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(crash course raver)
01/04/02 06:36 AM
Ziggy Stardust - Bowie's 1974 Interpretation new  

In 1974, David Bowie was interviewed with mentor William Burroughs. He spoke revealingly about the sci-fi concept behind Ziggy Stardust or atleast, the stage show that never eventuated.

By using a cut and paste technique, I have taken that interview and spliced it with certain lyrics of the Ziggy album to formulate how the songs may be applied to his ideas at the time. I have also incorporated an unreleased outake that Bowie is working on for the (supposed) forthcoming Ziggy 2002. Everything below is straight from Bowie's mouth or hand. Nothing I've written, only ordered. But it may be a nice starting point for discussion.


Pushing through the market square, so many mother's sighing

The time is five years to go before the end of the earth. It has been announced that the world will end because of lack of natural resources.

there were five years left to cry in.....news guy wept and told us, Earth was really dying

Ziggy is in a position where all the kids have access to things that they thought they wanted.

I saw telephones, opera house, favorite melodies, I saw boys and toys, electric irons and TVs

The older people have lost all touch with reality

A cop knelt and kissed the feet of a priest and a queer threw up at the site of that

and the kids are left on their own to plunder anything.


Didn't know what time it was, the lights were low

Ziggy is advised in a dream by the infinites to write the coming of a starman, so he writes 'Starman', which is the first news of hope that the people have heard. So they latch onto it immediately.

I had to phone someone so I picked on you
Hey that's far out so you heard him too.
Switch on the TV we may pick him up on channel 2

The starmen that he is talking about are called the infinites, and they are black-hole jumpers. Ziggy has been talking about this amazing spaceman who will be coming down to save the earth.

Look out your window I have seen his light
If we can sparkle, he may land tonight


....Now Ziggy starts to believe in all this himself and thinks himself a prophet of the future starmen.

making love with his ego, ziggy sucked up into his mind

He takes himself up to the incredible spiritual heights and is kept alive by his disciples.

became a special man, then we were ziggy's band

Ziggy was in a rock-and-roll band and the kids no longer want rock-and-roll. There's no electricity to play it.

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


Ziggy's adviser tells him to collect news and sing it, 'cause there is no news. So Ziggy does this and there is terrible news.

Well television man is crazy, saying we're all juvenile, deliquent wrecks. Oh man I don't need a TV when I got TREX.

'All the young dudes' is a song about this news. It's no hymn to the youth as people thought. It is completely the opposite.

BLACK HOLE KIDS (Unreleased Song)

The end comes when the infinites arrive. They really are a black hole, but I've made them people because it would be very hard to explain a black hole on stage.

They arrive somewhere in Greenwich Village. They don't have a care in the world and are of no possible use to us. They just happened to stumble into our universe by black-hole jumping. Their whole life is travelling from universe to universe. In the stage show, one of them resembles Brando, another one is a Black New Yorker. I even have one called Queenie, the Infinite Fox.


When the infinites arrive, they take bits of Ziggy to make themselves real because in their original state they are anti-matter and cannot exist in our world. And they tear him to pieces on stage during the song 'Rock 'n' roll suicide'. As soon as Ziggy dies on stage the infinites take his elements and make themselves visible. It is a science fiction fantasy of today and this is what literally blew my head off when I read 'Nova Express,' which was written in 1961.

I am what I play!

(crash course raver)
01/04/02 06:40 AM
Some follow up points new [re: Adam]  

1. Bowie's description of how alien anti-matter takes human form is strikingly similar to the 1984 blockbuster film titled, ahem, Starman. Were the writers stealing Bowie's ideas? Who has read the 1961 novel, Nova Express?

2. A further 5 songs were written for the Ziggy Stardust musical. Two of them were "Rebel Rebel" and "Rock n Roll With Me". These songs should be considered as part of the above concept, rather than that of Diamond Dogs.

3. The famous line "when the kids had killed the man, I had to break up the band" could be interpreted as the fans deserting Ziggy (after electricity is gone) and consequently killing his stardom.

4. In "Rock n roll Suicide", the rocker has 'lived to long'. But rather than going on to be a washed up superstar, his career is ending before his time is otherwise due.

