Certain stars wielded such a profound influence on the world of classic rock that they managed to ignite the creative sparks within even the most established icons of the genre. Take, for instance, the symbiotic relationship between David Bowie and Paul McCartney. It’s a fascinating tale of artistic cross-pollination.
In one corner of this creative tango, we find David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance,” a track so iconic that it managed to seep into the creative chambers of none other than Paul McCartney himself. McCartney embarked on a musical journey with the assistance of Elvis Costello, a notable figure from Bowie’s 1970s punk era. The outcome of their collaboration was the album “Flowers in the Dirt.” During a 2017 interview with The Washington Post, McCartney candidly revealed the mindset behind one of the album’s tracks, “Press to Play.”
He confessed, “Sometimes you get caught up in trying to align your sound with the prevailing trends, to season your musical stew with the latest flavors. ‘Press to Play’ was certainly a product of that time.” The track is rich with the sound of the era, complete with the ubiquitous yuppie synthesizers.
McCartney’s musical inspirations for this venture were far from arbitrary. He drew from the records that had left their imprint on him, including “Let’s Dance” by Bowie and “Drive” by The Cars—works that epitomized the sonic landscape of their time. It’s intriguing, considering that McCartney’s tenure with The Beatles rarely delved into the realm of dance music. Hence, the 1980s dance music wave that swept him away remains a compelling revelation.
Reflecting on his collaboration with Elvis Costello, McCartney shared that they would sit across from each other with acoustic guitars in hand, evoking memories of his partnership with John Lennon. This seating arrangement created a symmetry that felt almost as if he were gazing into a mirror. The echoes of the past, it seems, mingled with the creative present.
But the story doesn’t end there; it circles back to David Bowie, who, in turn, found inspiration in the illustrious past of rock. In a 1973 interview featured in the book “Bowie on Bowie: Interviews and Encounters with David Bowie,” the enigmatic singer shed light on the origins of the lyric “Here (am I sitting in my tin can)” from his timeless masterpiece, “Space Oddity.” Bowie attributed this creative spark to the clever wordplay found in The Beatles’ songs, revealing a profound connection between his artistry and the Fab Four’s genius. Moreover, Bowie confessed to borrowing the vocal line from “Lovely Rita” in The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and infusing it into his own track, “Star,” from “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.”
Intriguingly, Bowie expressed his belief in the importance of this interplay with the music of fellow artists. He saw it as a means of preventing himself from becoming too insular as an artist. In a sense, this acknowledgment from an avant-garde figure like Bowie serves as a testament to the profound impact of The Beatles on the underground music scene.
In a world where musical equilibrium reigns supreme, “Flowers in the Dirt” and Bowie’s “Space Oddity” stand as living testaments to the transformative power of artistic cross-pollination, proving that the creative river flows both ways.