No great band is born without a struggle and no great records are born in a vacuum. For every artist whose ideas makes your wig spin there are a huge pile of influences – from specks of colour to swathes of sound – that delivered them to that point. And this where The Roots Of… comes in. Each week we’ll take a band, pull apart the threads that make them who they are and build a playlist from those influences. Which, naturally, will set us off in a whole new direction. But let’s not worry about that now…
The first song Brandon Flowers learnt to play on the piano was the theme music to the long-running American soap, The Young & The Restless. The Go-Go’s were a huge band in the early 80s – their 1982 hit Vacation could definitely be described, retrospectively, as properly Killers-esque.
Bruce Springsteen, Tom Waits, Bob Seger and Tom Petty all figure heavily in The Killers’ story. As Brandon Flowers once said, these are people who wrote songs that showed you, “no matter how bad it got, there was nothing that a cigarette and a Saturday night couldn’t fix…”
It was David Bowie’s LP ‘Hunky Dory’ that convinced Brandon he wanted to make music for a living, while bands like Queen, Led Zeppelin and (Ireland’s) U2 were all massive influences as, “they weren’t afraid to be big…”.
The Killers took their name from a fake band featured in the video for New Order’s 2001 single, ‘Crystal’. The band bonded over a mutual love of other downbeat pop masters like The Smiths (they would open arena shows for Morrissey), The Cure and Depeche Mode.
Only vaguely Vegas
No one from the band’s hometown looked or sounded anything like The Killers; especially not hair-metal also-rans Slaughter or big-beat arena-smashers The Crystal Method.
As their debut album sales ran into the millions, their heroes reappeared as friends. David Bowie visited them backstage. Bono invited them to a soundcheck and quoted the, “I’ve got soul but I’m not a soldier” line from All These Things That I’ve Done during a performance of Beautiful Day, as did Robbie Williams and Coldplay. Elton John provided the final, royal anointment by declaring they were “America’s most attractive-sounding rock band”, before inviting them to his house, at which point The Killers themselves began to be a huge influence on those coming after them.