Two years ago not only the world of music but any remote connection to the art world was shaken to its core. Brixton’s streets flooded as the masses cried out, and in one big example of musical unity sang along to the choruses of songs that will forever be embedded into the lives of all of us. Social media was set alight with messages of condolence for a man, and in many ways, almost a mythical god, that had gone beyond the musical boundaries, and shaped the world with his quirky characters, colourful, yet contrasting visuals and humanitarian heart. The rock clubs stopped in their tracks, swapping over the Slipknot for the jazzy likes of ‘Rebel, Rebel’, and even now this influence can be seen in every knee bending, ear twisting record in some way or another.
Two years on and the Starman may have left this world, but here’s just how he has both influenced and is continuing to influence the world of rock.
DAVID BOWIE AND GRUNGE
Whilst his flamboyant and somewhat pride anthems such as, Under Pressure, and the funk floor, Let’s Dance may be the last songs to spring into our minds when we think of grunge, Bowie’s darker undertones, and artistic flare very much influenced the bands that went on to define the genre itself. During their MTV Unplugged session, Seattle icons, NIRVANA, covered an intricate haunting rendition of, The Man Who Sold The World. Fast forward a few years when rebellion ran through the veins of teenagers wanting to throw away their pop metal for ‘pop grunge’, newcomers, GREEN RIVER took angst to a new level, and rebirthed the slapstick, ‘Queen Bitch’ in their own rendition. And who were Green River? Well who were Green River exactly? Former members of pioneering bands such as PEARL JAM and MUD HONEY.
AFRAID OF AMERICANS – BOWIE & TRENT REZNOR
One of the most iconic genre breaking collaborations was to take form in the late 90s, and while exact dates are hard to pinpoint as to when the overlord of electronic nu metal / goth pop, and Bowie were to come together in an almost galactic Star Wars sized force, the collaborations between NINE INCH NAILS and the starman are still very much relevant. The ‘paranoia’ of the spine chilling video for, Afraid Of Americans, was an almost futuristic look into the rising gun violence of America, all the while the psychosis was calmed down for a brief moment, only for Bowie to join Reznor on stage for a spine chilling cover of, Hurt.
Reznor and Bowie remained close friends throughout their lives, with Trent Reznor even closing the first Nine Inch Nails performance in three years last year, closing the set with a mournful revisit to the Blackstar album’s, ‘I Can’t Give Everything Away.’
These two both definitely still have plans, Reznor even confesses to releasing a series of Bowie remixes under the radar. The grand plan though? Well we imagine it’s something not for this world.
“HE CHANGED MY LIFE FOREVER…” – MARILYN MANSON
A line undoubtedly said from everyone’s lips within the musical realm at any given point over the last 40 years, Marilyn Manson is a walking example of how it was more than Bowie’s music that inspired a whole new rock and roll supervillain / conceptual character.
“Every song of [Bowie’s] was a way for me to communicate to others,” Manson writes. “It was a sedative. An arousal. A love letter I could never have written” Manson told Rolling Stone last year. His first introduction to the icon was the weird, yet strangely questionable and enjoyable video for, Ashes To Ashes. This theatrics, and a deep obsession with Ziggy Stardust’s unorthodox mind has countlessly inspired one of rock’s most controversial, and yet influential giants.
In a farewell letter, Manson closed his final goodbye to Ziggy with,
“This crushing moment of fear and loss can only be treated the way his music has affected everyone who was fortunate enough to hear and love it.
Let’s NEVER let go of what he gave us.
THESE ARE THE NEW BANDS: BOWIE, PLACEBO, AND NEW MUSIC
David was given one of the most historical, and groundbreaking careers that every musician, artist, and anyone creative would envy. But this didn’t let him give way to arrogance at any point. In 1996, prior to releasing their glamorous androgynous first release, PLACEBO were in fact Bowie’s touring band. “He got ahold of our demo and, on the strength of that, asked us to come support him,” reflected bassist Stefan Olsdal in an interview in 2016.
“He got ahold of our demo and, on the strength of that, asked us to come support him,” – Stefan Osdal
Further supporting the band, Bowie then went on to record a duet on band’s renowned single, “Without You I’m Nothing”, causing the band to rocket during the late 90s. New music supporter? Oh Bowie, you really were our type of guy!
THE THIN BLACK DUKE
A nickname given by yours truly to the almost unnerving comparison of CREEPER’S Will Ghould and the original duke, if anyone is going to be the first to not only tell you about their hero’s influence on their own musical attributes but have hourly long conversations about the man’s career, it’s Ghould himself.
Having first been exposed to Bowie through his father’s record collection, the conceptual genius that birthed the pop culture heroes such as Ziggy Stardust, has since been cladded in black leather and written into a mystery novel, or as we formerly know it as, Eternity, In Your Arms’.
“That’s definitely a thought that always keeps me humble….” – WILL GHOULD
Our highlights from discussions we’ve had with Will over the years about Bowie? This…
“There’s an influence of his characteristics that I always really take on board.” Will told us back in 2016. “When Bowie was filming his video for ‘Ashes To Ashes’ there was a man walking his dog on the beach. The director had approached the man and asked, ‘do you know who this is?’, and the man replied, ‘yeah some c**t’ in a clown suit.’ That’s definitely a thought that always keeps me humble….”
Bowie’s live performances have been seen by the hundreds, and his showmanship and level of musicianship in the role of the vocalist can be seen across various genres, in and outside of the world of rock.
BOWIE’S OPENNESS TO SEXUAL AND GENDER IDENTITY
** DISCLAIMER: WE ARE NOT DEFINING GENDER IDENTITY NOR SEXUALITY ON WHAT YOU CHOOSE TO WHERE, BUT ARE DISCUSSING BOWIE’S ABILITY TO OPEN DOORS TO SEXUALITY & GENDER IDENTITY, AND FURTHER BRING ATTENTION THE IMPORTANCE OF THE PRESENCE OF THE LGTBQ COMMUNITY WITHIN MUSIC **
Now as we mention, this does not mean that Bowie influenced the trans community over his choice of wardrobe, but allowing others to recognise their own gender identity, and further open doors to others to feel that their presence was recognised within music. His consistent publicity on the subject, and support of the community still holds a place today. A strong example is his presentation at the Grammys, welcoming everyone across the gender identity board.
“We’re a band that speaks a lot about gender and Bowie has given a lot of space to gender non-conformity.” Comments Em of Nervus. “I wouldn’t say that his experience is anything like mine, but he has definitely played a huge role in some people discovering and accepting their own trans identity, which is awesome.”
Whilst his baggy jumpsuits, wild makeup, and every colour of the rainbow dyed to his body was one way of expressing his frustration with the ‘gender roles’ and ‘appearances’ of heterosexuality, at one point Bowie was even striking down The Sex Pistols at their own controversial game on the likes of Top Of The Pops. However one of the visual game changers comes from the cover of, The Man Who Sold The World’, where a long-haired and young Bowie wears a light dress, not for the same brash look of ‘punk’, but rather because it looks and feels right for him. And it’s easy to see this same level of acceptance and comfort seen by the likes of AGAINST ME!, and even British newcomers, NERVUS.
In an interview in 2013, Laura Jane Grace of Against Me! Told SPIN how Bowie has not only influenced her, but has become an easy gateway to educate her own daughter on her choice. “Grace educates her daughter about the transition by showing her music videos and album covers for the New York Dolls, Boy George, David Bowie, and Freddie Mercury.”