In fact, many current superstars (Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj) have skipped building their careers under their own names and gone straight to the made-up pop confections. In honor of these brave and often foolish attempts, here are Eleven of the Weirdest Rock Star Alter Egos:
David Bowie (The Thin White Duke)
David Bowie has the most colorful cast of alter egos in rock history, including Major Tom, Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane and the gay trenchcoat guy who covered "Dancing in the Streets" with Mick Jagger. The creepiest, though, was the Thin White Duke. While touring behind 1975's Young Americans
, Bowie began to move away from that album's "plastic soul" funk stylings into a newer, elegant phase. Unfortunately, that phase included bizarre pro-fascist comments, Nazi imagery and silos of cocaine. The persona informed much of 1976's excellent Station to Station
, but dismayed many of Bowie's fans and embarrassed him for years after.
Beyoncé (Sasha Fierce)
Beyoncé Knowles is one of the biggest multimedia stars on the planet, so it's kind of odd that she would decide to take on a new persona at the height of her fame. I Am. Sasha Fierce
was a album split by personality: I Am.
took an eclectic take on her normal pop and R&B, but Sasha Fierce
went for a harder-edged electro sound that many fans didn't particularly dig outside of "Single Ladies." The unusual part of Sasha Fierce was that she was basically Beyoncé with a glove and different clothes on. No one ever really figured out her reasoning for the split, but it didn't stop her from selling millions of albums. The moral of the story: Beyoncé can call herself whatever she damn well pleases.
David Johansen (Buster Poindexter)
David Johansen was best known for being the outrageous frontman of the classic 1970s glam/protopunk group the New York Dolls. He released a few more rock-tinged solo records before re-emerging in the '80s as both an actor (Scrooged
, Let It Ride
) and a bizarre, calypso-obsessed lounge singer named Buster Poindexter. Most famous for office/limbo/depressing wedding party staple "Hot Hot Hot," Poindexter and his various backing bands actually explored some interesting territory musically. However, Johansen himself even regretted his big hit single, as it overshadowed what is a fine
career of worthwhile tunes.
Garth Brooks (Chris Gaines)
Easily the weirdest alter ego in the list (which is saying something), Chris Gaines is an Australian pop sensation who resembles Trent Reznor and was to star in a biopic about himself entitled The Lamb
. Except for one thing: Chris Gaines was actually zaftig American country music megastar Garth
Brooks. Makes sense, right? Well, no, actually. Released to a confused public, The Life of Chris Gaines
actually managed a Top 5 hit in "Lost in You" and a dire Youngbloods-sampling radio single "Right Now" and went to No. 2 on the album charts. The album was pretty mediocre overall, and both the movie and Gaines persona were quickly abandoned.
Bono (The Fly/MacPhisto)
U2 were the biggest rock group in the world through most of the 1980s. They
started off the '90s with Achtung Baby
, one of their most successful albums both musically and in sales. They reinvented themselves into an electronica- and world music-savvy postmodern pop group for the record and ensuing Zoo TV tour that went on for about 12 years afterward, and Bono was inspired to take on an "identikit pop star" personality in response. The Fly was an ironic, self-obsessed maniac with a messianic complex (read: Bono with new sunglasses). Over the course of the tour, the Fly morphed into MacPhisto, who was basically Satan-as-rock star and did such "naughty" things onstage as ordering 10,000 pizzas, calling a phone sex line and repeatedly trying to reach President George H.W. Bush. Sadly, it was far scarier/funnier when Bono actually
met with his son Dubya at the White House to discuss debt relief and AIDS.
Something about achieving major fame in music seems to drive creative artists to assume new personae. Whether it be fodder for an epic concept album, a stab at a different genre or just plain boredom, many of our favorite stars have conjured up characters in order to explore and indulge their fancies.