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of Contemporary Art's
"A Rock N Roll Suicide"
Concert programme cover
Written contributions from ICA Programme
Carrot and Stick - Its the early 70's. I've been sent to boarding school in Scotland while the rest of my family are living in Greece. I'm miserable there. Life seems very grey: low clouds, uniforms, rugby and algebra. Since I'm considered responsible (I cry a lot and carry a copy of "The Wasteland" in my pocket) I'm given the right to use the Senior Common Room, a tiny room at the top of the building which boasts a couple of chess sets, a few Kipling novels and a mono record player. Mark Hughes a Brandonseque boy from the A stream, has a sister who's a Bowie fan, so he has all the albums. The new one has a weird Brechtian title: "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars". It's bleaker than the rest, bleaker even than "All The Madmen" off "The Man Who Sold The World"
Day after day they take some brain away
Then turn my face around to the far side of town
...Tell me that its real then ask me how I feel
Stuck in this grim institution where they beat you for talking out of turn, that clicks. To tease me, Hughes keeps singing that line "So where were the Spiders/When the fly tried to break our balls?". I can't believe they've got the balls to play it on the Radio 1. Bowie's voice is like nothing I've ever heard: high, metallic, alien, apprehensive. My nickname is Groovy, but soon they're calling me Poof. I just smile, because I'm having an affair with an oriental boy. We swing on ropes over the Water of Leith and kiss a bit. We speculate on whether Lou Reed and Mickey Finn from T.Rex are like us. We know that Bowie "swings both ways". Its just all in the air. Even the boys who call us poofs are jerking each other off in the dorms at night, pretending its a demonstration of what they get up to with their girlfriends back home in Africa in the holidays. I get expelled from the Senior Common Room when the housemaster catches me hiding in the music rooms, skipping tea to listen to "Drive in Saturday" on my transistor. Apparently I'm not so responsible after all. The rarefied privileges of the Senior Common Room have corrupted me. My education has indeed gone very wrong: something I passed upon stair has undone a decade of brutal socialisation backed with the ash. The carrot-haired Ziggy wins over the stick. Instead of setting into chartered accountancy I become a singer. - MOMUS
I saw Ziggy Stardust at the King George's Hall in my home town of Blackburn in about 1972 when I was 11. I remember the "shock, horror" headlines in the local paper and the feeling that I have seen something musically and visually special. The energy. and individuality of Ziggy Stardust stayed with me through my youth. Punk and New Romantic clubs always played Ziggy and looked to Bowie for style inspiration. When you hear the music today and see the photos the energy feels as contemporary as ever. - WAYNE HEMMINGWAY. RED OR DEAD
I had a life size Ziggy Stardust poster on the wall in my bedroom; it was 6 feet tall or more. It was 1974 and I was eight years old. Mr brothers and sisters were much older so I was into things through them. My mother was absolutely horrified - this man in makeup and tight trousers. She must have been really terrified because she mentioned other things that I liked and she didn't approve of this, she couldn't even bring herself to speak about. She was too scared to mention it. I grew up in a really working class area of Glasgow and I thought Bowie was one of the bravest people I'd ever seen. There was fighting and tough men in my area but Bowie was really brave. Wearing make-up and space clothes at that time. It was the mot putting yourself on the line activity I'd ever experienced. From the moment I saw him, he has easily been the biggest influence in my life. I didn't find him appealing sexually but I knew that I wanted to be like him. That Ziggy poster was great quality. It was massive and really thick. It probably cost only 50p but I remember having to save for ages to get it. Back then, 50p could buy you a lot. - MICHAEL MURPHY, DJ SMASHING / GIGI'S
