David Bowie’s Alien Influence on Jaguar

Carmaker's design chief on the man who fell to Earth.

Bob King/Redferns

I only have three heroes in my lifetime: My father, Jim Clark and David Bowie. Bowie was so far above everything else. He was such a creative character and so inspiring to everything I did when I was young.

When [Scottish Formula 1 hero] Jim Clark died, I was 9 years old and I can remember thinking, “These people are not allowed to die.” I felt the same way this morning when I found out Bowie was dead. I discovered him when I was in college in Glasgow studying art and design. It was 1972, and it was a really brutally creative environment. We were always struggling to find the next great thing in design and art and music and fashion. It was a really formative time for me, a crucible.

And that’s the year Bowie released The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. The music caught my imagination first, and then I saw all these alter egos that Bowie put on, which really appealed to me as a young man. I listened to the album all the time during this period—I’d finish classes for the day and go to my bedroom and put Bowie on the record player. He was a huge part of my development, he approached his art both musically and visually—he would call it his sound and vision, I suppose. That got to me.

RCA

His work has this brutal, hard edge that I really loved, but it was counterbalanced by a very tender softness, a soft character which I found really attractive. And so I try to get this hardness, this matter-of-fact grittiness and combine it with a sort of soft element. And that’s the sort of balance I like to bring to creating a Jaguar. It’s not precisely what Bowie did, but it’s most certainly inspired by that duality.

If I get a creative block, If I get stuck, I listen to music—usually Bowie, but sometimes Bruce Springsteen. My favorite album is Aladdin Sane, and I love that title track—it conjures the angst of someone searching for something and never really finding it. And the random notes that go from complete chaos into order, it’s so magical. He threw these notes together, and I’m sure they’re quite calculated, but there’s no apparent logic to them. I also love “The Prettiest Star.” It makes me feel so warm, and so hopeful.

With Bowie, it was always something new, and always something surprising. He had a creativeness as pop star that doesn’t even exist anymore, really. He could translate the visual into sounds. How does that look as it sounds? His vocabulary and lyrics captured the visuals as much as anyone ever did.

That image of him standing outside the phone box in London will be in my mind forever. He was a great inspiration to me and to millions.