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Ziggy Stardust

Side One: Five Years / Soul Love / Moonage Daydream / Starman / It Ain't Easy
Side Two: Lady Stardust / Star / Hang On To Yourself / Ziggy Stardust / Suffragette City / Rock n Roll Suicide

Albums:  The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars (1972), Stage (1978), Ziggy Stardust: The Motion Picture (1983), Santa Monica '72 (1994), BBC Sessions 1969-1972 Sampler (1996)

Singles: Ziggy Stardust

Time: 3:13

Background

 

Video credit: Mr Sussex
1972 Ziggy Stardust live performances; audio from Santa Monica 1972 concert.

Pivotal song on THE RISE AND FALL OF ZIGGY STARDUST AND THE SPIDERS FROM MARS (1972) which tells the central story of Ziggy Stardust's rise and fall. 

".... My records were selling and I was being a man in demand.  I thought of Vince [Taylor] and wrote "Ziggy Stardust"....... - Bowie (Part of a never completed or fully published autobiography titled THE RETURN OF THE THIN WHITE DUKE - this excerpt featured in Rolling Stone Magazine January 1976)

It was recorded in November 1971 at London's Trident Studios and a bonus for Bowie fans in the 1990s was the release of the acoustic demo of this song on the Ryko 1990 re-issue, featuring Bowie on vocals, piano and guitar.

Prior to the re-issue series, the existence of this demo was unknown and reportedly it was not played to either The Spiders nor producer Ken Scott before the recording of the Ziggy Stardust album.  Instead Bowie would introduce each song to the band members on his acoustic guitar and the structure was then worked on in the studio from this basic blueprint.

Special recordings of this song were broadcast on the Sounds of the Seventies (Broadcast: 28 January 1972) and Sounds of the Seventies (Broadcast: 7 February 1972) and on Top Gear (Broadcast: 23 May 1972).

Ziggy Stardust was performed at all Ziggy Stardust concert tours in 1972 and 1973. It was also performed for the 1978 Stage tour, the 1990 Sound + Vision Tour and on 2000 concert dates.

Ziggy Stardust Orginal Lyrics

Is this song really about Jimi Hendrix?

David Bowie himself has never stated that the song is in anyway about Jimi Hendrix and has reported instead that the direct inspiration for Ziggy Stardust was the eccentric sixties rocker Vince Taylor.  But rather than being about one person, the song is most likely a composite of Bowie's ideas and imagery about his ultimate rock God, hinting not only at Hendrix ("screwed down hairdo" and "He played it left hand, but made it too far") but also other fallen rock icons: Jim Morrison, Brian Jones, Janis Joplin and contemporaries Marc Bolan, Iggy Pop, and Lou Reed. The song (copyrighted to 1971) also accurately describes David Bowie (and not Hendrix) at the time ("screwed up eyes") and what he would become during the next two years ("snow-white tan") - a reference to stage make-up and "like a cat from Japan" (Bowie's Kabuki theatre-inspired Aladdin Sane costumes).  

Who are Weird & Gilly?

The names "Weird and Gilly" specifically refer to Trevor Bolder (bass) and Woody Woodmansey (drums) of the Spiders from Mars.  George Underwood has said that "Gilly" was the nickname of a biker that he knew called Brian Gill and that Bowie liked the stories George told about him.  "Weird" was totally Bowie's invention.

One of the most famous covers of this song is by Bauhaus which reached #15 in October 1982.   They also contributed "Bela Lugosi's Dead" for the opening titles of Bowie's Goth vampire movie "The Hunger" but were reported to be "too scared" to do "Ziggy Stardust".  Other notable covers include versions by Nina Hagen, Def Leppard and Hootie & the Blowfish.

Recording notes

* @ 0:06 seconds into the introduction there is a 'bad edit' just before the drums kick in.  This sounds like a low frequency thump and happens when an engineer uses a blade (which has built up a magnetic charge) and the charge is transferred back onto the tape, when he slices it.  However, this sound which is present on the original LP and the 1984 RCA and 1990 Rykodisc/EMI CDs has now been repaired and is absent on the latest EMI/Virgin 1999 Ziggy Stardust CD.

"To me this track shows off the importance of Ronno and his unique guitar sound.  It's his usual Les Paul through a Marshall amp, but his sound came from his pedal.  He didn't need a massive array like so many players today, just a Cry Baby wah-wah which he'd start with completely open and slowly push the pedal down until we obtained just the right sound and he wouldn't touch it again until the next song or part." - Ken Scott

"That one was really a brief summing up of the concept of Ziggy and the Spiders, but kind of done in a futuristic type of way. I was really into King Crimson at the time and I loved the drummer. He used to play things, strange drum rolls at strange places in the song. I used to think it was a bit weird, but then I learned how to do it, and I thought that would really work for this song. So, I definitely took a bit of inspiration from King Crimson for my playing on that one. And it worked! It kind of left it hanging at certain places and didn't make it sound like a 'normal' rock song. That one always went down amazing live. People would be waiting and waiting for that song. Like when we were in Japan and he would sing that line 'like some cat from Japan' and the place would just go berserk! Absolutely mental." - Woody Woodmansey

 

 Ziggy Stardust (Bowie)

Ziggy played guitar, jamming good with Weird and Gilly
And The Spiders From Mars
He played it left hand
But made it too far
Became the special man, then we were Ziggy's band

Ziggy really sang, screwed up eyes and screwed down hairdo
Like some cat from Japan, he could lick 'em by smiling
He could leave 'em to hang
He came on so loaded man, well hung and snow white tan.

So where were The Spiders, while the fly tried to break our balls?
Just the beer light to guide us,
So we bitched about his fans and should we crush his sweet hands?

Ziggy played for time, jiving us that we were voodoo
The kids were just crass, he was the nazz
With God-given ass
He took it all too far, but boy could he play guitar

Making love with his ego, Ziggy sucked up into his mind
Like a leper messiah
When the kids had killed the man, I had to break up the band

Oh yeah
Ooooooo
Ziggy played guitar

 

---This page last modified: 14 Jan 2019---

Ziggy Stardust Scarf (1973)