This Day in 1972: Enter Ziggy Stardust
44 years ago today, a handful of very lucky individuals in a London pub called the Toby Jug were witness to the first proper performance of a man who really sang - and with screwed-up eyes and screwed-down hair-do, no less - and, lest we forget, he also played guitar.
As History.com wrote when they explored the first documented live appearance of David Bowie in his Ziggy Stardust guise, “It was one of those events that virtually nobody witnessed yet many wish they had,” likening it to a moment like John Lennon meeting Paul McCartney, where no one knew how important it was going to be until after the fact.
The creation of Ziggy Stardust came about through two sources of inspiration, one being Doug Yule, who took on the role of lead singer in The Velvet Underground after Lou Reed left the band and - according to Bowie - not only looked a fair amount like Lou but also wasn't afraid to talk about things that Lou had done as if he'd done them himself. When Bowie found out the truth a few days later, “I realized that, at the time, it didn't matter to me if this was the real one or a fake one. So that was one half of the puzzle that could be the Ziggy Stardust type figure: is he real or is he artificial?”
Bowie's other inspiration for Ziggy was Vince Taylor, a '60s rock star who was clearly losing his mind (and was indeed later diagnosed as schizophrenic). “I'm not sure if I held him up as an idol or as something not to become,” admitted Bowie. “Bit of both, probably. There was something very tempting about him going completely off the edge. Especially at my age, then, it seemed very appealing: 'Oh, I'd love to end up like that, totally nuts!'”
So how did that first Ziggy show go down with the crowd? Well, in the book Fireside Tales of Tolworth, Steve King, one of the attendees, reflected on the experience, and you'll be pleased to know that it was apparently everything you'd hoped it would've been.
“About 9pm, the house lights were switched off. I think a taped introduction from A Clockwork Orange was played and Ziggy Stardust - Bowie with his trademark red hair - and The Spiders from Mars then took to the two-foot-high stage. While he used a pianist in his concerts, on this night it was just Bowie and the Spiders. There were about 60 people in the room, mostly aged between 17 and 25, and we watched the concert standing. We were 10 feet away and the energy was just incredible. I had never seen or heard anything like it before.”
Although Ziggy started have started out small, as we all know, he ultimately took it all too far…but, boy, could he play guitar.