David Bowie was well known for his extravagant and innovative music style, hailing from Brixton the singer-songwriter was an act so fresh to the scene, he captured people’s attention and changed music as we know it. Part of his brand was having personas – Aladdin Sane being one of the most established acts, including Ziggy Stardust, Major Tom and Thin White Duke being amongst the most iconic fictional characters. Bowie wanted to change the music industry that he thought was too boring. This expressive industry is for individuals and groups to sing and write about personal experiences and taboo subjects.
Ziggy Stardust, the man from Mars, was concocted for Bowie’s 1972 concept album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and fitted in with his backing band ‘Spiders from Mars’. The character was inspired by an encounter Bowie had with British rocker Vince Taylor who, after many years in the industry claimed to be a messianic figure sent from space; yes an alien messiah. After his meeting with Taylor, Bowie was struck with inspiration and spent months creating Ziggy Stardust, who’s name he took from a barber’s he saw from a train window. The story was that the earth had five years left until destruction and Ziggy Stardust and his band were sent to warn everyone of the natural disaster.
Despite Ziggy being one of Bowie’s most recognisable personas he is frequently mistaken for the lightning bolt symbol, which was in fact the symbol for Aladdin Sane. The look was one of the most striking appearances in all of the industry, with a gold circle slap bang in the middle of his forehead and copious amounts of eyeliner and electric blue eyeshadow not only was the music and theatre industry changed, but the fashion industry too. Bowie made everyone look, listen and stare at the gorgeous magnificent spectacle he had put out there. The 70s really was just Bowie’s world.
On stage Ziggy was enigmatic. Many of the records explicitly featuring Ziggy such as Life on Mars and Space Oddity were more low-fi and acoustic. However, the persona and performance were less of a live music experience and more of an artistic movement. The more rambunctious tracks later on in Bowie’s career such as ‘Let’s Dance’ and ‘Modern Love’ of course proved to be groundbreaking, but nothing reached the heights of Bowie’s freshmen albums and characters. This alter-ego of Bowie’s changed rock phenomenally, lighting that theatrical flare that has since been echoed in every corner of the music and film industry. Not only did it create a new era for rock music, it was also an extremely defining moment for Bowie’s career. Ziggy was a song cycle so tightly and impeccably tailored together, it set out a visionary direction for pop music setting a new standard for rock and roll music, whilst delivering his synthetic ideal with campy sex appeal and raw power. Emerging on stage in outrageous shoulder pads and bodysuits, his stage presence was altered forever. Sadly Ziggy was short lived and after twelve months of rigorous maintenance Bowie retired the persona in 1973 as the lines began to blur, convincing some fans that Ziggy was actually there to save the world.
After that there was a fear Bowie would never return to the music scene and that the Brixton born genius had quit the music business for good. However, Bowie would return of course with new personas and new music and new characters. But with Aladdin sane, Halloween Jack and Thin White Duke getting their time in the spotlight none would ever resonate quite like Ziggy Stardust did.