August 31st, 2010
"He'd like to come and meet us but thinks he'd blow our minds!”
He did. And he still does.
(From “Starman”, Track 4, Side 1. The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.)
Picture this. It’s 1972. The Sounds of the 70’s, an adventurous BBC pop show presented by Bob Harris, features David Bowie in his incarnation as alien rockgod, Ziggy Stardust.
Clad in a figure-hugging snakeskin suit, exuding androgynous sex appeal, Bowie erupted into the living rooms of the British nation, immediately exposing thousands of young men to the gayness lurking in their souls and probably their underwear. I know. I was there.
The fact that Ziggy was apparently inspired either by doomed guitar genius Jimi Hendrix or by the drug and booze-fuelled lifestyle of rock n roll wildboy Vince Taylor, born in Isleworth, is interesting. But it’s not relevant to the iconic gayness that was at the heart of this huge fantasy.
Ziggy was an alien sent to earth in the final five years of its life with a message of hope. The fact that he is ultimately killed and torn apart by his fans cast something of a shadow. So glamrock met scifi, swirling strings met swaggering saxes, jagged guitar anchored the often dark lyrics and edgy vocals of Bowie, all of it captured on disc, on tour and at the movies, right around the world, including Japan.
The outfits were thigh revealing and arse-hugging. The make-up was dramatic and cheekbone enhancing. No wonder fans came to the concerts attired and adorned as their hero.
The songs themselves, still as fresh and startling today as they were back then, offered wildly contrasting moods from the darkness of “Moonage Daydream” and “It ain’t Easy” all the way to the almost optimistic “Starman.” Bowie’s legendary skill at self-reinvention and a sensational back-catalogue of huge tunes has, of course, secured him a unique place in the pantheon of pop idols.
But nothing will ever match Ziggy Stardust for sheer visual outrage and the sexual ambiguity that inspired one generation and still has the power to reach to tomorrow’s.
RIP David Bowie, still here.
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