Was it really 25 years ago? I was 18 and I'm not ashamed to admit Ziggy Stardust was my first real love. I had goose bumps when I heard him talk and my knees went weak when I saw him perform. Ziggy was rocks most famous creation and no musical character before or since has become anywhere near him. Its difficult a quarter of a century later, to describe just how ordinary society reacted to this tall, thin creature with red hair and painted lips parading around the stage in red five inch platform boots and lurex blouse when previously the most outrageous personality they ever had to confront was Mick Jagger. I didn't want to know about David Bowie the musician. I couldn't imagine there would be a man underneath all that makeup and lurex garb. This wonderful character had changed the face of popular music forever and has had just as much influence on successive musical generations as the Beatles had before him. 3rd July 1973. I had absolutely no idea whatsoever that part of me was going to die that Sunday evening as my sister and I left our suburban home in Surrey to see Ziggy on stage. Every time I saw Ziggy, I loved him even more. The first few chords of "cracked Actor" thundered around the auditorium and even now, whenever I hear the words "You Come All of The Way From Hollywood Heights" etc I think of Hammersmith and Ziggy. We didn't know then as the shock was still to come but as the gig ended we screamed for Ziggy to return, we couldn't have known but there were just two numbers to go before he committed rock n roll suicide in front of our very eyes. I didn't love David Bowie in the same way afterwards. He broke my heart that night and I never really forgave him. This ain't rock n roll this is genocide. - STEVE ASHFORD
I remember being a typical confused adolescent, desperately wanting to be everything that I wasn't. My sexuality, my cultural heritage, my hairstyle..there were rules that covered all of these, but they weren't good rules and I wasn't happy with them. Enter "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars." I now had the example of a doomed eyebrowless bisexual alien messiah to look up to. Ziggy Stardust didn't give me new rules to tell me who I was and how I should live my life, but I wasn't looking for a religion anyway. Instead, I had a story of a 20th Century self-fashioning -- perhaps the story of 20th Century self-fashioning - that took my painful confusion and gave it a role of mysterious significance in terms of loss and redemption, death and rebirth. Ziggy Stardust is not like the other dead saints of rock n roll sanctified as culture heroes..his death derives its significance as a work of art and not as a work of fate. - HANNA AKI HAWKINS
"and of course, as the cultural historians have noted, David-as-Ziggy was one of the great social catalysts of the times. He was the flash that ignited a world-wide explosion of sex-role experimentation, Glitter competition, and narcissistic self-absorption. He was the traffic light at the turning point; he stopped the poor tired broken-down bus of hippie communalism and gave the green light to the Me Decades millions of smaller, sleeker, markedly separate and unequal personal vehicles. So he really was something." - Angie Bowie from BACKSTAGE PASSES
25 YEARS AGO, at the final concert by Ziggy Stardust & the Spiders From Mars at the Hammersmith Odeon, David Bowie was propelled by a media slingshot to world-wide superstardom. The gorgeous, glittering, elusive, erotic and enchanting creature that Ziggy had become unleashed the androgynous power of Aladdin Sane, the Diamond Dogs Degenerate, and the mysterious Thin White Duke that would come to influence both popular music and contemporary sexuality for all time. 25 YEARS FROM NOW, it is my hope that sexual freedom will no longer be an issue, that it will flourish and that the acceptance of alternate sexuality will be considered status quo. This should free us all to tackle the hard stuff! I have already sprinkled my share of Ziggy Stardust. The future is in your glittered hands. - ANGIE BOWIE
Before the youth club was built, my brothers friends and I would walk around the streets of the village, singing every song from Ziggy. Once the club is opened we have a place to go, to talk, to listen to music. Yet the youth club highlights differences among the village kids. If youre a Bowie fan, youre liable to be branded a 'poof'. The die-hard supporters wear cheap silver bangles to school which doesnt go down well with the skinheads who are into Slade and Mungo Jerry. Yet music is never as divisive as football and despite these differences a mutual truce, if not respect, between the Bowie fans, the hippies into progressive rock and Emerson Lake and Palmer, and the skins remains. Nobody beats you up for listening to Ziggy. Something in the music is calling to us. We have nothing but we feel like we own the world. The Ziggy experience does not happen just "in the 70's" - as if the 70's were a dead past of which only images and traces remain - but is here, now, in the becoming of the remembrances. - HARVEY MOLLOY
For the full story see Ziggy '72: a catalogue of lost objects
Keep your Mouth Shut!!!
speaking of the Special Man, in conversation with Crankin' Out...
