With a career now into its 5th decade David Bowie has remained one of rock music’s most celebrated and iconic performers. The concept of self re-invention becoming the trademark of his chameleon like evolution from one alter ego to the next, Bowie’s early interest in theatrical performance and mime propelled him to create a series of sometimes bizarre characters and protagonists, “actors” that appear upon the stage of his career. Bowie’s distinctive voice and eclectric approach to both his image and music combined with a visionary songwriting talent have ensured his position as vanguard in the rock and pop pantheon.
Space Oddity Guitar
Bowie’s career took off in 1969 when the BBC featured David’s single Space Oddity a pert of their coverage of the Apollo 11 launch and moon landing. The single was promoted via advertisements for the Stylophone which Bowie had used on the Space Oddity Single. Here is David playing Space Oddity live in 1969 using the Hagstrom 12 string in our Rare Star Guitar Collection.
The Man Who Sold the World
Bowie followed with his album “The Man Who Sold the World” which featured a more Hard Rock sound and a Stateside media campaign where Bowie promoted & exploited his androgynous appearance wearing the dress from the album’s cover art in a series of coast to coast interviews. After discovering proto-punk artists Lou Reed and Iggy Pop Bowie began to play with the idea that he would create the ultimate pop and rock icon in the character of Ziggy Stardust.
He next produced the album “Hunky Dory” an ambiguous, pastiche of kitsch pop styling including the self-reflexive opening track “Changes”, the curious “Song for Bob Dylan” and the Velvet Underground inspired “Queen Bitch”. Although it was not a vast commercial success “Hunky Dory” allowed Bowie to put together the Spiders from Mars band – look out you rock ‘n’ rollers!
The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
Further Inspired through a meeting with Vince Taylor (a rock n roll icon who after a breakdown was convinced he was both a God and an Alien) and psychobilly progenitor The Legendary Stardust Cowboy. In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine Bowie had this to say :
The time is five years to go before the end of the earth. It has been announced that the world will end because of lack of natural resources. Ziggy is in a position where all the kids have access to things that they thought they wanted. The older people have lost all touch with reality and the kids are left on their own to plunder anything. Ziggy was in a rock-and-roll band and the kids no longer want rock-and-roll. There’s no electricity to play it. Ziggy’s adviser tells him to collect news and sing it, ’cause there is no news. So Ziggy does this and there is terrible news. ‘All the young dudes’ is a song about this news. It’s no hymn to the youth as people thought. It is completely the opposite.
The end comes when the infinites arrive. They really are a black hole, but I’ve made them people because it would be very hard to explain a black hole on stage.
Ziggy is advised in a dream by the infinites to write the coming of a Starman, so he writes ‘Starman’, which is the first news of hope that the people have heard. So they latch onto it immediately…The starmen that he is talking about are called the infinites, and they are black-hole jumpers. Ziggy has been talking about this amazing spaceman who will be coming down to save the earth. They arrive somewhere in Greenwich Village. They don’t have a care in the world and are of no possible use to us. They just happened to stumble into our universe by black hole jumping. Their whole life is travelling from universe to universe. In the stage show, one of them resembles Brando, another one is a Black New Yorker. I even have one called Queenie, the Infinite Fox…Now Ziggy starts to believe in all this himself and thinks himself a prophet of the future starmen. He takes himself up to the incredible spiritual heights and is kept alive by his disciples. When the infinites arrive, they take bits of Ziggy to make them real because in their original state they are anti-matter and cannot exist in our world. And they tear him to pieces on stage during the song ‘Rock ‘n’ roll suicide’. As soon as Ziggy dies on stage the infinites take his elements and make themselves visible.
Bowie released the single “Star Man” to promote the Ziggy Stardust album and also recorded “John, I’m only Dancing” and “The Jean Genie”, the lead single from the “Aladdin Sane” album, during the Ziggy tour.