David Brighton speaks with keyboard great, MIKE GARSON:

David:  It's been 30 years now since the release of the Ziggy Stardust album. The album that was the beginning of a phenomenon that helped shape an entire generation of musicians. Only a handful of performers have ever made that kind of impact…even fewer are still going strong 30 years later. Did you have any idea back in '72 or '73 that the Bowie tours and records you were a part of would become as influential and as legendary as they've become? 

Mike: I think I always knew, as its pretty easy to recognize not only a star but a big  multileveled talent with a lot to say! That's a no-brainer for me. David will be one of only three or four rock legends to be remembered a hundred years from now.

David: You've always been a musician’s musician...a master of both jazz and classical music.  In the early 1970s,  a lot of serious classical and jazz musicians might have looked down their noses at playing what John Lennon once called "rock and roll with lipstick on."  What were your feelings at the time about joining up with a glam rock act called the Spiders From Mars… with a singer who called himself Ziggy Stardust, wearing full makeup, platform boots and space suits?

Mike: I can't really explain it except that I knew somehow I was supposed to be with this type of creative genius. Yes its true, the jazz and classical communities were very judgmental, but so is most of the planet. We need to become more accepting and embracing as a planet if we are to truly progress and evolve.

David: The first of Bowie’s studio albums that you played on was the Aladdin Sane LP.  If the Ziggy Stardust LP was Bowie and the Spider’s Sergeant Pepper, then Aladdin Sane  was their Who’s Next.  The album is considered by a lot of people to be the pinnacle of the Bowie’s glam-era recordings, with the band at the top of their game. You were the featured instrumentalist on a large chunk of it, and played a significant role in producing it’s groundbreaking marriage of numerous genres, including rock, pop and jazz.
How would arrangements on songs like Time, Lady Grinning Soul and Aladdin Sane come together? How did the creative process work with that group of
individuals? Would David or Mick Ronson have ideas about what they wanted you to play at all? Or were you given free reign to do whatever you wanted to do?

Mike: I was given enormous freedom otherwise I couldn't have played so well. Yes, Mick was a beautiful being and very supportive. David had a brilliant suggestion for  the title track, as initially I played a blues solo, then a Latin solo. He then asked me to play some avant-garde type of solo like I was somewhat doing on the jazz scene. He had good insight and to this day he has been the best producer for me!

David: A lot of virtuosos seem to be more interested in showing off their chops than playing what’s best for a particular song.  You on the other hand, are a genius at coming up with piano parts for whatever piece of music you’re working on that are not only brilliantly unique, but that fit perfectly and really bring things to life. When you’re working with a songwriter like David Bowie, is what you choose to play motivated purely by inspiration, or do you ever consciously edit yourself to keep things within a particular context?

Mike: Thanks for the depth of your perceptions regarding the parts I come up with for David.  much to say about that. First of all, its mostly inspiration. Second, it's if David had my piano skills, what I think he might play. Last, I’m continually editing and refining my playing for the context I’m in, as well as screwing up many times and

David: Mick Ronson, yourself, Trevor Bolder and Woody Woodmansey worked together for a number of years. Were there close friendships among any or all of you, or was it more of a working relationship?

Mike on tour with the Spiders From Mars circa '73...That's Mike 2nd from the right, Next to Mick RonsonOn tour with the Spiders circa 1973

Mike: We absolutely were very close and good friends. I personally had a very deep relationship with each of them. The Spiders were each exceptionally talented and Mick was extraordinarily gifted as an arranger, guitarist and pianist. I miss him a lot.

David:  I’d like to ask a couple of questions about Mick Ronson. He was undeniably a huge part of Bowie's success during the Ziggy era. A lot has been written about  the chemistry Mick and David had on stage together. And musically, few would argue that Ronson’s sound, feel and choice of notes were perfectly suited to Bowie's voice and songwriting at the time… Still,  Mick wasn’t the kind of guitarist that one would find on the cover of Guitar Player magazine in the early 70's. Do you think he was respected by his peers? And how would you rate his work as a guitarist?

Mike: Mick is and was an unsung hero. His guitar playing was so melodic and gorgeous. o one until now has been better suited for compatibility with David. Magic is magic!

David:  In addition to being a guitar player... Ronson was also a band leader,  a producer, and a solo artist. Any thoughts on those aspects of who he was as an artist?

