David Bowie is, without doubt, one of the most influential and innovative artists of the last fifty years. So it’s fitting that Ace Records have recently released a compilation of music that influenced David Bowie. Bowie Heard Them Here First features twenty-four tracks and is a snapshot into the music that inspired David Bowie, who has sold over 140 million albums during a fifty-two year career that began in 1962.

Since 1962, David has refused to stand still. He wasn’t content to stand still. Instead, he constantly reinvented not just his music, but himself. That’s been the case since 1962, when fifteen year-old David Bowie formed his first band, The Konrads.

Success eluded The Konrads. This was the case with other groups joined. Whether it was blues groups like The King Bees and The Mannish Boys or The Lower Third, The Buzz and The Riot Squad commercial success eluded them. David’s solo career fared no better

Released in 1967, David’s eponymous debut album failed to chart. Not only was it a fusion of pop and psychedelia, but was influenced by the music hall. David Bowie passed record buyers by. For the next two years, commercial success eluded David Bowie. To make ends meet, David was a session singer, singing jingles for ice cream and chocolate bars. However, as the seventies dawned, David, with the help of manager Tony Defries, became one of the most successful artists of the seventies.

During the seventies, David was like a chameleon, his music constantly changing. He was an innovator who influenced a generation. His 1970 album The Man Who Sold the World gave birth to glam rock. The following year, David released Hunky Dory, which became his most successful album. It reached number three in the UK and was certified platinum. Hunky Dory also marked the debut of the lineup members of David’s legendary band The Spiders from Mars.

They played on David’s 1972 concept album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars. The album was based on the life of a fictional rock star, Ziggy Stardust. He became David’s alter-ego. The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars  was the album that saw David make his commercial breakthrough in the America. It was certified gold in America and platinum in the US. However, Aladdin Sane was the swan-song of The Spiders from Mars. 

Aladdin Sane became David’s first number one albums and was certified gold in the UK and America in 1973. I also marked the retirement of Ziggy Stardust. After that another chapter in David’s career unfolded.

October 1973 saw the release of Pin Ups was an album of cover versions. It reached number one  in the UK and was certified gold. Six months later, David released Diamond Dogs in April 1974. This was an ambitious album based partly on George Orwell’s 1984 and David’s glam-tinged post-apocalyptic world. Diamond Dogs was huge success, giving David his third UK number one and was certified gold in the UK and USA. After Diamond Dogs, David’s music became soulful and funky.

Young Americans is another example of David’s determination to innovate and move forward. Influenced by Philly Soul, the lushest of strings and hissing hits are combined with a pulsating rhythm section. Soulful and funky, 1976s Young Americans was certified silver in the UK and gold in the USA. The single Fame gave David a number one single. The rest of the seventies demonstrates David’s chameleon like nature.

1977s Station To Station marked the debut of The Thin White Duke, who was David’s last great musical alter-ego. This was tenth album and was an innovative album. The soul and funk of Young Americans was present, but there was a hint of what would become the Berlin Trilogy. Motorik drums beats and the influence of Neu, Kraftwek and Can were obvious. Given the innovative nature of Station To Station, it’s no surprise that the album was certified gold in the UK and USA. However, after this, David Bowie released the innovative and critically acclaimed Berlin Trilogy.

The Berlin Trilogy consists of 1977s Low and Heroes and 1979s Lodger. These three albums were all certified gold in the UK. David was collaborating with Brian Eno,who produced the Berlin Trilogy. They’re best described as innovative, experimental and avant garde, The influence of Motorik drums beats and Neu, Kraftwek and Can plays a huge part in what were three of the most innovative and influential albums of David Bowie’s career. Since the release of the Berlin Trilogy these three albums have been regarded as the most important albums of David Bowie’s long and illustrious career. 

The seventies are a snapshot of David Bowie’s career as he constantly sought to reinvent not just his music, but himself. That’s why for newcomers to David Bowie’s music, the perfect starting place is the music he released between 1970 and 1979. That music was influenced by the music that features on Ace Records recently released compilation Bowie Heard Them Here First. 

Bowie Heard Them Here First features twenty-four tracks and is a snapshot into the music that inspired David Bowie. There’s contributions from everyone from Bobby Bland, The Velvet Underground, The Pretty Things, The Kinks, Roxy Music, Jacques Brel, Tom Verlaine, Iggy Pop, The Walker Brothers and The Pixies. Quite simply, Bowie Heard Them Here First, which I’ll pick the highlights of, is a truly compelling and captivating compilation of eclectic music of music which influenced David Bowie.

Bobby Bland’s I Pity The Fool is my first choice from Bowie Heard Them Here First. It was released as a single in 1961 on Duke and features on Bobby’s debut album Two Steps From The Blues. Written by Deadric Malone, Bobby combines blues, soul and emotion. Rueful and full of frustration, Bobby unleashes a vocal powerhouse. This was the start of another chapter in Bobby’s long and successful career. 

When you first hear Ron Davies on It Ain’t Easy,  a track his 1970 album Silent Song Through The Land, he sounds not unlike Bob Dylan. He has a gnarled, lived-in vocal. His music is a fusion of rock, country and folk. Accompanied by backing vocalists and a tight talented band who sound straight out of Nashville, Ron proves why he’s one of American music’s best kept secrets.