I went to see Ziggy Stardust and I screamed all the way through it, much to the annoyance of everyone in the balcony. I ran out after the encores and was standing alone when he came out the stage door, and I just stood there all on my own screaming!I can remember he tried to smile at me, but I was verging on irritating. He had these amazing platform shoes with palm trees on, and beautiful legs. He just looked staggering. Such presence. - TOYAH 1996
I always thought Ziggy was a bit like a cartoon character. - TREVOR BOLDER 1994
On the Aladdin Sane tour I saw him three times, including the "farewell" show. I was in the second back row. I went both nights! It was confusing at the time when he suddenly said "Its the last show we'll ever do," because even now when people speak at concerts you can't always work out what they've just said because of the acoustics. But there was a gasp, and you didn't really quite believe...He was always a bit of a drama queen anyway! Still is, I think! - NEIL TENNANT 1996
The retirement speech wasn't a shock, I knew the night before. David suddenly jumped up and said. That's it, I'm going to retire! I don't know if he had been cooking it up before, but the declaration to people that were close to him was "I'm retiring". Well Ziggy retired. David didn't. - MICK ROCK 1995
COMPILED BY STEVE PAFFORD, CRANKIN OUT
Twenty-six years ago, David Bowie's album THE RISE AND FALL OF ZIGGY STARDUST AND THE SPIDERS FROM MARS was released. Sales in the first week alone were over 8,000 copies; was it all hype? I can still remember seeing Bowie perform "Starman" on Top of The Pops (BBC) in 1972 but it wasn't until the release of "The Jean Genie" later that same year that I became well and truly hooked. I don't believe all of the hype about ZIGGY STARDUST being a planned concept album. I just think that everything about the project was right and just fell into place. There are many reports of how the Ziggy character was created and conflicting reports of how the "red-hot-red" hairstyle was created: was it really an accident? Do we really care? Well obviously we do! That's what Rock n Roll is all about! The whole Ziggy project was just so right, the songs, the excellent production and even the over-the-top promotion. However Mick Ronson did play a major role in the whole Ziggy thing and did not receive the credit he so rightly deserved. Mick was a very under-estimated musician and is sadly missed. It's so very hard to explain just how I was affected and influenced by Bowie in the early Seventies. I guess you had to be there to understand it - I'm just glad that I was. - DAVID PRIEST.
Birth of a Bowie Fan - Extracts from my diary: We went on holiday to Cornwall did Mum and me. A song came on the car radio and it totally blew me away. I later found out that the hazy cosmic jive was called 'Starman' by someone called 'Bowie'. Then I saw him on TV, on Top Of The Pops. I thought he was an alien. Everybody thought he was an alien. He was an alien. I was eleven. I was besotted. I bought it next day with my holiday spends. All I need now is a record player! Can't wait to get back home - I'm sick of looking at an orange label. "I wonder what RCA stands for?" Back in a back bedroom in Manchester with my new second-hand record player. The best place in the world. Never mind Cornwall it was crap. I bought 'John' with my pocket-money and I danced with him, and played it and played it again and (again). I got hold of a ticket for the Hard Rock. I've still got it. My mother wouldn't let me go. I absolutely hated her. She didn't realise, she didn't understand, so the lady bought me some 'Stardust' and then she did. I absolutely loved her. The album cover said 'to be played at maximum volume'... it was! One thing I remember that totally confused me for a while was 'why would someone make love to his eagle?' Well anyway we had a budgie... and I loved that. "Ziggy this, Ziggy that, Zig Zag Ziggy. "Why don't you go out and play football?" "I can't I've swapped it"... The Boy Who Sold The Ball.
On my birthday in October, we went to visit my Nan. I couldn't believe what she got me, she knew I was a fan. It was a 'ticker ticker' Timex with a red Bowie strap, a matching Bowie comb case and the first ever picture postcard of 'Dave Bowie'... and I've still got them! Number 1524, that's what I am, now I'm an official 'Dave Bowie' fan. It was football, painting, bird's eggs and Ziggy. And not in that order. I wonder what happened to the Free Trade Hall gig? I must've been playing out. Running down the wing with a hedgehog on my head, when I get a bit older I'm gonna dye it red. Off came the eyebrows, on went the glitter, didn't get many jobs as a babysitter. My schooldays were insane..."He's a puff that Bowie is, he's a puff." "So... so fucking what." They didn't realise you get more girls that way. Wankers. I did a morning paper round. Every week I sat down in the entry reading Popswop, Mirabelle and Jackie. I used to rip the Bowie bits out. I got the sack after three weeks. Summer holiday...Running round Blackpool Fun Fair I spot two Ziggy posters.