Mike: Mick was a great producer, arranger and band leader. All done with dignity and respect for whoever he worked for. And his solo albums were great. Totally overlooked. Slaughter On Tenth Avenue was a remarkable track.

David:  During the David Live period, when Bowie was making his transition from rock to soul, how did you feel about the changes in musical direction, band personnel and so forth?

Mike:  It all made sense to me as he's an ever evolving artist who refuses to stand still! That's what I love most about him. Perhaps that's where our minds meet, as I surely can't sing or dance.

David:  Did you pick the musicians for the new band? 

Mike: don't think it was me that picked those great musicians like Dave Sanborn, Luther Vandross, Carlos Alomar and Dennis Davis, but we sure had a great band. Andy Newmark recorded a bit with us and Willie Weeks. They were also great players and very sensitive. Michael Kamen was an excellent musician and he's gone on to be a great film composer. David has a gift for always finding very interesting musicians.

David: You parted ways with Bowie in 1975.  How would you describe  the circumstances of the split?

Mike: David went off to do (the movie) The Man Who Fell To Earth and I went back on the jazz scene. I initially was hired for 8 weeks and I lasted several years which felt perfect for that time of my life.

David:  Over the next two decades,  your list of accomplishments include releasing a number of highly acclaimed solo albums, doing movie and television soundtracks, and recording and performing worldwide with some of the most respected names in jazz… People like Stan Getz, Stanley Clarke and Freddie Hubbard.  Is there one genre or area of music that you find more fulfilling that others? Or do you enjoy doing it all?

Mike:  really love many styles and types of music and most importantly I like playing how I feel at any given moment. I guess you can say I love improvising as that's totally the subject of creativity and that's all we are truly given so why not cultivate it?  

Mike Garson todayClick on the photo to visit Mike's Official Website! 

David:  It wasn’t until 1993 that you found yourself working with David Bowie again. What was that like after an 18 year break? Was working with David in the 70’s different than working with him now?

Mike:   You know, when David called again in 1993, it was like 2 days passed and it felt like a comfortable glove going back on my hand. The essence of a person  pretty  much remains the same,  so it’s still David. Yes, life styles have changed and we are certainly in a new and different energy which feels healthier in all ways to me. But his thirst for exploration and creativity remains exactly as when I knew him then!

David:  Bowie’s music has gone so many different places over the years… which places or periods stand out most for you?

Mike: Hunky Dory,  Aladdin Sane and Young Americans were my favorites, yet I like so many of his periods that's  hard to answer.

David:  Do you have a favorite Bowie song?

Mike: Space Oddity, Quicksand, Lady Grinning Soul and Motel come to mind but there are scores I love.

David:  Which band or band members in the Bowie camp that you’ve worked with have you felt the most chemistry with? And which combinations do you feel produced (or produce) the most magic?

Mike:   hat's also a hard one as each group I've worked with (and that's at least 10 different bands) had a very unique and special vibe. The Young Americans band was phenomenal, but so was the Outside band. The Spiders were tremendous and the current band (I just came home from rehearsal with them) is frightening it's so tight. Probably Mick Ronson was my all time favorite though.

David: I'm glad to hear you say that about Mick Ronson. 

Mike and Mr. Bowie on tour

David: What are you thoughts on what’s going on today in the world of rock and pop music? Is there anyone or anything going on currently that you find engaging?

Mike:  I have no idea what's going on in music today. Is anything happening? I'm so happy I'm playing with David. It gives me a great excuse to not listen to anyone else right now. Yeah I still love Miles Davis, Bill Evans, Chopin and Bach and Liszt. John Lennon is pretty good too. They all seem to be dead though. What's up with that?!

David:  Maybe what is or isn't happening in music today has something to do with why we are seeing so many tribute acts around right now...  The tribute act phenomenon started with the Beatlemania show on Broadway in the late seventiesNow there seems to be a tribute act for just about everybody… What is your opinion of this whole tribute thing?

Mike: It's inevitable that there will always be tribute acts. It's not my thing but I feel it has a place and is probably very necessary. 

David: What plans are in the works for you in the future? What projects are you going to be involved with in the coming months?

Mike: I have no idea what the future holds for me, but I await it anxiously.

David: Any closing thoughts you’d like to share?

