For his band of merry followers, they had seen it coming for some months. Fortunately, for those who had not yet caught on, June 6 1972 was the day Ziggy Stardust was unleashed upon an unsuspecting public.
By the time Bowie’s fourth studio LP, “Hunk Dory” was recorded in the summer of 1971, Bowie had already begun the creation of his Ziggy character, inspired by Vince Taylor, who himself had performed an on stage “rock’n’roll suicide” in France appearing in white robes and professing that he was, indeed, Jesus Christ.
Another important ingredient of Ziggy was the influence bestowed upon Bowie by American singer, The Legendary Stardust Cowboy. Bowie took the Stardust name and linked it with Ziggy, a name that came from a tailor’s shop called Ziggy’s that he passed on a train. Bowie stated in 1990, “that Iggy [Pop] connotation but it was a tailor’s shop, and I thought, Well, this whole thing is gonna be about clothes, so it was my own little joke calling him Ziggy. So Ziggy Stardust was a real compilation of things.”
And so we had a name. Ziggy Stardust!
The first song of the album, “It Ain’t Easy” was laid down at Trident Studios in September 1971 followed by “Hang Onto Yourself”, “Ziggy Stardust”, “Star”, “Moonage Daydream”, “Soul Love”, “Lady Stardust” and “Five Years” during November. Some of these songs were given a public airing on the Bob Harris “Sounds of The Seventies” BBC radio show during January and February 1972. It was also during February, on the 10th, that Ziggy made his first live appearance at the Toby Jug in London.
By the end of February “Starman”, “Suffragette City” and “Rock’n’Roll Suicide” were recorded at Trident. The ball was now rolling!
With over a dozen gigs under “Ziggy’s” belt, many to small and almost empty venues, “Starman” was released as a single in April 1972. It sold poorly until this legendary performance (below) on Top of The Pops, which first aired on July 6 1972.
The album itself, “The Rise & Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars”, released on June 6 1972 had been praised by the British and American media and eventually peaked at number 5 in the UK charts. The tour gradually grew in popularity and, partly, thanks to the success of Bowie’s appearance on Top of The Pops in July, would wind its way through the UK, America, back to the UK, once more to America, onwards to Japan and finally back for a fateful run in the UK where Bowie would retire Ziggy on London’s Hammersmith Apollo, unbeknownst to the his fans on July 3rd 1973.
From here, Bowie would move forward to his “plastic soul” period and beyond. He would leave the Ziggy legacy behind, but, it would live on forever! Four decades later, Ziggy still resonates through music fans the world over. His iconic imagery has been copied on the catwalks of Paris, London and New York whilst the album itself has been cited by musicians as a highly influential work of art that inspired them to follow in Bowie’s footsteps.
If you have never heard this album before, may I suggest you buy a copy today. Should you already own a copy, may I also suggest you pop it on one more time and embrace the full beauty from one of the most influential albums of all time. Ohh, and make sure of one final request. This LP is….TO BE PLAYED ATMAXIMUM VOLUME!