Looking for a David Bowie predecessor
February 17, 2017 8:56 AM   Subscribe

I'm searching for an artist that David Bowie might have ripped off in the early 70s.

A few years ago, I believe on metafilter, I read an internet comment that was (I believe) of the sentiment (which I do not share) that David Bowie was overrated. Their evidence was a song published in the late 60s or early 70s that sounded uncannily like one of Bowie's Ziggy Stardust-era songs, possibly "Life on Mars." However, I'm fairly certain it was not "Comme d'Habitude." I think the artist was from New York City.

I've searched everywhere, to the point where I'm starting to wonder if it was not David Bowie but instead someone like Lou Reed. Does this ring any bells for anyone? Even though I love David Bowie, I also really loved this track and would love to listen to it again.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi to Media & Arts (16 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Since you mention Reed, Queen Bitch was written as a tribute to Velvet Underground and sounds a bit like some of their stuff, but the main riff is lifted from Three Steps to Heaven.
posted by effbot at 9:16 AM on February 17, 2017

Is it possibly Jobriath?
posted by gateau at 9:19 AM on February 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm thinking increasingly that it must have been Jobriath--I remember his sexuality being a talking point. Are there any Jobriath tracks that are particularly Bowie-esque?
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:52 AM on February 17, 2017

posted by Candleman at 10:08 AM on February 17, 2017

The track 'Rock of Ages' is pretty Bowie-esque for the time. There's video of it on YouTube.

The legendary Eddie Kramer produced it. I just listened, and Kramer really did a good job. The guitar mix is especially good.
posted by MrKellyBlah at 10:09 AM on February 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

Take Me I'm Yours musically sounds very Bowie but the vocals less so.
posted by Candleman at 10:11 AM on February 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

Jobriath and Ziggy Stardust seem to me more like synchronicity rather than anybody ripping anybody off. According to Wikipedia (and since I had never heard of Jobriath that's all I've got to go on) he was "discovered" in 1972, and his debut album, with Rock of Ages and Take Me I'm Yours, was released in 1973. Bowie was working on the Ziggy idea in 1971, and Ziggy Stardust was released in 1972. I wouldn't necessarily say they were unaware of one another, but I'd imagine that they both felt that rock culture potentially had a place or a need for them, and that they could let their freak flag fly. I wonder if maybe Jobriath hadn't contracted AIDS, he would have made a comeback in the 80's.
posted by curiousgene at 10:29 AM on February 17, 2017 [4 favorites]

Well, it's possible that it's not Jobriath--I also stumbled across Brett Smiley in searching but it rings some bells (I feel like the person in question was . . . small and boyish?) but is also chronologically too late. It's possible that I'm conflating a bunch of artists, but I definitely remember the context being like "David Bowie sucks. He stole everything from XX" and then listening to a song that was both really great and sounded suspiciously similar to a David Bowie song in melody. But googling just turns up a bunch of stuff about Vanilla Ice.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:02 PM on February 17, 2017

IIRC, the character in Velvet Goldmine named Jack Fairy was based on a real person. I don't think it was Jobriath though. Sorry I don't know who it was based on . Also in Wikipedia, it says Jobriath was billed as "the new Bowie".

Since Bowie was involved in the experimental theater/mime scene, as well as a fan of The Factory (including Holly Woodlawn and Candy Darling) and involved with men in the 60s, it's probably a pastiche of people that he was inspired by.
posted by GospelofWesleyWillis at 12:35 PM on February 17, 2017

Also if IIRC, the 'Bowie sucks, stole everything from XX" stuff came later, like in the 80s when his credibility took a nosedive as he went very commercial. In a Rough Trade record store, his section was filed as "The Thin White Salesman", and I had a musician boyfriend who worshipped Mick Ronson but claimed Bowie was only as good as the musicians that he played with (which I think is bullshit). But I think that was a popular opinion of the time, but probably not in the 70s when he was considered straight out of left field.
posted by GospelofWesleyWillis at 12:38 PM on February 17, 2017

I remember Jobriath being mentioned in CREEM in the seventies. This (badly dated, homophobic) 1975 article by Lester Bangs briefly compares Bowie to Jobriath, so the Bowie shit-talk started even earlier than the 80s.
posted by maudlin at 1:10 PM on February 17, 2017

It's more of a pre-Ziggy connection, but Scott Walker is an acknowledged influence.
posted by rhizome at 2:00 PM on February 17, 2017 [3 favorites]

Oh wow, Scott Walker sounds like a perfect match! (The last video includes Bowie getting a little choked up over birthday greetings and calling Walker his idol.)
posted by maudlin at 2:50 PM on February 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

Is Marc Bolan too obvious of a suggestion?
posted by Clustercuss at 10:35 PM on February 17, 2017 [3 favorites]

IRC, the character in Velvet Goldmine named Jack Fairy was based on a real person. I don't think it was Jobriath though

Marc Bolan. But his sound is pretty distinct from Bowie's so I'm not sure he's the answer here.
posted by capricorn at 6:02 AM on February 18, 2017

Anthony Newley?
posted by Devoidoid at 12:46 PM on February 20, 2017

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