KEEPING UP APPEARANCES
Or More Appropriately
the Normalization of David Bowie
It has been thirty plus years since the world of Rock and Roll was drastically changed by the emergence of Glam Rock. Eye shadow, blush, lipstick, eyeliner - makeup was a key element. Paired with flamboyant costumes, theatrics, and outrageous sexuality it was a force to be reckoned with. Perhaps the leader of the movement and one of the most convincing performers, David Bowie took center stage as the extravagant Ziggy Stardust in 1972.
To witness a Ziggy Stardust performance was to partake in a decadent feast for the hungry music masses. It was counter -culture, a 180-degree change from the world of folk singers and harmless Beatlesque harmonies. For fans and musicians alike it was effortless to run into the presence of this gender-bending rock alien with open arms." It was quite easy to become obsessed night and day with the character," Bowie was quoted as saying in 1976. "I became Ziggy Stardust. David Bowie went totally out the window. Everybody was convincing me that I was a Messiah, especially on that first American tour (late 1972). I got hopelessly lost in the fantasy."
"Lost in the fantasy" is the attitude that led Bowie to having his famed character commit "rock 'n' roll suicide" at the infamous retirement gig in 1973. The extremity of Ziggy Stardust had been an exhaustive endeavor. He admits that he played "mental games" with himself and that in the end that whole thing "was very dangerous." He went on to say, "I really did have doubts about my sanity. I can't deny that the experience affected me in a very exaggerated and marked manner. I think I put myself very dangerously near the line. Not in physical sense but definitively in mental sense (Bowie 1977)."
In retrospect though Bowie did not shake off the mask of self-concealment or self-recreation in one full sweep. Ziggy’s retirement could very well be pinned down prior to the Hammersmith Odeon gig. With fluidity Bowie had all ready begun the transformation three months earlier when he stepped out from his space ship to land in the shoes of a mishap, confused, and drug dazed boy known affectionately as Aladdin Sane. When the fatal words were spoken in July 1973 at Hammersmith Odeon...
"Everybody... this has been one of the greatest tours of our lives. I would like to thank the band. I would like to thank our road crew. I would like to thank our lighting people. Of all of the shows on this tour, this particular show will remain with us the longest (cheers from the audience) because not only is it... not only is it the last show of the tour, but it's the last show that we'll ever do. Thank you"
Ziggy was bowed out forever.
Bowie had, had his climax. His rock alien messiah had come, served the people, and then given himself in sacrifice. It was a monumental music event. For Bowie personally it was the beginning of a long and emotional journey to reclaim his true self. It would take over thirty years for the man born David Robert Jones to come full circle.
END OF PART 1