The ZIGGY STARDUST Companion
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by Barbara Shewchuk
Fan Story Index
We waited in line for 9 hours to get tickets to see David Bowie at The Tower Theatre in Upper Darby, PA, USA. We were 18-20 years old at the time.
The night of the concert, six young dudes and "dudesses" (coined by a friend) donned their spaciest clothing and platform shoes. Some had streaks of blue or green in their hair, others used stencils and sprayed in temporary color to achieve the look of stars and moons in their hair. The dudes wore black nail polish; the dudesses clear, with various colors of sparkle. We were ready!
We took the High Speed Line (local train) into Upper Darby. We had to walk through the station then two blocks to The Tower. All eyes were on us, and some people seemed afraid. We looked at each other and laughed because we couldn't think of a more benign bunch! When we arrived, the place was buzzing with excitement and anticipation. People were dressed in everything from costumes imitating Bowie to jeans and a tee shirt. It didn't really matter. Everyone was there to hear the music and see the show.
We took our seats, approximately the 23rd row, and anxiously awaited . . . The lights went down to the sound of the Clockwork Orange version of Beethoven's Ode To Joy. As the song neared its end, the stage was bombarded with strobe lights, and Bowie and the band walked on. It was a visual challenge to see them amid the flashing lights. Mick Ronson played two chords along with Ode To Joy for a brief sound check? Sooooo cool? and the stage lights came up to the sound of the opening riffs of "Hang On To Yourself".
In the ensuing hours we were treated to some of the best live music I've ever heard, and an incredible theatrical show. The sound was fantastic!
I remember Bowie making seven costume changes, but I only remember what two of them looked like. There was a blue one with a spider web motif that billowed out into a circle from the waist down. It was a pull-away revealing another costume beneath, which, ironically, I don't remember. Then there was a long dress - to the ankles - sort of muslin with a high waistline with printed fabric appliques or trim. I had never seen a man in a dress so that is etched in my mind. Very clever in an era when bi-sexuality was supposedly hip.
Bowie was very charismatic. His voice was vibrant, strong, and clear, his act fine-tuned but fresh. He allowed the audience some physical contact, which created an air of intimacy. This was most impacting during the final encore, Rock and Roll Suicide, when he slowly walked along the edge of the stage allowing fans to touch him as he passed by. The fans were very gentle with him, and he smiled and even laughed softly at one point during the song. I'll never forget it, and I've never experienced anything like it again.
Mick Ronson was SO incredible live! I'm sure Bowie's words "boy could he play guitar" were really written just for Mick. It was pure pleasure to hear him play, and watching him was phenomenal. The way held the guitar, fingered the guitar, the one-handed playing, his foot on the pedals, his stance, and the tête-à-tête with Bowie - amazing! Then there were the clothes. The long-sleeved white shirt with slits from shoulders to wrists, the front open to his navel, the jodhpurs (or breeches) with the knee-high glitter socks, and those wonderful platform shoes. It was a combination of a throwback to a bygone era and the most modern clothing of the time. He looked magnificent! I had only ever seen one picture of Mick - the one on the inside sleeve of the Ziggy album, which was not complementary to any of them. So I go to the concert and find this beautiful, thin, blond, masculine figure of a man. A wonderful contrast to Bowie's androgynous look. Wow!
Trevor Boulder wore this short feather boa around his neck. It actually looked like very long side burns from a distance. It was white in stark contrast to his black hair. He stood solid, stage right of Bowie. Woody Woodmansey was hard to see behind the drums. I remember a lot of action and blond hair! Trevor and Woody were just as dramatically dressed.
Before going to the concert I already owned Hunky Dory, The Man Who Sold The World, A Space Oddity, and Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Live proved to be an improvement on the skillfully played and produced studio cuts making it hard to pick favorites. Width of a Circle, and Moonage Daydream gave Ronson a chance to soar and he claimed Space Oddity for his own with some brilliant, inventive guitar work. He was a very spontaneous musician and I'm so glad I was there for those solos. Bowie started Supermen with a gentle intro then geared up to a hard-hitting chorus. I love this song. I heard The Prettiest Star for the first time this night, and it too became a favorite.
Bowie kept up the Ziggy illusion, and Ronson played right along. There was no lack of talent and charisma here. Along with Trevor Boulder, Woody Woodmansey, Mike Garson, and Herbie Flowers they were quite a tour de force.
Bottom line: They were the best musicians writing the best music in a peak performance. Each musician contributed their talent to the unique style that defined Bowie while he was with the Spiders.
The first Bowie song I ever heard was Ziggy Stardust. I didn't know it at the time, but those grinding opening riffs, so powerful and so fresh, would be the beginning of a long love affair with Mick Ronson's music. Shocked? Maybe so, but that's how it has been for me. Bowie, though constantly changing and ever innovative, has never again quite captured the energy and charisma or the raw, edgy, yet refined perfection that he had while with the Spiders.
My best memory is that I was there and my worst memory is that it had to end. I did tape it, though, so I have it forever. I had a small stereo deck with a stereo microphone. After all this time the tape still plays. (Thank you Maxell!)
---This page last modified: 29 Jun 2002---