How David Bowie influenced some of our finest artists

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Some of Australia and New Zealand’s finest pay tribute to David Bowie

We spend a lot of time talking to artists about the music that drives them, the artists who inspire them and the songs that they love.

Unsurprisingly, David Bowie has come up on plenty of occasions during these discussions. So, as we celebrate a year since the great man’s passing, we thought we’d dig up some of the moments where artists have paid tribute to his finest work. 

Sarah Blasko – ‘Heroes’ and ‘Without You’

I think my favourite David Bowie song is probably the massive hit ‘Heroes’. It’s inspiring, it’s uplifting and the video clip in incredible – I’ve watched it probably a thousand times. But I think my sentimental favourite actually is a song called ‘Without You’, which is an album track on Let’s Dance. You hear a huge hit that gets you in one part of yourself, and then you hear this album track that you just can’t stop playing and that’s ‘Without You’, for me. 

Paul Dempsey – ‘Ashes To Ashes’

‘Ashes To Ashes’ was the first Bowie song I ever heard as a little kid. It’s also the first music video I recall seeing. It had a really chilling effect on me, it haunted me for a long time afterwards.

It’s full of this very eerie imagery of him walking down a beach in this strange clown suit with these strange looking people either side of him and a bulldozer creeping along behind them. That’s sort of intercut with him in a gigantic straitjacket in a huge padded cell. It was a lot to take in for a little kid.

Also, the music just completely got under my skin as well. It was the first time I’d ever heard music that was creepy and eerie and atmospheric, not just happy, chirpy pop music. It was beautiful but strange and it really had a profound effect on me. Still, to this day when I hear this song I get chills.

I had the opportunity to tell the man himself how much he haunted my dreams as a small child. He thought that was quite funny and very graciously offered me an apology. 

Neil Finn – ‘Moonage Daydream’

This happens to be the favourite song of my wife Sharon. A song I’ve been aware of since I was a young man. I had no idea what he was singing about – I still really don’t. It’s full of great expressions and good images. They don’t really add up to a whole lot of overall meaning.

Bowie was a master of that. A master of adopting guises both as a personality and a lyricist. When I found out what the words actually were, they made me laugh. I thought ‘How could I attach so much meaning to this song?’ 

Josh Pyke – ‘Space Oddity’

It’s an incredible story and the character development is just really fantastic. You feel a real connection to Major Tom and you sense, empathetically, his isolation up in space when he talks about sitting in a tin can.

I love in the song how the dynamics change, it’s almost like a micro musical theatre song. It changes from upbeat to more whimsical. When he’s floating through space you get this kind of ethereal, flowing music. When things are becoming more tense you get that almost ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ guitar riff, which I love.

I also love the fact that Bowie produced this track – if you look at his track record as a producer, not just a musician, it’s pretty impressive. Lust For Life by Iggy Pop is a pretty phenomenal record production wise.

I also love that he’s kind of a savvy marketer, he creates these characters to connect with people. He released ‘Space Oddity’ as a single something like ten days before Apollo 11 actually landed on the moon in ‘69. He was kinda tapping into something that everyone was thinking about, which is pretty clever.

I love the way he returns to the character in songs later on in his career like ‘Ashes to Ashes’ and ‘Hello Spaceboy’.

To me it encapsulates everything I love about Bowie; he was an artist, an incredible producer and also a conceptual artist, tying this song to what was happening in popular culture at the time. 

Deborah Conway – ‘Station To Station’ (Live)

I went to see David Bowie when I was about 17 or 18 at the MCG. It was pouting with rain, I wore my ‘All The Young Dudes’ white pants, which were soaked to the knee in mud. I was blown away.

He was just the most extraordinary live artist. I’d always loved the records, but seeing him live was a whole other dimension that opened up to me. I still think that the live records David Bowie made were every bit as valid and interesting and other-dimensional to the ones that he made in the studio.

Paul Mac – ‘I Can’t Give Everything Away’

When David Bowie died the amount of grief that hit was kind of surprising, the amount and the extent of it was quite astounding and overwhelming. He’s had so many periods of being such an influence on so many different levels.

So I thought I’d listen to his new album, because that’s what he’d want us to do. I loved it. I was talking to my friends about it and we said ‘talk about the ultimate rollout – video clip, song, death, internet frenzy’.

I think this song just captures how beautiful that you can write a song knowing that you’re about to go and capture exactly what you want to say and put it out to the world in exactly the form that you want to do it. 

Kris Schroeder (The Basics) – ‘As The World Falls Down’

For me, seeing Labyrinth on VHS as an eight or nine-year-old, I was instantly captivated by the world that Jim Henson and his team, including David Bowie, had created. It was just so evocative, so colourful, so edgy and dangerous, in a way.

It wasn’t until much later however that I came to appreciate this particular song, which, as a child, I’d regarded as a bit of a low point of the film. It’s the scene in the ballroom where Jenifer Connolly and David Bowie are having a little flirtatious moment.

But, as an adult, I’d seen the genius in how he’d taken the traditional I VI IV V form popular in 1950s ballads and twisted it with a Minor 4th and, later, a Minor 2nd in the chorus to create something really quite sublime.

Davey Lane – ‘Boys Keep Swinging’

It just has this great sloppiness to it. The story goes that, in the studio, David Bowie switched everybody’s instruments around, so the guitar player got on the drum kit and Tony Visconti got on the bass, so there’s this really great, raw sloppiness and looseness to it that I really love. And the lyrics are super playful and nuts too.

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