Renowned as one of the greatest songwriters in history, David Bowie’s musical insights carry significant weight. Known for his perpetual quest for innovation, self-reinvention, and the assimilation of diverse influences into his sonic landscape, Bowie possessed a unique ability to stay attuned to the evolving currents of musical trends. Thus, when Bowie designates an album as the catalyst for the birth of glam rock, it demands attention.
Having faced the challenges of the 1960s as a struggling solo artist, Bowie found his footing during the early 1970s glam rock scene. Creating some of his most iconic and cherished works under the guise of the alien character Ziggy Stardust, Bowie’s glam era stands as a pinnacle in his extensive discography. While sharing the glam stage with artists like T Rex, Sweet, and Slade, Bowie’s unparalleled talent quickly elevated him to the genre’s zenith.
In 2003, shortly after releasing his 24th studio album, “Reality,” Bowie was tasked by Vanity Fair to curate standout selections from his vast record collection. Among his picks were pivotal albums that shaped his musical journey, such as The Velvet Underground & Nico, a seminal influence on Bowie’s early career, and The Fabulous Little Richard, contributing to his musical awakening in the 1950s.
Another notable inclusion was Daevid Allen’s “Banana Moon,” a record Bowie credited with initiating the “strands of the embryonic glam style.” As a founding member of psychedelic rock pioneers Soft Machine, Allen transitioned into a solo career in the early 1970s. “Banana Moon,” featuring former Soft Machine bandmates, marked Allen’s debut solo album.
Parallel to his ex-bandmate Kevin Ayers, Allen seamlessly blended psychedelic rock roots with a contemporary 1970s sound. Listening to “Banana Moon,” discernible parallels emerged between Allen’s sonic landscape and that of T Rex and Roxy Music. Bowie’s admiration for the album reached a peak when he boldly characterized the opening track, ‘Time Of Your Life,’ as the convergence of “Bryan Ferry and the Spiders from Mars (together, at last!!).”
Elaborating on his affinity for “Banana Moon,” Bowie expounded, stating, “Banana Moon became Allen’s solo transitional move before forming the loony Gong.” Bowie also acknowledged the influence of Robert Wyatt, who collaborated with Allen on the album. Wyatt went on to forge a distinguished solo career, periodically collaborating with ex-Roxy Music member Brian Eno.
While Bowie’s remarks might carry a touch of his renowned humor, Allen’s vocal stylings on ‘Time Of Your Life’ do suggest a proto-Ferry influence. Glam rock’s origins are often attributed to Marc Bolan’s bedazzled appearance on Top of the Pops in 1971, and the roots of this musical style undeniably trace back to Allen’s solo debut. Bowie’s reflections offer a fascinating glimpse into the intricate web of influences that shaped the trajectory of glam rock.