MEMBERS of Oxford’s music community have been paying their respects to David Bowie – describing the icon as an inspiration, and his death a tragedy.

The Starman artist died in New York on Sunday, following an 18-month battle with cancer. He was 69.

The star, known for such hits as Space Oddity, Life on Mars, Changes and Under Pressure, played shows at the New Theatre and Oxford Polytechnic (now Oxford Brookes University), performing two nights there in 1972 as Ziggy Stardust. He came back to Oxford a month later to play the Town Hall.

Radio presenter Bob Harris, from Steventon, who was a personal friend of Bowie’s, helped launch his career through the Old Grey Whistle Test and even sang on one of his records – Memory of a Free Festival.

He said: “You sort of know some artists are going to be very, very special indeed and you just knew that about David.”

He added: “He had a great sense of PR and knew how to get himself noticed, but could back up the front with sensational music.”

Wheatley singer-songwriter Gaz Coombes, formerly of Supergrass, and nominated for last year’s Mercury Music Prize, tweeted: “This is a dark day.

“We’ve lost our most influential figure in British culture and a wonderful man. I can’t quite believe it. RIP David Bowie.”

Yannis Philippakis, frontman of Oxford band Foals, tweeted: “Thank You for everything David. I think we all thought he would be here forever.”

Ronan Munro, editor of Oxford Music monthly Nightshift, said: “He was one of the biggest influences on my entire musical life. I absolutely loved him. I am genuinely very upset.

“I saw him on the Glass Spider tour, and he played Sons of the Silent Age, which was an unexpected treat. I also saw him at Phoenix Festival, near Stratford Upon Avon, in 1996."

He added: “One of the great things about Bowie, apart from being a brilliant, innovative and creatively restless genius, was that absolutely no-one can pick out the definitive Bowie album.

Everyone has their personal favourite, but even then many of us would change which was our favourite depending on our mood or the day of the week.

“If I absolutely had to pick one it’d be Aladdin Sane, but then maybe it’d be Heroes. Or possibly Station To Station.”

Tony Kelly, from Marston, is frontman of rock and roll band The Shapes.

He said: “On May 30, 1973 I went to my first ever gig, it was Bowie at the New Theatre Oxford. I had just turned 12.

“It still remains one of the best and most memorable gigs I have ever attended.

“My mum, bless her, queued all morning to get the tickets, when me and my older brother were at school.”

Oxford Mail:

Musician and writer Stuart Macbeth, from Thrupp, near Kidlington, said Bowie had been a formative experience, describing him as “an inspiration to any local musician who suddenly hits their stride, and rides home with an idea, a gig, or a recording that points the way ahead."

He added: "For many 'krautrock' fans he is the only person from Britain we can relate to."

Sebastian Reynolds, is a member of Oxford bands The Epstein and Flights of Helios. He said: "There are few figures in pop culture who have been so successful in constant artistic reinvention.

"We have learnt a huge amount from his presence, now we can learn even more from his absence. Rest in peace.”

Vez Hoper, promoter, artist manager and founder of the city's Irregular Folk sessions, said: "David Bowie was a unique boundary-breaking artists and may his legacy live on.

"He was an inspiration, not only for his incredible creativity but also for his kindness and generosity.”

Oxford Mail:

Mark ‘Osprey’ O’Brien, musician, promoter and founder of the Oxford City Music Festival said: "David Bowie defined pop culture in the early to mid-80s.

"Let’s Dance still sends a shiver up my spine and starts me moving and looking for a dance floor passionately.

"I also loved the way he dressed. He was, and always will be, one cool dude."

Oxford soul funk and northern soul DJ Mark Sargeant met the artist at an aftershow party at the Randolph Hotel.

He said: “I Met David Bowie on the Ziggy tour way back in the ‘70s. He was drinking Ziggy cocktails ­– which were advocaat, lemonade, brandy and a dash of lime.

"Someone asked him how Bowie should be pronounced, and he replied ‘It’s Bowie, like the knife, man’.

“I spent about 20 minutes talking to his guitarist Mick Ronson about football.

“I also saw him play at Oxford Town Hall a year or so earlier, around the same time period, Tyrannasouras Rex, pre-T-Rex, there. I was still at school at the time.”

Headington DJ Chris Brown, 62, said David Bowie was one of his musical heroes.

He said: “I played a lot of his stuff. I remember when he played at the New Theatre. My mate was working there and they let me in the back door.

"I saw him on stage – he was absolutely brilliant. He was one of the great glam rockers. I always remember his costume change when people grabbed the Velcro and he was wearing something totally different underneath.

“My face was painted when I first started in the entertainment business. I was in a glam rock band – we all had our heroes and Dave Bowie was one of them. It’s a very sad time for music fans.” 

Oxford Mail:

Changes: Queue for tickets at the New Theatre in a startlingly quiet George Street, Oxford, in 1973

Long-time producer Tony Visconti said the late singer's final album, Blackstar - released two days before his death - was "his parting gift" to the world.

Its lead single, Lazarus, opens with the lyrics: "Look up here, I'm in heaven," while the accompanying video shows a bed-bound Bowie playing a man struggling to overcome illness.

* In tomorrow's Oxford Mail Guide: Coldcut and Ninja Tunes supremo Jon More on seeing Bowie live at Oxford Town Hall, the star's inspiration on his own career - and on appearing in that photo...