For all the not-quite-believable material in the annals of 1970s rock history, is any more difficult to accept than the fact that Ziggy Stardust first materialized in the suburbs? Specifically, he materialized in Tolworth, greater London, at the Toby Jug pub, whose storied history as a live-music venue also includes performances by Led Zeppelin, Fleetwood Mac, Genesis, and King Crimson. There, on the night of February 10, 1972, David Bowie — until that point known, to the extent he was known, as the intriguing but not wholly unconventional young rocker of “Space Oddity” — took the stage as his androgynous Martian alter ego, bedecked in otherworldly colors and acting as no rocker ever had before.
History.com quotes Bowie in an interview published in Melody Maker less than three weeks before the Toby Jug show: “I’m going to be huge, and it’s quite frightening in a way, because I know that when I reach my peak and it’s time for me to be brought down it will be with a bump.”
He was certainly right about the first part: while Bowie’s performance as Ziggy Stardust brought him serious attention, the release that summer of his concept album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars would launch him permanently into the popular-culture canon. Later described as “a boot in the collective sagging denim behind of hippie singer-songwhiners,” the album expanded the listening public’s sense of what rock and rock stars could be.
In a sense, Bowie was also correct about the time coming for him to be brought down — if “him” means Ziggy Stardust, that deliberately doomed creation, his fall foretold in the title of the very album on which he stars. As we’ve previously posted about here on Open Culture, Bowie-as-Ziggy famously bid the Earth farewell onstage in 1973, not much over a year after his arrival. Of course, what to some looked like the end of Bowie’s career proved to be only the end of one chapter: the saga would continue in such incarnations as Aladdin Sane, the Thin White Duke, and a variety of others known only as “David Bowie.” But this much-mythologized and hugely influential shapeshifting all goes back to that February night in Tolworth, real footage of which you can see above. The sound comes spliced in from a different show, played that same year in Santa Monica — but then, Bowie was about nothing if not artifice.
via Boing Boing
Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.