The person doing the Bowiesongs blog points out, by way of Nicholas Pegg’s fabulous The Complete David Bowie, that an unexpected possible influence on Bowie’s song “Big Brother” is, of all things, the Bonzo Dog Band’s “Mr. Apollo.” Pegg points out that the chorus of each song features the same rhyme (“follow”/”Apollo”) and that, coincidentally, the same drummer plays on both tracks (Aynsley Dunbar).
But wait – there’s more! Bowie’s song moves from B minor to an ambiguous, passing chord that might be called a D with an A bass, and then to an A; or Bm-D-A. “Mr. Apollo” opens with a four-chord sequence G-Bb-F-G. Transpose that up a major third, and the sequences are nearly identical (especially since the Bonzos’ chords are open power chords and work with either major or minor thirds). And the verse of “Mr. Apollo,” with its jaunty acoustic guitar and double-time feel relative to the faux-metal opening, is echoed in the bridge of Bowie’s song (“I know you think you’re awful square…”).
One of the more endearing aspects of Bowie’s personality, evident in his stage demeanor especially, is his somewhat gawky sense of humor (this explains “The Laughing Gnome” – if nothing else does). And I wouldn’t put it past Bowie to consider, in imagining his portrait of someone’s need for a messiah fix, to have remembered the Bonzos’ rather lower-stakes version of the same…
David Bowie “Big Brother” (Diamond Dogs, 1974)
The Bonzo Dog Band “Mr. Apollo” (Tadpoles, 1969)