David Bowie’s followers have now been having fun with the character of Ziggy Stardust for a full 5 many years. That’s hardly a nasty run, on condition that the opening monitor of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars broadcasts that the tip of the world will are available in simply 5 years. Launched on June sixteenth, 1972, that album gave the general public its introduction to the title character, an androgynous rock star from a distant star who at some point arrives, messiah-like, on the dying Earth. However because the musical story goes, the ensuing fame proves an excessive amount of for him: the hapless Ziggy leads to shambles, victimized by Earthly needs in all their manifestations.
One might learn into all this sure aspirations and fears on the a part of Ziggy Stardust’s creator-performer, the younger David Bowie. Broad important consensus holds that it was on the earlier yr’s Hunky Dory that Bowie first confirmed his true inventive potential.
Although that album, his fourth, boasted signature-songs-to-be like “Modifications” and “Life on Mars?”, Bowie declared (little question to the label’s frustration) that he wouldn’t hassle selling it, since he was nearly to alter his picture. This turned out to be a shrewd transfer, since his subsequent transformation into Ziggy Stardust launched him out of the realm of the revered area of interest singer-songwriter and into the stratosphere of the bona fide rock star.
Why did Ziggy Stardust drive so many listeners to near-maniac appreciation half a century in the past? In Bowie’s native England, many cite his July 1972 performance of “Starman” the BBC’s Top of the Pops because the turning level. Although solely mildly psychedelic, the section celebrated the colorfully askew glamour of Bowie-as-Ziggy and his band the Spiders from Mars simply when it was desperately wanted. As music critic Simon Reynolds writes, “It’s arduous to reconstruct the drabness, the visible depletion of Britain in 1972, which filtered into the music papers to type the gray and grubby backdrop to Bowie’s bodily and sartorial splendor.” As we speak you may hear a newly released 2022 mix of “Starman” constructed from the tracks recorded for Prime of the Pops these 50 years in the past.
Think about the influence on a younger English pop-music fan in 1972 who occurred to be watching on shade (or moderately, color) tv, itself launched just a few years earlier. Although Bowie might have chosen simply the fitting historic second to debut the primary of his musical personae, he didn’t create Ziggy Stardust ex nihilo. Components of the character have clear precedents earlier in Bowie’s profession, not least in the promotional film for 1968’s “Space Oddity,” the 2001-inspired single that first related him with the realms past our planet. However Ziggy was Bowie’s first real alter ego, a personality completely suited to the period of “glam rock” who might conveniently be retired when that period handed. Glam rock could also be lengthy gone, however Ziggy Stardust nonetheless seems to be and sounds as if he’d solely simply landed on Earth.
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Based mostly in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and tradition. His initiatives embody the Substack publication Books on Cities, the ebook The Stateless Metropolis: a Stroll via Twenty first-Century Los Angeles and the video collection The City in Cinema. Observe him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.