Wednesday, 21 March 2012

David Bowie: Ziggy Stardust (1973)

Click image above to buy CD of the album, 'The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars'
Click on the image below for info or to buy DVD movie of the historic 'last performance' of Ziggy...

Oscar Wilde said, “Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.”

The character of Ziggy Stardust was created and played by David Bowie – a parallel personality that is both fictional and biographical. With the 1973 album, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, Bowie examines the outsider role (roll) of rock stars, and other such artists: characters that exist in extremis for the vicarious enjoyment of the mass audience, an audience who may fantasise about living such a lifestyle, yet welcome the ultimate ‘morality-tale’ (self) destruction of such characters.

Ziggy has clear parallels with Thomas Jerome Newton, a character created by Walter Tevis in his 1963 novel, The Man Who Fell to Earth. This strong connection landed Bowie the starring role in Nicholas Roeg’s 1976 film adaptation of the book and music originally composed by Bowie with the film’s soundtrack in mind later appeared on his album, Low (1977).

In this way the concept of Ziggy Stardust can be seen as a result of creative collaboration and as part of a cycle that ‘feeds-back’ into complementing one of its influences. This is a fine example of Post-Modern cross-referencing and could also be seen as a near definitive work of Pop Art. The concept spans across different mass media – literature, popular music, theatre, cinema – and spills into the secondary cultural network of criticism, reportage and hype. Ziggy Stardust became established as a character of modern mythology.

In Bowie, the characters of Stardust and Newton instantly became fused and can be seen as facets of the same archaetype. Both characters become seduced by the excesses of the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle and are ultimately ‘loners’. It is ambiguous whether Ziggy Stardust is an alien from outer space or if he is, temporarily, the conduit for an extraterrestrial consciousness. Whichever he is, he is privy to the fact that the world will end in just five years time and chooses to communicate to the human race through the medium of pop, broadcasting a message of peace and harmony. There is hope that, even if the planet is doomed, its inhabitants could be redeemed before their demise.

Thomas Jerome Newton is definitely an alien who has been sent to Earth in a last-ditch attempt to save his own parched planet of Anthea. His mission is either to prepare the earth to receive his planet’s refugees, or construct space vessels capable of transporting much needed water back to his homeworld. He quickly builds an impressive business portfolio of cutting-edge technology companies and products, though also begins to realise that he will be unable to complete his mission. Poignantly, he writes songs and records groundbreaking electronic rock music that he hopes will carry his lyrics out into space where his distant family will, perhaps, hear his voice once more…

With Ziggy Stardust, David Bowie created the template for the Modern rock star. He was image-conscious in his public projection, utilising theatrical make up and costume design. His definitive manifestation of Glam Rock played with gender ambiguity and contrasted this with ‘cock-rock’ posturing. He changed the face of rock’n’roll, elevating it to an art form and setting a benchmark for those who were to follow, also foreshadowing important transmedia genres such as Cyberpunk and Futuregoth. Ziggy Stardust remains a pertinent multi-media ‘essay’ about ‘The Other’ and otherness.


The artist's own website...
Lots of images and info also at David Bowie WonderWorld - an approved fan-run site.

Click on image below for info or to buy this richly illustrated book, written by Bowie himself...

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