Mike: I've said it all for now. Thank you for the opportunity to voice my different viewpoints. 

(Taken from David Brighton's complete interview with Mike Garson - April 2002)

The Ziggy Stardust Companion Interview
with David Brighton of SPACE ODDITYDavid Brighton and the Space Oddity Band at the House Of Blues in Los Angeles
photo by Dave Scarr

Michael Harvey: How long have you been doing your David Bowie tribute act? I'm impressed by the authentic Ziggy-era stage look in your photographs.

David: We've been performing live for a little over three years. We did our first public show in 1999... but there was a lot of preparation going on for quite a while before we actually started performing.

Michael Harvey: How did it all start for you?

David: It really started when I heard Panic In Detroit on the radio for the first time as a kid. I'd never heard anything like it. It was like a magnet pulling me in. So the Aladdin Sane album was my initial introduction to David Bowie and the Spiders. It's still one of my all time favorite albums. But back to modern times... I'd been recording and touring for a number of years with a number of acts. I'd played guitar with groups like Quiet Riot and others. In the mid 1990s I spent a lot of time running around the planet playing George Harrison with various spin-offs of the Beatlemania show that started out on Broadway years before. That was how I was first exposed to the whole tribute thing. It was a strange but interesting world. I eventually decided I'd like to do a David Bowie show on the same scale as the Beatlemania show had been done. So it became a project that I had simmering on the back burner in between tours, for a number of years before we started performing live.

Brighton as the Starman
photo by Cassie Rietsch

Michael Harvey: Which David Bowie character do you enjoy playing the most?

David: I enjoy playing them all, but Ziggy probably holds the most magic for me. I listened to that era of Bowie music a lot during my adolescence. It's great stuff. And having been one of your typical teenagers who didn't feel that they quite fit in... I think the whole alien thing really hit home for me on a subconscious level. So performing those songs can really take me back to another time and place... The Thin White Duke is another one I enjoy a lot as well.

Michael Harvey: What's it like playing Ziggy Stardust?

David: Portraying Ziggy can be very liberating in a way. It's the whole mask thing... That thing about a person being in disguise, feeling the freedom to do things they wouldn't ordinarily do. I think I can see why David adopted the character in the first place. It's a lot of fun going out there and playing the wild, rock and roll mutation.

Michael Harvey: What are the challenges?

David: One challenge is simply doing the character justice. Bowie is such a master showman. His training in dance and mime and all of that really added a dimension to Ziggy that you don't find anywhere else in rock.

Michael Harvey: Who designed your Ziggy costumes?  They look stunning.

Brighton as Ziggy
photo by Cassie Rietsch

David: I've hired a few costume makers (and one boot maker) in the Los Angeles area, who've done an excellent job replicating some of Bowie's most signature costumes.

Michael Harvey: What did they cost?

The Rite Of Spring Ziggy costume at The House of Blues

David: They can be pretty expensive! Especially the Kansai replicas... The Rite Of Spring (that is what it's called isn't it?) costume is a marvel of engineering. The cost can vary from several hundred to several thousand dollars a piece. I'm looking forward to having some more costumes made.

Michael Harvey: What has the response been to your act to date? I love the expressions that your audience shots show.

David: It's been great. Bowie fans are a rare breed. They really get into it. It's great to see the looks on the faces of the people in the audiences who you can tell are being transported back in time, so to speak. There have been some people who have told us that before they saw us live, they didn't think anyone could convincingly recreate a Bowie concert experience. Tuesday Knight (actress/singer/songwriter, and now our backup vocalist/keyboard femme fatale) told me a story about the first time a friend brought her to see us perform. She was sitting in the audience before the show started, planning to tear us apart...saying "Let's see this guy who thinks he can do Bowie..." After the show was over, I was sent word that she'd loved our act and wanted to be part of it. So we obviously have had to prove ourselves. But that's one of the fun things about it. It's been an interesting challenge.

Pop star Shakira

Michael Harvey: Tell me about the Shakira Ziggy Stardust video...

