Today as David Bowie releases his latest album ‘The Next Day’ it seems utterly appropriate to highlight our fascination with him.
Unlike any other artist (in my mind) Bowie has a career that has broken so many conventions, spanned five decades and never failed to excite, amuse or utterly exhilarate his audience. With a career as extensive and successful as Bowie’s it is difficult to pin point any one thing, however; for me, 1973 was the year that delivered one of the biggest risks and shock moments in musical history.
South London born David Robert Jones first came to prominence with “Space Oddity” in 1969; gaining the public’s attention due to the Space exploration and moon landing mania of that year. Bowie then fell into obscurity and re emerged in 1972 as his androgynous alter ego Ziggy Stardust. This era became one of the most ambiguous cult movements in popular culture and created some of the most iconic images, copy cat bands and greatest songs of our time..
With the help of three boys from Hull (The Spiders From Mars – Mick Ronson, Woody Woodmansey and Trevor Bolder) Bowie catapulted to stardom. Not however content with this he also continued to write songs for other artists (Mott The Hoople’s “All the Young Dudes” being one of the most notable) and produced (with Ronson) Lou Reed’s equally classic “Transformer” and Iggy Pop’s “Raw Power”
Then, in 1973, at the height of his fame and adoration Bowie took to the stage at The Hammersmith Odeon to announce that:
“Not only is this the last show of the tour, but it’s the last show that we’ll ever do”
The impact of this sentence has in part lost it’s significance as we all know who he went on to become. At the time however people saw this as the end. Even his band had not been informed of his decision until that moment and his resignation caused such shock and hysteria that his fans were left heartbroken. Never before (or since) had such an icon quit at the height of his fame. Bowie however hadn’t quit at all. What has since become apparent is the ambiguity of the words he had delivered. What was taken to be the end of Bowie, was in fact the end of Ziggy as the next year he had resurfaced, another character, another era, another success.
I have attatched a cover of Jacques Brel’s “My Death” from the infamous Hammersmith show to remind us all of his greatness.
Long live David Bowie!