Gavin Rossdale: 8 songs that changed my life

Gavin Rossdale, in 2022
(Image credit: Don Arnold/WireImage)

Patronised and ridiculed for a sizeable chunk of their career, Bush have outlasted both the majority of their peers and almost all their most vocal, bitter critics. Currently mixing up US arena dates as special guests to Breaking Benjamin with their own headline shows in support of last year's The Art Of Survival album, their ninth full-length release, the West London-born, Los Angeles-based quartet are in fine fettle for a group who hit their commercial peak in the mid-to-late '90s. 

“If you’re stupid enough, you just keep going," frontman Gavin Rossdale told us earlier this year.

Here are eight songs which inspired the 57-year-old Londoner on his life journey.

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Sex Pistols – Bodies (Never Mind The Bollocks, 1977) 

The best band of all time. This band changed my life and changed music. The Sex Pistols really were a revolution, and they really laid down a dividing line of ‘us’ and ‘them’. Never Mind The Bollocks... is a perfect record, and when I was replaying it the other night, that visceral effect it has is just as powerful as it was in 1977. I think I heard God Save The Queen first, and I remember it gave me a headache – it’s so abrasive! - but I came to love the whole album. When I had to select just one song for this list, Bodies won out as it’s such a perfect encapsulation of the Pistols’ sound.

X-Ray Spex - Genetic Engineering (Germfree Adolescents, 1978)

X-Ray Spex were my other favourite band growing up. [Sings] “Genetic engineering could create the perfect race… that could us exterminate.” [Vocalist] Poly Styrene must have been 16 or 17 when she wrote that song… unbelievable. Those lyrics, what a genius. She was so progressive and smart and she should have been one of the most famous people to come out of punk rock. Years later, when we started Bush, I actually met her and she sang this track with me called Ban The Bomb: the verse wasn’t great, but, thinking about it, I must find a way to use that song…

Queen - Bohemian Rhapsody (A Night At The Opera, 1975)

This song reminds me of growing up with my mum and dad and my sister, when the world seemed fine and dandy, and everyone was happy. I remember seeing this on Top Of The Pops, and everyone was into it, and we would all sing along with it. It just reminds me of pure joy, of a beautiful time in my memory. By the time I started going to see bands, it was all punk shows, and the option of going to see Queen was never in my sphere at all, but this holds happy memories of innocent times. 

Electric Light Orchestra - Mr. Blue Sky (Out Of The Blue, 1977)

When I dug this out again the other day for a listen, I totally disappeared into an ELO hole. ELO were so incredible, like a classical Beatles, and I love Jeff Lynne, he’s a genius, right up there with the most respected musicians ever. This song is just so uplifting, it just exudes joy: it’s like a smile set to music, like a magic carpet ride. Again, it just takes me back to a really happy time in my childhood.

Madness - One Step Beyond (One Step Beyond…, 1979)

I loved Madness, they were so exciting and fun. I was a rude boy for a while, and I’d go to this youth club in West Hampstead every Thursday night, and all my mates, the early ASBO kids, would get up and dance to the R&B and soul stuff, and I’d be like, “Naaah, not having that”, but then they’d play Madness, One Step Beyond, and it’d be like, “Okay, Shalamar is finished, my turn!” Madness are from Camden, and I lived in Swiss Cottage/West Hampstead/Kilburn, so I was a north London boy, and they felt like our band. 

David Bowie - Wild Is The Wind (Station To Station, 1976)

Like anyone with ears, I’ve had a life-long love and appreciation of Bowie. I once had this beautiful girlfriend called Sara, and I remember giving her the Madness single It Must Be Love, because I thought it was cute, and she gave me Wild Is The Wind, this amazing, beyond beautiful song and I was thinking, “Shit, I fucked up, I was so basic, and this is so much cooler!” I was into Ziggy Stardust… at that time, I’d been given that album, but I hadn’t heard this song, and it opened up another chapter of Bowie to me. I would put that seven inch single on and just listen to it over and over for hours.

Roberta Flack - Killing Me Softly With His Song (Killing Me Softly, 1973)

There weren’t a lot of records in my house when I was a kid, but my mum had this, and so it always reminds me of her: I think my dad had written something to my mum on the back of the sleeve, so it was kinda my first insight into romance. I think this song programmed an intrinsic part of my DNA: I’ve always enjoyed writing slow, sad songs – like Glycerine – and this is kinda the blueprint, so I’m always referencing this and Comfortably Numb and [Brian] Eno and trying to take something of that essence to my own songs. . I’m a sucker for a great melody, and a sucker for a plaintive vocal that just crushes you.

Steel Pulse - Handsworth Revolution (Handsworth Revolution, 1978)

When I was deep into my punk world, you had to discard all your other music, because nothing else was allowed in those militant days… except reggae. My sister and her punk friends would be around at our place, or we’d be hanging out in squats with my punk friends, and once the six punk records that everyone had – the Pistols, Ramones, The Clash, the New York Dolls, whatever – had been played, we’d always turn to reggae. Steel Pulse had a beautiful sound, and this was a massive album, and it’s a massive song, which I couldn’t not include here. Every Bush song has a wannabe dub bass line behind it.

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.