The album’s themes

Perhaps inspired by Hanif Kureishi’s look back at 1970s Britain, David Bowie took inspiration from his own past for The Buddha Of Suburbia. His sleeve notes included a list of places, people and themes which had influenced him in that decade, and from which he drew inspiration for the new album.

My personal brief for this collection was to marry my present way of writing and playing with the stockpile of residue from the 1970s.

Here is a partial list:

  • Free association lyrics
  • Pink Floyd
  • Harry Partch
  • Costume
  • Blues clubs
  • Unter den Linden
  • Brücke Museum
  • Pet Sounds
  • Friends of the Krays
  • Roxy Music
  • T. Rex
  • The Casserole
  • Neu
  • Kraftwerk
  • Bromley
  • Croydon
  • Eno
  • Prostitutes & Soho
  • Ronnie Scott’s club
  • Travels thru Russia
  • Loneliness
  • O’Jays
  • Philip Glass in
  • New York clubs
  • Die Mauer
  • Drugs

The list is actually endless but the above initially springs to mind.

David Bowie, 15 September 1993
The Buddha Of Suburbia sleeve notes

Earlier in 1993, the New Musical Express had conducted a joint interview with Bowie and Suede’s Brett Anderson. Suede were flag-bearers of the burgeoning Britpop movement, and Bowie obsessives whose image owed much to their idol’s ’70s glam stylings and sexual ambiguity.

Lots of the things from that period, lots of the devices, strike a chord with me emotionally rather than mentally. Lots of things that we rip you off for like… well, specifically like the octave lower vocals and things like that. I just love what it does to the song; how it makes it darker.
Brett Anderson
NME, 20 March 1993

Bowie declared himself a fan of Suede, and the influence was clearly mutual. On the song ‘Buddha Of Suburbia’ he revived the octave-lower vocal style which he had deployed frequently during his glam rock years.

The title track also contained two other backwards looks: the two-bar guitar break from ‘Space Oddity’ – originally C-F-G-A-A, here E-G-A-B-B – and the closing “Zane, zane, zane, ouvre le chien” chant from ‘All The Madmen’.

Although he did not appear on The Buddha Of Suburbia, the shadow of Brian Eno falls across many of the tracks. Eno was a key collaborator on Low, “Heroes” and Lodger, and Bowie was able to draw upon his experimental ways of working, using methods such as his Oblique Strategies card decks. Bowie’s experiences working on The Buddha Of Suburbia paved the way for a reunion of the two men on Bowie’s next album, 1.Outside.

I should make it clear that many of my working forms are taken in whole or in part from my collaborations with Brian Eno, who in my humble opinion occupies the position in late 20th century popular music that Clement Greenberg had to art in the 40s or Richard Hamilton in the 60s.

In general, Brian’s perceptions on form or purpose within culture leave most critics tap-dancing on the edge of the abyss spouting virtually nothing but fashionable blathering.

With a little coercion they will happily swan-dive into the vortex of their own making.

However, Brian ‘he singe lik a litul gerl ha ha all mixd down and dubul-trak’ so I’m one up on him there.

David Bowie, 15 September 1993
The Buddha Of Suburbia sleeve notes