5. Interestingly, Bowie found himself in the above situation, in 1973 he said "not only is this the last show of the tour, but it's the last show that we'll ever do" before launching into, well, well, well, "Rock n Roll Suicide". Bowie said in interviews he did not know whether he was playing the characters or whether the characters were playing him (or something to that effect).

6. The line "television man is crazy...." refers to the old newsbroadcasters. In Five Years, the "news guy" is annoucing the dying world, and when the people learn of the Starman, they turn to "pick him up on channel 2". When electricity and television is gone, Ziggy sings the news and offers "man I don't need a TV when I got TREX".

7. The kids have gone plundering - Wendy's stealing clothes from "Marks and Sparks" - an icon of London, confirming the setting (the infinites arrive in Greenwich Village).

8. 'Give me your hands, cause your wonderful' is Ziggy appeasing his audience before losing them for good. In the face of doom there is an utter desperation to the second half of the song. But what will the infinites do once they have claimed Ziggy?

I am what I play!

(electric tomato)
01/04/02 11:29 AM
Ziggy's death new [re: Adam]  

The only problem with this thread is that it's perfect. It feels like whatever I write here, it will just sound really dumb, compared to your thoughts. Anyway... I was just thinking... you talk a lot about the death of Ziggy Stardust. There's the line "when the kids had killed the man, I had to break up the band". You say it "could be interpreted as the fans deserting Ziggy (after electricity is gone) and consequently killing his stardom." Still, it's Bowie/Ziggy himself who says "not only is this the last show of the tour, but it's the last show that we'll ever do."

But you're suggesting that Ziggy didn't kill himself, he was killed by a lack of interest in him? The fans deserted him? You say: "'Give me your hands, cause your wonderful' is Ziggy appeasing his audience before losing them for good."

I guess there are two deaths here. The death of Ziggy in Bowie's story/the album lyrics, and the death of Ziggy the stage character, played by Bowie, which was killed by Bowie. I was just thinking about something I heard Iggy Pop say in a recent interview: "People tell me I'm an influence, and they imitate me -- I'm not an influence in that case." He said, to really be influenced by somebody is to look behind, asking yourself: what is it that he is doing? So, I was thinking... there were and there are so many fans (ordinary people as well as artists) who say they're influenced by Bowie/Ziggy, but they're just copying him and his style. This is ironic, considering that Bowie's message has always been: do your own thing, go against the flow, try something different, break the laws. So, I mean, of course Bowie wanted to kill Ziggy when he saw all those Ziggy copies.

PS. What role does the song My Death have in all this?

"Do I look like I care about my image?" Frank Black

(crash course raver)
01/04/02 10:27 PM
Re: Ziggy's death new [re: eraserhead]  

Thanks eraserhead. In Bowie's interpretation, Ziggy dies in the final scene (when the infinites tear him apart). So I think earlier references to "death" and "suicide" should be considered a fall from grace or a retirement, rather than a physical death.

After the kids leave Ziggy (Bowie says they no longer want rocknroll), the second phase is where he "sings the news". On the eave of his comeback, he says "you can't aford a ticket" because "I'm back from Suffragete City". But how much is fullfilled is debatable. With electricity gone and Ziggy singing the topics of the day, his new sound is probably closer to folk music than to rocknroll. The final track begins a slow acoustic strumming between C and G.

"RocknRoll Suicide" plays with a number of possible conclusions. Ziggy walks past a cafe, and realises a hopeless situation. Is he aware of his own impending doom ("my death waits there")? Is the Earth already five years older? Or is his popularity merely fading? "The clock waits so patiently on your song" suggests he's retired. And to that effect, it's a "rock n roll suicide".

The line "no matter what or who you've been, no matter when or where you've seen" draws together all his audience and finally, Ziggy steps out from the shadows to offer "you're not alone. gimme your hands cause you're wonderful". His final plee is to "just turn on with me".

Then in the final scene, it is the aliens - not the fans - that seal his fate.

With regard to the arrival in Greenwich Village, it has been suggested that Black Holes not only offer a gateway to another universe, but also a key to time travel. Greenwich is appropriately, the centre of world time.

I am what I play!

(wild eyed peoploid)
01/09/02 00:06 AM
Nova Express new [re: Adam]  

Great interpretation, both of you.

My two bits is that I have read Nova Express and I knew it had influenced David at the time I read it, so I was looking for certain things that he refers to.