"Oi Mister. What do 'ave to do?"
"Score under twenty-one with three darts."
First throw... 'four', second throw.. 'eleven', third throw.. 'two'
"Sixteen! I'll have that Ziggy poster please."
"No it's seventeen."
"Fuck off. It's under twenty-one isn't it."
So I try for the second poster. Could I get under twenty-one again? Could I bollocks. Seven goes I had, spent all my money... still only got one poster. The bloke just shrugged his shoulders. I walked off devastated. I went to meet my mum in the ice cream cafe, she was smiling and waving... she always looked fine.
"What have you won?"
"A Ziggy poster"
"So why are you looking fed up? It's a lovely picture."
"I've spent all my spends and I only won one, there was two of them."
"You spent ALL of your money trying to get the other poster?
"Right.. wait here with your brother."
She came back two minutes later with the other Ziggy poster. "Thanks Mum you're great. You got under twenty-one then?" "No the man gave it to me." I don't know how my Mum did things, but she ALWAYS seemed to sort everything out. I found out years later that she threatened to punch the fella because he'd taken all my money. 'Wham Bam Thank You Ma'am!' In with a bullet strikes a red and blue lightning flash... 'Aladdin Sane'. Or so the story goes it should have been 'Love A Lad In Vein'. I like to think it's an anagram of 'Dad's An Alien'. "BOWIE QUITS" read the headline. I was mortified. My mum said it was all planned out: "He's more like an actor. He's just going to change into another role, you'll see." I didn't believe her. "Who's that on the cover with Bowie?" asked my mum.
"Twiggy?... Isn't she thin?" "No wonder she's got a boyfriend called Justin!" The last track got me worried again... 'Where Have All The Good Times Gone'... well, they were just around the corner. - PAUL KINDER.
David Bowie? January 1997, outside the Cafe Beaubourg, Paris. A limping tramp stops, turns, faces me and points. "David Bowie, David Bowie". Summer 1997, a building site in Bloomsbury. Workers in freeform after a teabreak. Five paces past and a chorus of "You little wonder you.." In drum n bass a cappella. 1988. "Woman in labour confronts mistress" on Jerry Springer - feels like the pinnacle of something. In my office the phone rings. Its the ICA. They're calling it art and its caught up with me at last. I am not David Bowie, but then again, who is? - IAN WHITE, THE CHAMBER OF POP CULTURE
Ziggy is to rock n roll what Peeping Tom is to cinema. But more than simply implicating us all in a shocking, spectacular act of voyeurism, Ziggy dragged a knowing self-reflexivity into a rock idiom predicated on authenticity and an obsessive quest to locate "the real". I'm glad we have the opportunity to add another layer of interference to that quest... - MARK PAYTRESS, AUTHOR OF THE RISE AND FALL OF ZIGGY STARDUST AND THE SPIDERS FROM MARS (SCHIRMER BOOKS)
I must have been nine or ten, it was 1980 and my mum took me and my sister to Woolies to buy our "first single" Nicky chose "Sleepwalk" by Ultravox and I chose "Ashes to Ashes". I remember "Sleepwalk" jumped really badly but Bowie was played to death. I had the same copy (plus free stamps) until last week when some monkey spilled beer into my record bag and ruined it, shame! - ALAN CHRICHTON, DJ, GIGIS
In Ziggy, Bowie created the perfect doppelganger, the fictional rock star who would make Bowie himself the star, the rock n roll suicide that would allow Bowie to live on. Ziggy, more than anyone else, epitomised Glam Rock. Iggy with an added Z, a transgendered alien rock God for the space generation, an archetype for all the young dudes. Like all the best youth legends, Ziggy was built not to last. - DARA O'KEARNEY
The reason I got into rock n roll is because I saw David Bowie on Top of The Pops with a bright blue acoustic guitar playing Starman in July 1972, and Mick Ronson on ten inch platforms, bending over giving the guitar fellatio. I was gob smacked. My reaction was part wanting to be David Bowie and part sexual arousal. I have since discovered my sexuality and bizarrely its not towards mean. I can honestly say the first person who turned me on was David Bowie. Respect to Ziggy Stardust. - ALAN MCGEE, CREATION RECORDS
---This page last modified: 12 Dec 2018---