When David Bowie passed away in 2016 he left a rather large hole in the music scene. The singer had been a beacon of creativity for nearly six decades before he departed and he had an unfathomable influence on one person, in particular, Placebo’s Brian Molko.
The singer had found a kindred spirit in the Starman and his passing in 2016 provoked an emotional reaction, “He was my friend and my mentor. He gave me a lot of advice. I’m meditating more on how he was quite a sage and quite a raconteur as well.”
It’s not hard to imagine, Bowie had that effect on most people. The Thin White Duke had always been lauded as one of the most influential artists in pop history but the difference here was that Bowie was just as enamoured with Placebo and Molko.
Bowie always had his finger on the pulse of new music and as well as picking out DEVO as a band of the future, he also gravitated towards Molko’s subversive alt-rock band, Placebo during the nineties. Bowie was in an industrial phase when he first came across the band and soon enough he had them open for his Outsider Tour in 1995.
They would quickly begin working with each other in the studio too. The band welcoming Bowie on the 1998 single release of the title track of their second record Without You I’m Nothing. With some backstage footage that Placebo shared after his death, highlighting Molko’s adoration of the star, gleefully looking up at him with wonder.
The pair enjoyed an enriching relationship onwards from there. Sharing the stage in 1999 at the BRIT Awards, as they performed a tribute to Marc Bolan with a cover of T-Rex’s ’20th Century Boy’. But the footage below comes a few years after in 2004 as Placebo were welcomed to French TV to perform Bowie’s iconic song, ‘Five Years’.
It’s not easy covering Bowie. Ask the countless artists who have tried and failed. But perhaps emboldened by his connection to the star or perhaps relying on the honesty of that connection in the first place, Molko delivers an impassioned and touching cover of the track.
Shot years before Bowie’s death, rather than a cover that is haunting or brittle, we see Molko engage with the track on a level of warmth and recognition. What’s more, he does so with a heavy dose of talent and an even larger serving of appreciation for the source material.
So sit back and enjoy this touching cover of David Bowie’s ‘Five Years’ from Placebo’s Brian Molko.