Answer: That one was a surprise... The production people called and said they needed a David Bowie look-alike for a video that was going to be projected during a rock concert. The filming was done at one of the big studios in Los Angeles. I didn't even find out it was going to be for Shakira until I arrived for the shoot. Shakira's new album and tour have a rock and roll theme. They wanted to feature representations of certain rock and roll icons (including David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust) in part of the multi media for her concert. I probably shouldn't say too much more as to not give it all away, you know...But it was great fun doing it. Everyone was great. The director had some interesting stories. He'd seen David and the Spiders performing in England back in 1972. He saw David perform in 1971 as well.

Michael Harvey: Have you met David Bowie? What does he think of your act?

David: We've been fortunate enough to have been able to meet some of our musical heroes, but we haven't met Mr. Bowie himself. (Editor's note: At the time of this interview, David had not yet worked with David Bowie. The filming of the Vittel/Reality TV commercials came a couple of years later). Harry Maslin (one of Bowie's record producers) has been down to see our act. He was very gracious. Some of his comments are on the reviews page of our website. I've also met Bowie's  pianist, Mike Garson. He was incredible... amazingly supportive and helpful. He also said he'd tell the real Mr. B about the act. I don't know if he has or not. So I couldn't say what he thinks of our act. 

Michael Harvey: I really enjoyed the Mike Garson interview on your site - with some very interesting recollections about his time as the 4th Spider!

David: Mike Garson has been really great. When this act was in it's preliminary stages, I asked him some questions about some of his piano parts on the records. They were so complex and avant-garde that my keyboardist suggested I go to the source for some insights. Mike was very gracious and helpful. And more recently he was good enough to do the interview as well.

Tuesday Knight, keyboards and vocals

Michael Harvey: I have to agree with you on that one David...! Have you/ do you have anything special planned for the Ziggy Stardust 30th anniversary year?

30 Year Anniversary Concert

David: One of the most unique shows we've done to date was a very special 30 Year Anniversary Ziggy concert we did this year in Hollywood California. We did a mix of Bowie's concert versions and studio versions on a lot of the Ziggy era material. I had plans to rent the Santa Monica Civic auditorium this year to recreate the legendary 1972 Santa Monica Civic Concert, but it looks like I'm going to have to wait. Maybe for the 31st anniversary instead. We'll see.

Michael Harvey: Where are you based? How far have you toured to date? Have you any plans for international tours?

David: We're based in Los Angeles. Most of our Bowie shows so far have been on the North American continent and in Europe. There are a number of international things being discussed at the moment, which would be nice. We have yet to do the show in England, which I really would like to remedy.

Michael Harvey: For those outside the US (such as me) do you have any videos of your performances that can be purchased by fans?

David: That's an interesting question. Since we are a tribute act, when people have asked at our shows if we sold CDs or videos, we've always encouraged them to buy Mr. Bowie's. As you know, we do offer free video snippets of our show on our website as a promotional vehicle. There are no immediate plans do anything beyond that right now. If we were to obtain permission to offer an actual full scale video, I suppose it could happen down the road at some point.

Michael Harvey: Thanks very much David!  Congratulations to you and your band on your well-deserved success to date and all the best for the future.  Please do tell us more about the Shakira video as it unfolds! And if any Ziggy fans are lucky enough... I fully recommend that you Freak out in a Moonage Daydream with SPACE ODDITY...

(Taken from The Ziggy Stardust Companion - Special feature by Michael Harvey - November 2002)

2002: The Year Of The Diamond David Bowie Show
David Brighton's tribute to David Bowie!

Live Entertainment magazine's interview with David Brighton
from the world's premiere David Bowie Tribute act:

Question:  So Bowie-mania strikes again. 2002 marks the thirty year anniversary of  the release of David Bowie's breakthrough album, The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars...the album that critics call the Sergeant Pepper of the Seventies. Do you think today's audiences aware of how many of their favorite stars were directly or indirectly influenced by David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust?

David:  I've wondered about that, since virtually every rock, pop, punk or new wave act that came out  in the '80s and the 90's was heavily influenced by Bowie. Everyone from Kiss to Madonna to Garth Brooks was influenced by him.  U2, Elton John, Paul McCartney, Duran Duran, Nine Inch Nails, Van Halen and just about all of the metal (hair) bands that followed them... even a lot of funk bands... people like George Clinton... I could go on forever.

Question:  Yes you could.  Other than the Beatles, David Bowie is arguably the most influential artist England has ever produced. Pretty big shoes to fill... yet you and your band have a reputation for doing just that. Have you ever encountered Bowie fans who find it hard to believe that anyone could do a credible job of recreating a live David Bowie concert experience? 

