It’s not hard to imagine that someone as influential as David Bowie would have an impact on music in Athens. You can’t swing a guitar around without hitting someone who could pluck out “Space Oddity” or at the very least spout every line from Labyrinth. But our departed Starman had a more than a few connections to the Classic City.
Let’s start with one of the big diamond dogs: R.E.M.
Anyone who’s seen Velvet Goldmine knows that the fictional Brian Slade is a stand in for Bowie, but did you know that Michael Stipe acted as a producer for the film?
And you should be familiar with R.E.M.’s covers of Bowie penned songs such as Iggy Pop’s “Funtime.” Stipe would often quote from “Diamond Dogs” during the band’s 1987 tour. But this is probably my favorite at this point in time.
You can also guess that some of Stipe’s stage personas had a bit of Bowie. And when someone like Scott McCaughey of the Young Fresh Fellows is a side musician for your group, you’re bound to have a few Bowie influences floating around at all times.
So let’s move along to another local group: Pylon
It was quietly released a while back in 2012 but “The First Time I Heard David Bowie” included a small selection from Vanessa. In one section she writes
“David Bowie first entered my awareness via the radio version of Space Oddity. It was easy to imagine that I was an astronaut, singing along while driving to my part-time job. My car was a sort of tin can and there was nothing I could do.”
Naturally this brings us to The B-52s.
While Bowie had been in business for years before the B’s released “Rock Lobster”, the artists shared an appreciation for the zany. Take a look sometime at the costumes Bowie employed in his early days and the crazy makeup and dresses of the B’s. There’s definitely a kinship there.
For a more solid connection, you need only to look at the number one most underrated musician in the world, Nile Rodgers. In 1983, Rodgers produced “China Girl,” “Modern Love,” and most notably, “Let’s Dance.” All of them hits for sure. A few years later in 1989, the B-52s biggest album Cosmic Thing came out featuring guitar work and production from Nile. It’s no coincidence that the album was also well received. Pierson also sang on “Candy” by Iggy Pop but that’s more of a Six Degrees of Separation thing than a direct connection. It should also be noted that the two bands both toured with drummer Sterling Campbell (who left the B’s for Bowie, I think…)
And have you seen this Elf Power performance of “Queen Bitch”?
So you can see that Athens has quite a few connections to our now dearly departed starman.It’s not surprising in the least that his death has hit our little burg quite hard. If you’re up for it, there’s a screening of Labyrinth and The Man Who Fell to Earth on Saturday at the Georgia Theatre (Free!). And tickets are already on sale for “A Night of David Bowie” next Thursday at the GATH ($10). Maybe I’ll see ya there.
Flagpole gathered a few words from local musicians if you want to check it out here.
Personally, I never knew how deeply ingrained Bowie was in my psyche until now. When did I pick up all these Bowie related shirts? Why do I know how to play “Life on Mars?” on piano? What do you mean I ran around singing “Let’s Dance” as a kid? Just goes to show that sometimes the best legacies are the ones that you don’t even realize you’re living after the person is gone. Goodbye Bowie.