the moniker Mr. Mojo Risin', which is an anagram of his name. A reference to this name pops up at the end of the band's track L.A. Woman.

    The Doors - L.A. Woman (Remastered) [Full Album]