Launched 50 years ago, the opus that gave birth to Bowie

Launched 50 years ago, the opus that gave birth to Bowie


Three years after being revealed with the piece Space Oddity, David Bowie settles definitively in the musical landscape with the character of Ziggy Stardust. An androgynous alien born on the album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars, who turned 50 on June 16. An opus on which we find the titles Five Years, Soul Love, Starman, Ziggy Stardust and Suffragette City.

It is with this disc, his fifth, that the British David Robert Jones will find his way.

Powered by success from the single Starman, interpreted, on July 5, 1972, during the program Top of the Pops, on the waves of the BBC, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars would reach No. 5 in the UK charts seven months later and climb to No. 21 in the US. 

On this album, the androgynous character of Ziggy Stardust is sent to Earth, as a savior, in anticipation of an apocalypse. The glam-sounding album will sell 7.5 million copies worldwide and will become one of the major and defining albums of the “Thin White Duke”.

On the airwaves of the BBC, Bowie, who was obsessed with space, wore a multicolored jumpsuit, astronaut boots and he had red hair. The musicians, the Spiders, were just as colorful.

More rock'n'roll

Bono, lead singer of U2, was in front of the television. He was seeing Bowie for the first time.

“It was like a creature falling from the sky. The Americans had sent a man to the moon. We had our Space Briton,” he said in Rob Sheffield’s On Bowie book.

After the Hunky Dory album , David Bowie wanted to embrace more rock’n’roll sounds. It was in this state of mind that he found himself at Trident Studios, London, in November 1971, with guitarist Mick Ronson, bassist Trevor Bolder and drummer Mick Woodmansev.

The 11 songs are recorded in 10 days. Bowie was inspired. He knew what he wanted. He would give directions to the musicians and even hum the guitar solos to Mick Ronson. Five Years, for example, was recorded in one take on November 15, 1971. 

The British artist is influenced by Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground, Marc Bolan and Iggy Pop.

“I am a person who can take on the appearance of the people I meet. I'm a collector, I collect personalities and ideas, he said,” bassist Trevor Bolder said in an interview published in NME magazine. 

“ He wanted to go beyond all of his influences and combine it all because he wanted to change the music industry. He thought it was boring.”

Dennis Katz, who ran record label RCA Records, found that there were no tracks among those making up the album , which could become a radio single. It is in this context that Starman was recorded at the end of the studio sessions.

Ziggy Stardust will have a short life. On July 3, 1973, during a concert at the Hammersmith Odeon in London, David Bowie announced, three months after the release of the album Aladin Sane, that it was the last performance of this strange character who will have allowed him to distinguish himself.