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5 Artists like David Bowie: Chameleonic Rockers

Michael Taylor itcherDavid Bowie’s constant metamorphosis as a performer proved an inspiration to musicians the world over. If you’re looking for other artists like David Bowie, you’ll love Iggy Pop, Brian Eno, and Peter Murphy. ~ Michael Taylor

Ch-Ch-Changes…

The late David Bowie left a world made in his image. A performer inhabiting different musical personalities (Ziggy Stardust, The Thin White Duke), and multiple musical genres (glam rock, soul, new wave, electronica), his shape-shifting style was a game changer in what a rock musician could be.

By remaining constantly current, he inspired musicians from multiple generations. Let’s look at some of his most gifted musical beneficiaries.

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Artists Similar to David Bowie…

Iggy Pop

Essential Albums: ‘Fun House’, ‘Raw Power’, ‘Lust for Life’, ‘Blah Blah Blah,’ ‘Instinct’, ‘Brick By Brick’, ‘The Idiot’

Essential Tracks: ‘Now I Wanna Be Your Dog’, ‘TV Eye’, ‘Gimme Danger’, ‘The Passenger’, ‘China Girl’, ‘Cold Metal’, ‘Candy’, ‘Lust For Life’, ‘Nightclubbing’

Starting off with proto-punk rockers The Stooges, Iggy Pop was a force of nature, provoking controversy by stagediving into audiences and cutting himself with broken beer bottles.

But his musical tastes expanded under the tutelage of Bowie, who, in addition to producing The Stooges’ ‘Raw Power’, collaborated with him on 70’s solo albums, ‘The Idiot’ and ‘Lust For Life.’

This marked a change in Pop’s style, embracing elements of krautrock and glam. He would continue his musical evolution on albums encompassing 80’s new wave (‘Blah Blah Blah’), metal (1988’s ‘Instinct’) and roots rock (1990’s ‘Brick By Brick’).

His flexibility has made him a much sought-after guest musician, lending his talent to songs by The Cult, White Zombie, New Order, and many more.

Similarity Match: 95%
Pop and Bowie share the same musical DNA, although Bowie was a much less combative, animalistic performer than his protégé.

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Scott Weiland

Essential Albums: ‘Core’, ‘Purple’, ‘Tiny Music’, ‘Contraband’, ‘12 Bar Blues’

Essential Tracks: ‘Sex Type Thing’, ‘Plush’, ‘Creep’, ‘Crackerman’, ‘Interstate Love Song’, ‘Slither’, ‘And So I Know’, ‘Barbarella’, ‘Big Bang Baby’, ‘Lady Picture Show’

Even if Scott Weiland didn’t name check Bowie throughout his career, his influence on the late Stone Temple Pilots’ frontman was apparent.

Throughout the 90’s, the animated vocalist veered from grunge (‘Plush’), country (‘Interstate Love Song’), Bowie-style glam (‘Big Bang Baby’, multiple covers) and cocktail lounge jazz (‘And So I Know’). He made the transition appear effortless.

His solo work was even more daring, taking in elements of cabaret (‘Lady Your Roof Brings Me Down’) to synth-pop (his cover of Depeche Mode’s ‘But Not Tonight’). And with the 21st century supergroup Velvet Revolver, he went full-blown arena rock star.

Sadly, his personal problems overshadowed his talents, taking him away from us much too soon. But his musical legacy will shine far longer than many cynical critics would’ve ever dreamed possible.

Similarity Match: 90%
Weiland and Bowie shared many similarities in performance style, although the former had a more American hard rock presence.

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Peter Murphy

Essential Albums: ‘In The Flat Field’, ‘Mask’, ‘Burning From The Inside’, ‘Bauhaus 1979-1983’, ‘Love/Hysteria’, ‘Deep’, ‘Holy Smoke’, ‘Dust’, ‘Cascade’.

Essential Tracks: ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’, ‘Stigmata Martyr’, ‘Dark Entries’, ‘Indigo Eyes’, ‘ Cuts You Up’, ‘Strange Kind of Love’, ‘I’ll Fall With Your Knife’

Bowie was Murphy’s primary musical influence, adding a touch of balletic grace and theatrical vocals in both his work with ominous Goth icons Bauhaus (who covered Bowie’s classic track ‘Ziggy Stardust’), and his more colorful solo career.