Ziggy Stardust 30 Year Anniversary Concert

David:  Understatement... A lot of people have told us that before they saw us perform, they didn't believe it could be pulled off. We'd hear things like: "Nobody could do Bowie!"  Tuesday was one of them. (Tuesday Knight - actress/singer/songwriter). She told me a funny story about that first time she saw us at the House Of Blues... She's sitting there in the audience before the show starts, smirking and telling her friends, "OK, let's see this guy who thinks he can do Bowie...I'm gonna tear him apart..." Then she said her jaw dropped when we came out on stage. By mid show she's yanking on my friend's arm who brought her saying: "I have to be in that band! I have to be in that band!" We've gotten a number of letters from people like that...Bowie fans who were skeptical until they came to see us.   

Question:  That brings up another question. Many people perceive tribute acts as being little more than deluded, poser garage bands. Where as most, if not all of the Space Oddity band members have worked with some big name acts... Brian Wilson (The Beach Boys), Susanna Hoffs (The Bangles), Five For Fighting, Quiet Riot, Thomas Dolby, the Jellyfish, Alice Cooper, Slash (from Guns and Roses) even the Rolling Stones. How did you all get together?

The Illustrious Larry Treadwell did session work for the Rolling Stones 
The Illustrious Larry Treadwell

David:  Los Angeles is crawling with talent. All of our band members are people I had either worked with in the past or they were referred by friends.  Larry Treadwell was the first guitar player I called when we started out. Larry has played with everyone from Thomas Dolby to The Rolling Stones. An incredible musician and a really great guy to work with. Brooke and I were writing songs together... another real talent.

David and Brooke on stage

Jason (drums) was suggested by Howie Anderson - a guitar player friend of mine who works with us sometimes, when he's not gigging with The Strawberry Alarm Clock or with some other legendary musical figure. Yes, I'm being a shameless name dropper. Anyway, Jason is a GREAT drummer. There aren't  many drummers who can handle songs like Look Back In Anger, and the more rock oriented Ziggy material, and also be able to get Bowie's dance grooves right on top of that.  It was Jason who brought in Tim Kobza and Eric Dover, two brilliant guitarists who have worked with the band.

Question: Eric Dover from the Jellyfish?

The inimitable Eric Dover - from Glamnation

David: Yes, Glamnation's Eric Dover (formerly with the Jellyfish, Slash's Snakepit, and  the Alice Cooper group) has done a great job filling in with us on occasion.  Eric also does a brilliant Mick Jagger impression when we do the Bowie/Jagger collaboration on Dancing In The Street. He's a ridiculously talented guy. Right now, he's working on his own album, which Jason is playing drums on. It's going to be an amazing record.

Question: What about Tuesday Knight?

David: Tuesday, our resident movie star (background vocals/keys)...was an acquaintance back in my Quiet Riot days. But I hadn't seen her since way back then, until the House Of Blues show that I mentioned earlier. Tuesday definitely wins the award for being the girl with the biggest personality of all time. She's great.
the irrepresible Tuesday Knight

Question:  Do other tribute acts have so many serious players in their ranks, or is your act unusual in that regard?

David:  There are a lot of accomplished musicians around. At least a couple of the top Beatle groups have had guys who've played with  Styx,  Joe Jackson and so on.  They're great. But having well known players with tons of technical ability doesn't always translate into having a great act. To me, the best bands are the ones made up of people who really believe in what they're doing and who respect each other and the audience enough to give it all they have.  Bowie's music demands that you have really strong musicians...but at the same time, you can have the hottest players around, but if they don't learn their parts or show up when you need them, there's not much point.  Delivering the goods is what matters...

Question: Were financial considerations a big motivation for you to form your Bowie Tribute act?  

David:  Am I missing something? Are we supposed to be getting paid to do this? No really... I just really wanted to do a Bowie tribute, ever since my initiation to this whole tribute thing through the Beatle bands I worked with. I don't have anything against getting paid to do something you enjoy doing though.  If that ever starts happening, I'll let you know (laughs). 

David Brighton and the Space Oddity Band as Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars!

Question:  Have you ever met David Bowie or any of his band? And if so, what did they have to say about what you're doing?

