Johnny Marr – Why David Bowie Is My Ultimate Icon

As the quest to find the brightest star of music’s past six decades goes on, the Smiths guitarist puts his weight behind the Thin White Duke

David Bowie is easily the most influential and important artist to come out of the UK, for so many reasons – there are musicians who are influenced by him who don’t even realise it. ‘Ziggy Stardust’ and ‘Hunky Dory’ liberated so many people from the straight sensibility in the suburbs. People who I grew up admiring, like Pete Shelley from the Buzzcocks or Ian Curtis, were hugely influenced by Bowie. No Bowie, no John Lydon – or lots of other people.

I first heard of him in the glam rock days with the amazing run of RCA singles – I think ‘Suffragette City’ was played at my youth club. What was fantastic was that it was this tough, tight rock music, but the cool girls liked it, because back then, a lot of rock music was good guitar players but was just guy-zone – music for spotty, greasy boys. So many parents hated that ‘Ziggy Stardust’ and ‘Aladdin Sane’ period, because it was so obviously sexually loaded and erotic. That was really liberating. It was naughty, and it was exciting, and it was illicit. It was about a world that I just couldn’t wait to join – he really understood what a great artform commercial pop could be.