The Velvet Underground are one of the most innovative and influential band in musical history. No wonder, with a lineup that featured Lou Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison, Maureen Tucker and Nico. White Light / White Heat is the title-track from The Velvet Underground’s 1968 sophomore album. This was a worthy followup to The Velvet Underground and Nico and features one of the most innovative, influential and controversial groups in their prime.

Formed in 1963, The Pretty Things were named after a Chuck Berry song. By 1964, they’d released Rosalyn as a single on Fontana. It’s a track from their 1965 eponymous album which reached number six in the UK. Rosalyn features The Pretty Things at their best. They snarl their way through the track fusing garage, rock, psychedelia and proto punk. It’s a glorious combination from one of the most underrated sixties bands.

Brothers Ray Dave Davies formed what became one of the most successful and influential bands of the sixties, The Kinks. Where Have All The Good Times Gone is an example of the perfect pop The Kinks were capable of producing. For some reason, was the B-Side of their 1965 single Till The End Of The Day. This hidden gems shows that some of The Kinks B-sides were better than some groups singles.

Back in 1966, Eddie Floyd released the soul classic Knock On Wood on Stax. The following year, Eddie released his debut album Knock On Wood. This was the first of seven albums Eddie released on Stax. However, the song that started this run of commercial success was the timeless soul classic Knock On Wood.

Jacques Brel was a Belgian singer and songwriter, actor and film director. He was twenty-eight when he released an E.P. which featured Amsterdam. The song also featured on Jacques’ 1978 album Amsterdam 3. Amsterdam features a heartfelt vocal sung in the chanson style by the enigmatic and charismatic Jacques Brel.

Most people remember Tom Verlaine as a member of Television. However, there’s more to his career than that. He also enjoyed a successful solo career. He released his eponymous debut album in 1981. It featured Kingdom Come where rock and new wave combine head on. There’s even a nod to David Bowie on Kingdom Come, which showcases the talents of the inimitable Tom Verlaine.

When many compilers decide to add include an Iggy Pop track on a compilation, they predictably, plump for Lust For Life. Not Mick Patrick, whose compiled Bowie Heard Them Here First. He’s chosen Sister Midnight, a track from Iggy’s 1979 album New Values. Soulful and sultry, it’s Iggy Pop, a true legend and innovator at his best.

Roxy Music released a string of critically acclaimed and commercially successful albums during the seventies. Their debut was Roxy Music, released in 1972, on Island Records. It featured If There Is Something which is a fusion of perfect pop, art rock, glam rock and soul. This marked the start of Roxy’s rise to rock royalty. No wonder Roxy Music had an abundance of talent. With Bryan Ferry as frontman and Brian Eno, Andy McKay, Graham Simpson, Paul Thompson and Phil Manzanera in the lineup, it’s no surprise Roxy Music reached the heights they did.

In 1978, The Walker Brothers released what was the last album of their career, Nite Flights. They’d reunited back in 1975 for No Regrets. Lines followed in 1976. Nite Flights was their swan-song. The title-track was one of four tracks penned by Scott Engel. The Walker Brothers transformed this into memorable slice of art rock. It’s no ordinary art rock. Instead, it’s given a makeover. Dance-floor friendly and ethereal thanks to the vocal and synth strings The Walker Brothers, like David Bowie, weren’t content to stand still. Not with the genius of Scott Walker at the band’s helm.


The Pixies’ Cactus is my final choice from Bowie Heard Them Here First. A driving fusion of indie rock, post punk and garage, Cactus is a track from what’s regarded as The Pixies’ best album Surfer Rosa. With tracks like Cactus, it’s no surprise that it’s regarded as an indie classic.

Bowie Heard Them Here First is the finest instalment in Ace Records’ Heard Them Here First Series. It literally oozes quality. No wonder. Look at the music on Bowie Heard Them Here First. There’s contributions from Bobby Bland, The Velvet Underground, The Pretty Things, The Kinks, Roxy Music, Jacques Brel, Tom Verlaine, Iggy Pop, The Walker Brothers and The Pixies. Fittingly, each and every one of them released innovative music. 

Whilst these artist may not have sold 140 million albums like David Bowie, they’ve  influenced several generations of musicians. Indeed, some of the artists on Bowie Heard Them Here First will be new to some people. Not any more. Hopefully, having heard Bowie Heard Them Here First will inspire people to go out and buy albums by Ron Davies, The Pretty Things, Tom Verlaine and even the late period Walker Brothers’ albums. That’s the beauty of albums like Bowie Heard Them Here First. They introduce people to artists and albums they may never have heard of. So in a sense, Bowie Heard Them Here First is the start of a musical journey of exploration. You discover albums you’v never heard before. These albums are a treasure trove of ambitious, groundbreaking, innovative, inventive and influential music. That’s the case from the get-go. As Paul Revere and The Raiders strike up Louie Go Home right through to closing bars of The Legendary Stardust Cowboy’s I Took A Trip On A Gemini Spaceship, Bowie Heard Them Here First is all killer no filler. So much so, that Bowie Heard Them Here First is one of the best and most eclectic compilations of 2014.








1 Comment

  1. snail male

    pretty things were named after a Bo diddly song!

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