I came across this cover by the Canadian alt-country band, Cuff the Duke, when I was evaluating candidates for “cover of the week.” I didn’t choose this because, while the post was new, the song itself comes from the band’s 2013 EP, In Our Time, Part II. Nonetheless, I like the cover and wanted to post it.
I haven’t seen many covers of “Star.” On its own, it’s a quasi-autobiographical song, almost a pledge by the still-not-famous Bowie to become a rock star. I think of the possibly fictitious quote, “if you want to be a star, act like a star.” But “Star” is not usually encountered, as it is here, on its own. It’s usually heard while listening to the Ziggy Stardust album, which includes several songs with celestial names— “Moonage Daydream;” “Starman;” “Lady Stardust;” and “Ziggy Stardust.” All together, there can be no doubt that Bowie was deliberately conflating meanings of the word, “star,” which he would do again in 2013 with “The Stars Are Out Tonight.” At other points, Bowie would conflate other concepts, particularly political cults of personality with rock stardom. “Somebody Up there Likes Me” is overtly about a demagogic politician but can just as easily be about a rock star with a cult-like following. “Fashion” is at once actually about fashion and also about political movements. Ziggy, too, is a rock star, space alien and messianic figure. The rock star’s relationship to his fans must seem similar to that of worshipers to their gods or political fanatics to their leaders.
Cuff the Duke’s version of “Star” only vaguely hints at all of this because it is, as I mentioned, a stand-alone cover. The band does a good job, though, and in the context of Bowie being listed a a co-writer of “Young Love & Saturday Nights,” (click to link) that Cuff the Duke is at least on the margins of country suggests that they saw the adaptability of Bowie’s music first.