In 1972 David Bowie released the concept album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. This is a story about a Martian who became a rock star on Earth, mired in all sorts of vices and eventually died.
The record consists of eleven tracks, but two songs became really big hits: Starman and Ziggy Stardust. A separate article on Blimey is devoted to the first composition, and the history of creation and the meaning of the song “Ziggy Stardust” is described below.
Ziggy Stardust – David Bowie Song Story
The words and music were composed by Bowie. He wrote it in early 1971. David said that he created Ziggy, thinking about different people. The musicians Douglas Yule and rock musician Vince Taylor had the greatest impression on him.
Douglas was the vocalist for The Velvet Undergroud after Lou Reed left the band. Bowie attended their concert one day, then went backstage and chatted with Yule for half an hour, thinking it was Reed. David later recalled:
… he sat and talked as if he were Lou. He told how he wrote Waiting for the Man and everything else!
Bowie soon figured out who he was talking to, but suddenly realized that he didn’t care if it was Lou Reed real or fake. Then the concept of the future character was born:
It was one half of the puzzle that made up the Ziggy Stardust type: “Is he real or fictional?”
The second prototype of Ziggy is the eccentric musician Vince Taylor. His most famous track was Brand New Cadillac, which was later included on the album London Calling by The Clash. But mostly he himself performed cover versions of legendary hits and imitated Elvis Presley, Gene Vincent and other cult musicians on stage. In addition, he possessed all the vices of a rock and roll star: he drank a lot, used drugs, made scandals, and so on. In the end, he went crazy.
Bowie met him on numerous occasions and attended his concerts. David later recalled:
He became a source of inspiration for me when working on Ziggy. Vince Taylor was a sixties rock and roll star slowly going insane. Eventually, he disbanded the band and went on stage one evening in a white sheet. He told the audience to rejoice, for he is Jesus.
David Bowie knew Vince:
I saw him several times in the mid-sixties and bumped into him at a couple of parties. He was completely out of his mind. Completely insane. He obviously did not have all the houses. He carried maps of Europe with him everywhere. I remember how, near the Charing Cross subway station, he opened the map, put it on the sidewalk and knelt down with a magnifying glass in his hand. He pointed to the places where the UFOs were supposed to land.
David was attracted to the image of Taylor:
There was something very attractive about his madness. It seemed especially attractive to me in those years of my life: “Oh, I wanted to end up the same way, completely crazy!” And now he was reborn in the image of Ziggy Stardust.
Note that soon after the release of the album about Ziggy Stardust, Vince Taylor was able to improve his mental health a little and even released the album Vince Is Alive, Well and Rocking in Paris. True, the record was not successful. The musician died of cancer in 1991.
The case helped to choose the name of the character. In an interview with Q magazine, David told how one day from the train window he saw a sign of Ziggy’s over a tailor’s workshop. He liked this option because it reminded him of Iggy Pop, Bowie’s close friend.
David also said that he settled on the variant “Ziggy”, because it was “one of the few Christian names that begins with the letter “Z””.
Meaning of Ziggy Stardust by David Bowie
Listeners meet Ziggy earlier in the album, but it is this composition that fully represents the main character. It is performed on behalf of the members of The Spiders from Mars. Disagreements arise between Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, because all the glory goes to him, and they are in the shadow of the frontman. At the end, it talks about the death of Ziggy at the hands of fans.
This character was Bowie’s “other me” for several years. David began to introduce himself under the name Ziggy, performed under this pseudonym at concerts and gave interviews as Stardust.
David Bowie later recalled:
Ziggy really became a model for me how to work in the future. For me, Ziggy became the Martian messiah who strummed on the guitar. It was a simplified character. I conceived it very simply… Akin to my character Newton, whom I was later to play in the film [The Man Who Fell to Earth]. The one who fell here was forced to start thinking our way and, in the end, ruined himself.
The fictional character became David’s alter ego:
I also fell in love with Ziggy. It was very easy to stay obsessed with this character day and night. I became Ziggy Stardust. David Bowie went completely out the window. Everyone convinced me that I was the messiah, especially during the first American tour. I’m hopelessly lost in fantasy.
After a while, the musician no longer admired his creation:
Ziggy was created out of a certain arrogance. But do not forget that I was then young and full of life. It seemed to me a very positive artistic technique. I really thought it was a beautiful piece of art. I thought it was a sumptuous kitsch painting. This whole guy in general.
And then that bastard stuck with me for years. That’s when everything started to deteriorate. And it deteriorated at an incredible rate. It was terribly difficult to level off. It damaged my entire personality. I brought it on myself. Looking back, I cannot say that I regret what I did, because it provoked an incredible series of circumstances in my life.
I thought you might as well bring Ziggy to interviews. Why leave it on stage? Now I understand that it was completely absurd. It became very dangerous. I really doubted my sanity.
Years later, David Bowie spoke fondly of Ziggy Stardust:
I think he was an interesting character.
Think that [Зигги]I would probably be shocked that, firstly, I am still alive, and, secondly, that I have regained a certain sense of rationality in relation to life and being.
Release and achievements
Bowie recorded Ziggy Stardust at London’s Trident Studios in November 1971. The track features Mick Ronson, Mick Woodmansey and Trevor Bolder.
The song was not originally released as a single. It wasn’t until 1994 that a live version of Ziggy Stardust was released in France in this format. The song is included in many of David Bowie’s compilation albums.
Ziggy Stardust first entered the charts in 2016, after the death of the author. It peaked at number seventeen on the Billboard Rock Songs Chart. On the Japanese Billboard Hot 100, the track peaked at number seventy-five.
Rolling Stone included it in their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. It is on the list of songs that shaped rock and roll, according to the Rock and Roll Hall. Also, the composition is presented in many other authoritative ratings.
Video clip of Ziggy Stardust
Watch the music video of David Bowie singing “Ziggy Stardust”.
Gothic rock band Bauhaus recorded Ziggy Stardust for their eighth studio album.
Ziggy Stardust Q&A
Who wrote the song “Ziggy Stardust”?
- Written and written by David Bowie.
Who is the Ziggy Stardust song about?
- She talks about a humanoid Martian who became a rock star on Earth.
What album is the track “Ziggy Stardust” from?
- The song was included in the concept album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars by David Bowie.
Ziggy Stardust Lyrics
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
‘Came on so loaded man, well hung and snow white tan.
So where were the spiders, while the fly tried to break our balls
With 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 kid was just crass, he was the nazz
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.
Ziggy played guitar
I had a clear idea of what I want to see my rock star. I’ve taken this as far as I can go. The star has been created. It worked and that’s exactly what I needed from it.
David Bowie, 1973
I wasn’t surprised at all that Ziggy Stardust made my career. I created an absolutely believable plastic rock star.
David Bowie, Rolling Stone