And, like his idol, Murphy has always sought new musical elements with each album, be it new wave (‘Deep’), techno (‘Cascade’) or world music (‘Dust’).

Similarity Match: 85%
Murphy and Bowie share a similar vocal range, but Murphy never attained Bowie’s wider appeal. Fun fact: both appeared together in the 1983 vampire film, ‘The Hunger.’

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If You Like David Bowie, You Will Like…

Now that we’ve covered artists influenced by Bowie, let’s look at one performer who proved a mutual influence, along with Bowie’s late 80’s rock group, Tin Machine.

Brian Eno

Essential Albums: ‘Another Green World’, ‘Here Come The Warm Jets’, ‘Music For Film Vol. 1’, ‘Music For Airports’, ‘Apollo: Atmosphere and Soundtracks’

Essential Tracks: ‘Needle In The Camel’s Eye’, ‘Baby’s On Fire’, ‘The Big Ship’, ‘I’ll Come Running’, ‘Sparrowfall’, ‘An Ending (Ascent),’ Third Uncle’

Eno initially saw Bowie as glam competition during his tenure with fellow 70’s rockers Roxy Music.

But after Eno departed the group, and began experimenting electronic ambient textures, he was drafted by Bowie to help add his alien sound to his ‘Berlin’ trilogy of albums (‘Low’, ‘Heroes’, and ‘Lodger’). They became lifelong friends in the process.

Eno is best known as a producer, however his solo work deserves equal acclaim, in particular his ambient, instrumental work on albums like ‘Music For Films’ and ‘Music For Airports,’ that offering soothing mediation and hypnotic soundscapes.  

While Bowie is a household name, Eno’s influence cannot be overstated, equally blessed with songwriting chops and technical studio wizardry. The fact that he and Bowie shared the same musical evolution is a wonderful case of sonic serendipity.

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Tin Machine

Essential Albums: ‘Tin Machine,’ ‘Tin Machine II’

Essential Tracks: ‘Under The God,’ ‘Heaven’s In Here,’ ‘Run,’ ‘I Can’t Read’, ‘Video Crime,’ ‘One Shot,’ ‘Baby Universal’

Bowie felt lost in the late 80’s. Stung by the lukewarm response to florid albums ‘Tonight’ and ‘Never Let Me Down,’ he wanted to go back to basics. And he did so in 1988 with his hard-edged group, Tin Machine.

Inspired by alternative acts like The Pixies and Sonic Youth, Tin Machine created a sound that went over many critics’ heads at the time. In hindsight, the sound could have been a precursor to grunge, .

Flanked by experimental guitarist Reeves Gabrels, Bowie produced some of his heaviest material on tracks like the roaring ‘Under The God,’ as well as deeply emotive and experimental works like ‘Prisoner Of Love.’

The band would call it a day in 1992. But their two albums still hold up, making them ripe for rediscovery.

Alternately discordant and anthemic, Tin Machine offers an interesting twist on the Bowie formula, while also proving he could be a team player and share the spotlight on occasion.

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Heroes of Sound and Vision…

I hope you enjoyed my list of artists like David Bowie! If you’re looking for where to start, you can’t go wrong with the man himself: give Tin Machine a listen. So good!

Now I leave it up to you Spiders From Mars: what artists and bands do you think bear Bowie’s influence? Be sure to tell us in the comments.

Honorable Mentions: T. Rex, Marilyn Manson, Suede, Mott The Hoople, Lou Reed, Queen, Gary Numan and The Smashing Pumpkins.

My name is Michael Taylor and I′m your go-to source for finding the best in Alternative rock in all its various genres, such as Goth, Grunge, Post-punk, Shoegaze, Britpop and Electronica, with some metal thrown in for good measure. Film-wise, I′m all about sci-fi and horror, comic book movies, and cult classics. I love checking out all the best concerts and film events in my hometown of Austin, TX. I′ve written for sites such as Cracked, and I cover all my various pop culture obsessions on my site smellslikeinfinitesadness.com