David:  We've been fortunate enough to have been able to meet some of our musical heroes, but we haven't met Mr. Bowie himself. (Editor's note: At the time of this interview, David had not yet worked with David Bowie. The filming of the Vittel/Reality TV commercials came a couple of years later). Larry has worked with Bowie's ex-wife Angie. Harry Maslin (one of Bowie's record producers) has been down to see our act. He was very gracious. Some of his comments are on the reviews page of our website. I've also met Bowie's  pianist, Mike Garson. He was incredible... amazingly supportive and helpful. He also said he'd tell the real Mr. B about the act. I don't know if he has or not.

David Brighton on stage!

Question:  Bowie has been such a diverse artist, exploring so many different styles of music and modes of presentation. He's done it all, from rock to pop, funk and experimental electronic music. That being the case, what do your audiences expect from you?

David:  They expect it all.  Bowie's music crosses over a lot of racial, social and cultural boundaries.  All kinds of people are into it. Rock and pop fans, the mainstream audience, the alternative audience, the dance crowd, the rock and rollers. It's good to see that.

(taken from Live Entertainment Magazine, Feb. 2002)

2001: A Space Oddity
David Bowie impersonator, David Brighton
The Life and Times Of A Celebrity Impersonator
- David Brighton's Tribute to David Bowie -

Question: When you were first starting out in the entertainment field, was becoming a David Bowie impersonator something you envisioned yourself doing?

David: When I was starting out, I never expected to impersonate anyone.
I don't quite know how I got here! Bowie was always one of my favorite artists, and a huge influence, but when I was a kid I didn't really even expect to become a front man. I wanted to be a lead guitarist like Mick Ronson or Brian May. Ronson influenced a lot of guitar players that I've known. People like Randy Rhoads for instance.

(Editors note: Before his life was tragically taken in a plane crash, the late Randy Rhoads had earned a name for himself as a
bonafide rock superstar… he was the original lead guitarist for the 80's arena rock band, Quiet Riot, among others…)

Question: Mick Ronson was one of Randy Rhoads's influences?

A very early shot of original Quiet Riot line up
Randy Rhoads- (2nd from the right) with the original Quiet Riot line up

David: Yeah definitely... Randy had a presence on stage that was very reminiscent of Ronson.  Beyond that though, both were very charismatic performers and were brilliant at what they did. And both played enormous roles in the success of the acts they worked with. Even though they both started out as sidemen for famous singers, both became stars in their own right.

Question: We've heard rumors about your association with Quiet Riot. Is it true that you replaced Randy Rhoads in the band?

David: Way back when Randy had just left the group,  Kevin sort of took me under his wing and asked me to work with him. It was great.... I learned a lot from him... (Editor's note- Kevin Dubrow, Quiet Riot's lead singer). He had a good understanding of how the music business worked and I was brand new to it.

David and Kevin Dubrow of Quiet Riot
David Brighton and Kevin Dubrow on stage
photo by Dennis Hill

Question: What was it like playing with the band that gave us arena rock anthems like "Come On Feel The Noise?"

David: Loud. (laughs) It was great. A lot of fun.

Question: And how did it feel to replace someone who went on to become such a legendary figure? That must have been an interesting place to find yourself in. Did you feel pressured in any way?

David: You could say that...! (laughs) Randy was a great guitar player... just amazing... he was also incredibly popular with his audience. It was very flattering for me to be there. I wouldn't even want to try to compete with someone like Randy Rhoads. But at the time I was so young that I probably didn't have the sense to be overly intimidated by the situation. The guys in Quiet Riot  liked the fact that my playing style and my stage thing back then had a number of similarities to what Randy had been doing. You know, that flashy English rock guitar kind of thing. Which leads us back to Ronson, really. Both of us were heavily influenced by people like Mick Ronson, Brian May (from Queen) and others.

Question: Are you still in contact with any of the Quiet Riot band members?

David: I just spoke with Kevin on the phone recently. They've got a new album out and are doing an arena tour as we speak. I wish them the best of success.

Question: We're having trouble seeing the connection between portraying Bowie and playing lead guitar for a rock band like Quiet Riot. Could you help us out here?

