The Creation Story Of “Ziggy Stardust” By David Bowie
via David Bowie/YouTube
Iconic and Influential
In the 1970s, David Bowie embraced different alter egos. One of the more iconic ones is Ziggy Stardust from his fifth studio effort, “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.”
Bowie told Rolling Stone, “What I did with my Ziggy Stardust was package a totally credible, plastic rock & roll singer – much better than the Monkees could ever fabricate. I mean, my plastic rock & roller was much more plastic than anybody’s. And that was what was needed at the time.”
Bowie’s artistic vision has always strayed away from what was trendy or what fans were currently subscribing to. So at a time when hard rock and heavy metal were becoming the most prominent subgenres, Bowie went the other way and blazed his own trail.
And it was a clever and brilliant move.
Ziggy Stardust was a fictional androgynous bisexual alien rockstar who became a messenger for extraterrestrial creatures. Bowie drew inspiration for the character from British rock ‘n’ roll singer Vince Taylor but he also had other influences like Legendary Stardust Cowboy and Japanese designer Kansai Yamamoto.
Producer Ken Scott said, “He always described how he’d take bits and pieces from all over the place, put them in a melting pot and they’d come out being him.”
He named his new alter ego, Ziggy Stardust – the first name taken from a tailor’s shop called Ziggy’s that he passed by while on a train. The album has a loose concept and in fact, the story was only pieced together after most of the material have been recorded.
Speaking about the theme, Bowie said: “What you have there on that album when it does finally come out, is a story which doesn’t really take place, it’s just a few little scenes from the life of a band called Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, who could feasibly be the last band on Earth—it could be within the last five years of Earth. I’m not at all sure. Because I wrote it in such a way that I just dropped the numbers into the album in any order that they cropped up. It depends in which state you listen to it in.”
He also told Rolling Stone‘s William S. Burroughs, “Ziggy is advised in a dream by the infinites to write the coming of a starman … this amazing spaceman who will be coming down to save the Earth. Ziggy starts to believe in all this himself and thinks himself a prophet of the future starmen. He takes himself up to the incredible spiritual heights and is kept alive by his disciples. When the infinites arrive, they take bits of Ziggy to make themselves real, because in their original state they are anti-matter and cannot exist on our world. And they tear him to pieces onstage during the song ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide.'”
Bowie then spent months designing the image and outfits for Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders. And all the hard work was worth it since the record was a massive success and would go on to become one of the most influential and celebrated albums of all time.