David Bowie and Elvis

 

Elvisblog strives to bring you articles you won’t find on any other Elvis websites or blogs.  Certainly, that is accomplished with this topic discussing a connection between Elvis and David Bowie.  That can’t be possible, you say.  Well, there is one website that thinks there is a case to be made.  According to The Ziggy Stardust Companion, “David Bowie and Elvis Presley have many similarities, and Presley also served as inspiration for some aspects of the Ziggy Stardust phenomenon.”

For those of you who don’t know, Ziggy Stardust was a stage persona David Bowie assumed during concerts in the 70s.  I linked to the Ziggy website from Google Images, where I found this picture:

         

               

This is both sides of a 45RPM record (inside the paper sleeve) that RCA released in Thailand in the mid-70s.  “Space Oddity” was Bowie’s first hit, reaching #15 in the US, and who knows why RCA didn’t just use the original “B” side for its Thailand release.  Instead, they picked “Fool,” which was already an obscure Elvis “B” side on “Steamroller Blues,” his #17 hit in 1973. 

Elvis recorded with RCA from 1956 to 1977, and David Bowie was with RCA from 1973 to 1980.  Besides recording for the same company, here are some of the other similarities between Bowie and Elvis as stated on “The Ziggy Stardust Companion.”

They share the same birthday.  Elvis was born on January 8, 1935, and David Bowie was born on January 8, 1947.  This is an easily verified connection between the two performers.

Elvis and Bowie experimented and got into trouble with their hair styles in high school.  Well, we know Elvis wore his hair differently than his classmates, and if Bowie’s later preference in hair styles is any indication, he was a rebel in high school, too.

         

              

Bowie says that he first discovered the power of music when he saw his cousin get up and dance to Elvis’ “Hound Dog.”  Excuse me, but this hardly seems like a major connection between Elvis and David Bowie.

Bowie had his clothes designer Freddi Burretti copy Elvis’ jumpsuits for Bowie’s own use at Ziggy Stardust concerts.  Well, “copy” would be a stretch.  Perhaps “inspire” might be a better word.  Bill Belew and Gene Doucett never designed anything for Elvis like these Bowie/Ziggy jumpsuits.

                              

 

Bowie’s manager – Tony DeFries – was a big fan of Elvis’ manager Colonel Tom Parker and would quote from Parker’s book to anyone who would listen.  This is another pretty weak connection between Elvis and Bowie.  If it is true, I wonder if DeFries took a 50% cut of Bowie’s earnings, like the Colonel did with Elvis.

Tony DeFries used the announcement “David Bowie has left the building,” as was done for Elvis Presley concerts.  I have been unable to verify this, so I am skeptical.

The lightning bolt motif Bowie wore for the Aladdin Sane album cover was partly inspired by a ring that Elvis wore – which had a lightning bolt emblem along with the letters TCB.  Of course, Elvis was more famous for his TCB pendants than his ring, but that’s beside the point.  Do you really think Elvis’ lightning bolt inspired this?

         

                 

David Bowie was a big fan of Elvis.  At short notice, he crossed the Atlantic on a plane to attend an Elvis concert in New York in 1972, even though he had a strong fear of flying.  “The Ziggy Stardust Companion” printed this quote that Bowie made in 1996 concerning the Elvis concert he attended.

“[Elvis] was a major hero of mine. And I was probably stupid enough to believe that having the same birthday as him actually meant something. I came over for a long weekend. I remember coming straight from the airport and walking into Madison Square Garden very late. I was wearing all my clobber from the Ziggy period and had great seats near the front. The whole place just turned to look at me and I felt like a right idiot. I had brilliant red hair, some huge padded space suit and those red boots with big black soles. I wished I'd gone for something quiet, because I must have registered with him. He was well into his set.”

As he looked out from the stage and saw this freaky-looking character take his seat up front, I’m sure Elvis thought to himself, “Man, I’ve got a lot in common with this guy.”

 

©  2009    Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister    All Rights Reserved    www.ElvisBlog.net

3 responses to “David Bowie and Elvis

  1. Ok, looking back-although it was only several hours ago-I was a bit overzealous. “Rude” is a strong word. To be perfectly honest, I just sort of assumed I wouldn’t get a reply, so i just started venting there. But, I am delighted you did! The reason I initially found this page was because I recently read about Bowie and his influences, and I was interested in others’ takes on them. I was just a bit irked by the negative light that seemed to be cast on Bowie, however my perspective is likely somewhat skewed after reading other negative reactions–such as Anthony Newley’s apparent disgust at David Bowie’s admiration and imitation at the beginning of his career. I apologize for the unpleasant comment; as I mentioned, I expected no reply or attention. I certainly agree seeing “Ziggy” at an event would be disconcerting. Once again, I’m sorry for responding to what I presumed was contempt rather than admiration of the king.

  2. Wow, I find this to be an incredibly rude article. David Bowie hasn’t been going around telling everyone they’re just alike. Clearly he was just a fan who took minor inspiration. Lady Gaga’s said the same things about both Bowie and Queen. I sincerely think that his few Elvis-related statements have been over analyzed. Yes, they’re very different, but I see what he meant. He wanted to be unique like the king. And he is. As a fan of both, this article actually seemed offensive in many ways. Implying that Elvis judged David Bowie in that audience tarnishes both names.

    • Jordan, I’m sorry my comments about David Bowie offended you. It’s impossible to please eveybody, but thousands of people have read this post in the past three years, and nobody else had a negative comment. You are probably right about that last sentence. Nothing in my research indicated that Elvis had any idea he was a hero of Bowie’s or that he had any idea what David Bowie looked like. So, of course, when Bowie walked down the aisle at Elvis’ performance with his brilliant red hair, a huge padded space suit and red boots with big black soles, Elvis was more likely to think, “Who is that freak?” (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. That bit of satire was just too easy.)

      Phil Arnold, ElvisBlogmeister

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