David: As a guitarist, I've been a sideman for a lot of people... playing all different kinds of music... from rock, pop, and alternative - to R&B, gospel and so on. It's been fun. It's also really fun doing the David Bowie tribute show... which these days hasn't exactly left much time for the other... although I'm not complaining... we're having a great time doing it.

David Bowie impersonator, David Brighton

Question: How would you describe the difference between being a sideman for a name act and impersonating someone?

David: The impersonating thing requires more acting... studying the character one is portraying as well as their character's musicality...

Question: Would you describe yourself as a Bowie freak?

David: I've been described as a freak...(laughs)...anyway... Bowie is definitely one of the great artists of our time. One of my favorites.

Question: The whole tribute act phenomenon's popularly certainly has exploded worldwide. But there are some who have criticized and questioned the validity of whole idea of having tribute acts parading around as people they are not. How would you respond to their criticisms?

David:  On one hand, I can think of things about the whole tribute thing that would be legitimate to criticize. For example, it's really not a happy thing to see a bad tribute act...or to see a bunch of people in a tribute act who are really full of themselves or who think they really are who they're impersonating. But the same can be said for any kind of act.
Which brings us to the other side of the coin. I'm of the opinion that the tribute thing was  inevitable. Rock and Roll has become our modern day Classical music. People go see tribute acts for the same reasons people go to hear a symphony performing Mozart, Bach or Beethoven.
     To me, musically speaking, there is nothing that compares to experiencing the magic and electricity of a live concert. When the original artists are gone or are not performing anymore, or whatever, a vacuum is created. The difference between a classical concert and a tribute show is simple. The personas, the charisma, the visual presentation, (in other words, the show) is half of the reason the Beatles or David Bowie or Elvis (or whoever) became legends in the first place. It was not just the music. It was everything combined that made the magic. And those same things are the legacy of the great artists of our generation.…They are the things that will live on. Great rock and roll is a marriage of great sights and great sounds. Both parts will always be necessary. So a quality tribute act makes every effort to recreate the whole picture.

David Brighton as Rock and Roll space alien - Ziggy Stardust

Question: What kinds of shows have you been doing lately, and how have your audiences been responding?

David: We've been performing at a lot of the outdoor festivals, as well as in the Casinos and so forth. It's been great and sometimes amusing. For example, we just performed a couple of days ago at a huge Classic Rock festival, where we went on right after a Grateful Dead Tribute band. Pretty opposite ends of the spectrum...So we walk on stage, I'm in my Japanese Ziggy cape, with the spiky red hair, platform boots and make up... and some hippies in the audience look like they don't know what to make of it at first... but after the show they're shaking our hands and telling us how much they loved the costume changes and which songs are their favorites... it's great... People love a show... they want to be entertained.

David Bowie impersonator, David Brighton

Question: Before you were doing your Bowie act, you impersonated George Harrison in a number of the world's top Beatle groups.  More than one Beatle fan has asked- why interrupt a successful run impersonating George to launch another kind of act entirely? Namely Space Oddity.

David: One reason was that the challenge appealed to me. Whatever you do in life, you've got to keep growing and learning, or you just sort of shrivel up and die inside. I really enjoyed playing Harrison. But I've played lead guitar in bands for a long after I'd been portraying George for about five years, it was time to explore something different.
     Going out onstage and fronting a band like Bowie has always done was a whole new frontier for me. I wanted to find out if I would be able to do it or not.

David Brighton back in his George Harrison days

Question: How did you choose Bowie?

David: There are a lot of reasons. There were obviously the vocal and visual similarities… but beyond that… probably the most important thing was the music... Bowie's music transports me somewhere, just like it did when I first heard it.

Question: Which leads us to our next question... Is your David Bowie Tribute a larger scale production than the Beatlemania style shows you were involved in before you made the switch from Harrison to Bowie?

David: Even though some of the Beatle shows I was a part of were full scale productions, I'd still have to say yes... The Bowie show is very theatrical and flamboyant... with lot's of costume changes, pageantry and surprises… It wouldn't be a Bowie show otherwise...

Question: In closing, where do you see the future taking tribute acts?

David: One can only guess. But the feedback we've been getting is that young people who never got to see early Bowie, the Beatles and a lot of other great artists, want to see them today. And the people who were around to see them back in the day want to see them too. That's a lot of people... we don't want to disappoint them do we?

(May 2001)







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