50 years ago today, the great album Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars was released, obviously by the much missed, extremely talented David Bowie. I guess that relatively I came late to this album.
I remember growing up hearing Dancing In the Streets for Live Aid, and must have been aware of other big tracks, but mainly knew of Bowie through the sample Carter USM used in Surfin USM from Suffragette City, and then the Bauhaus cover of Ziggy Stardust that I had on a Goth collection, nestled between the Damned with Eloise and probably a random track by Siousxie and the Banshees. So I can easily recall buying the Bowie Singles collection in about 1995, at the height of Britpop, and having a few people moan!
From that point on, I went back and started to collect the albums, starting with Hunky Dory, then on to Ziggy. The combination of Mick Ronson on guitar, and the concept behind the album grabbed me straight away, and it has been a favourite ever since. I may claim to prefer some versions on the Live at the Beeb album, but dont listen to me.
And what is not to love. The record is packed full of hits – the title track, Starman, Hang on to yourself, Rock and Roll Suicide. Of course Starman had been the intro for most of my musical heroes to Bowie, so I heard about the Top of the Pops performance before I had heard the song. I read about the origin story, the days and nights at Haddon Hall, the break up of the band at the Hammersmith gig, even how the Sex Pistols had stolen their gear from back stage that night. I have lapped up every fact about the album and its legacy.
There are guitar freakouts with heavy riffs, la la la choruses (Im a big Julian Cope fan, so love a la la or ba ba chorus), story telling, cover versions, and the ultimate final track.
I really believe that losing Bowie caused something to happen to our world. He died in 2016, and in that year we had the rise of Trump, the Brexit vote in the UK, rise of right wing intolerance, and on a personal note my wife was diagnosed. I can still recall crying to the loss of Bowie, even before all of those things had happened, just being hit by the sense of loss, and the realisation we would never hear of his likes again.
I used to work near Heddon Street where the cover was shot, and made many a pilgrimage to the location, knowing that there was one spot I knew the great man had walked. A restaurant was there in those days, and it felt a very unmarked and unloved location for what I felt was one of the greatest pieces of British history. A little more Bowie would benefit us all