Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Ziggy Stardust Revealed!

     I always thought that one of the coolest parts about the lyrical aspect of David Bowie's music was the way he wrote about characters he made up. Of all those characters-Major Tom, Queen Bitch and the like- Ziggy Stardust is the most celebrated and recognized. After all, Bowie wrote a whole album about Ziggy. Recently I've been listening to the album more carefully and have been putting some pieces together. Now, I don't want this to sound like a conspiracy theory or anything. But I'm beginning to believe the Ziggy character is based upon Marc Bolan.
     The official character based on Bolan which can be found on Ziggy is Lady Stardust- and by the way I think that is a beautiful and perfectly appropriate name for his character. But the Ziggy character also seems to be quite similar to Marc, even though some of Marc's characteristics that can be found in Ziggy were revealed after the album was released.
     Ziggy was an amazingly talented Marc Bolan....who fit in with the glam rock scene and image.

Ziggy really sang, screwed up eyes and screwed down hairdo
Like some cat from Japan
He could lick'em by smiling, he could leave them to hang...

     The song describes how Ziggy is consumed by his ego, and how the other members of the band faded in his image.

Became the special man, then we were Ziggy's band
     There are also references to the violent action taken by fans of the band. Marc Bolan and T. Rex were known for having rowdy and dangerous fans in the form of, principally, teenagers; teenage girls at that who would do anything to get to Marc; and violent fans who would threaten to injure the musicians if they didn't live up to their expectations.

So we bitched about the band and should we crush his sweet hands

When the kids had killed the man I had to break up the band

     Marc Bolan started to feel pretty disillusioned about his fans after the initial rush of T. Rex Mania was over, which is shown in the line

The kids were just crass, and he was the nazz, with god-given ass

     Which is followed by

He took it all too far, but boy, could he play guitar

     Which can easily be linked to the way that Marc's ego got to his head.
     But the full album tells the story of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars and the Marc references don't end there. The song Ziggy seems to tell the story of where Marc was at in the present time 1872, and where he was heading in the near future. Rock And Roll Suicide, the amazing song which concludes the album, is an astonishing prediction of what happened later to Marc: more disillusionment, a falling out with himself, and depression, feelings of anger and confusion and lonliness, to a rock star who was past his hey day and wasn't sure where to go from there.
     To fully understand the link between those feelings and Marc, one would have to look at the press reaction Marc Bolan received. Marc was a trememdously sensitive guy and didn't handle the sharp criticism he was receiving at the time very well. The fans' admiration and the love for the music kept Marc in the business but as early as 1972 he was telling reporters and friends that the music industry wasn't worth the pain it caused. When the initial glory was over, Marc fell into depression fast. And in the course of the next few years his persona and character was consumed by negative energy, and alcohol. He walks down a road quite similar to that of the character in Rock And Roll Suicide.
     Well, there you have it. Maybe Bowie wrote Ziggy with Marc in mind (keep in mind they were close friends and great influences on each other) and maybe he didn't but it hardly seems coincedental. 

As a note on further reading, Charles Shaar Murray wrote a terrific essay on Marc Bolan in Creem Magazine in 1972 titled Hello, I'm Marc Bolan, I'm A Superstar. I strongly recommend it to fans of T. Rex and appreciators of good writing alike.


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