Basically, there are many references to 'police' power-- some sort of authoritative anti-creative influence on the characters in the book. The 'gang' of characters are very strange outsiders that ultimately try to destroy this authority, using drugs, big events and bombs to get their point across.

I personally think David got the idea of the term 'diamond dogs' from that Nova Express and NOT 1984.

Because William Burroughs is so scattered in his writings, I am interpreting the book as I saw it. The sci-fi influence of a world-gone-wrong with corruption and egotism is very apparent in Nova Express.
Perhaps this is where David got his ideas for different personas. There are several in the book with the different, bizarre characters--including The Sailor.

"It's dangerous to confuse children with angels."

(grinning soul)
01/13/02 07:41 AM
Stardust, Moondust And The Shining Star new [re: Adam]  

Hi Adam--Great Post

Here's my humble opinion.

Bowie has used the metaphor of dust and the stuff (ephemeral ciphers and cinders) that dreams are made of throughout his career--redefining and rebirthing Stardust from the burning embers of his premature destruction:

In 1987's 'Shining Star' from the album Never Let Me Down Bowie depicts the lives of low life losers, drug addicts, prostitutes, ex-cons, and gangsters and how they still search for happiness despite their lives of wretchedness. Bowie goes on to describe a horrible room: "Dean was seen with a two bag purchase. He was lying dead on his mother's bed." For the protagonist of 'Shining Star' there was no escape from this fatal and fated room.

In the song 'Station To Station' from the 1976 album of the same name, Bowie explains: "Here are we, one magical moment, such is the stuff from where dreams are woven." In this song the protagonist reaches the spiritual heights and depths simultaneously. From "crown to kingdom" the mystic-dreamer drives like a demon. A lover of folly is befooled by love not the side effects of some drug, jolting awake his faith and his sleepy heart.

And instead of rediscovering moondust in the eyes of the resurrected "Space Boy", we unearth (in the guise of the occultist, of course) an insane lad/a silly boy blinded by darts. Has this magician-dreamer been cursed by hopeless dreams? Whatever the answer, it's still "too late to be hateful or grateful, too late to be late again." The prophet says goodbye to dreams deferred, to his unpaid and overdue debts, his dormant hopes and dead desires and he says hello to "wishful new beginnings - built to last!"

(stardust savant)
01/15/02 02:44 PM
Warning: Stream of Consciousness Ahead new [re: Adam]  

The thing I'm most struck by throughout this discussion is the clear division drawn between the old and the young. Here are some of the associations I've extrapolated:

Old = reality/order/news/death/love/acceptance of one's situation

Young = dreams/chaos/music/immortality/violence/sense of entitlement

The album as a whole can be seen as a treatise on this dichotomy and a story of the aging of Ziggy himself. He represents eternal youth but struggles with the twinge of desire he feels for the comfort of age - until he finally decides to accept it.

It is the mothers and the news man that are distraught by the news of the end of the world and sigh and cry. They overtly express it in acts of love (the cop kissing the feet of the preist) while the youth embrace the chaos and see it as an opportunity for violence (the girl hits the children) and material acquisition (the soldier envisions stealing the Cadillac, later Wendy steals clothes).

Ziggy is overwhelmed by the situation and knows not what to make of it. He is young, but still expresses a desire to return to "Ma."

The dream of the Infinites in "Starman" gives him hope, while simultaneously encouraging him to embrace the chaos of youth (they have an ulterior motive for this, as we find out later). He starts to believe that salvation from his hurting brain is indeed in those youthful ideas, and that he is to be the messiah of them.

So Ziggy becomes the very symbol of Youth, the Rock Star, the Prophet, the Immortal. He explicitly rejects the ideals of the old (news/TV) for the ideals of the young (music/T-Rex) and has a legion of followers to keep this idea alive for a while. When the followers start waning, he starts to doubt the value of youth. Perhaps the followers themselves are growing up and realising that there is value in the ideals of the aged?

Regardless, it ceases to matter as Ziggy has served his purpose to the infinites: he has become the ultimate embodiment of youthful immortality and has become the perfect specimen to provide the matter for their transformation to Earth beings.

The Infinites, that is, the "Black Hole Kids," don't steal his physical life or even his popularity (it's already begun to wane). Rather, they steal his youth. They made him what he became so that he could be of use to them.

Could "Rock and Roll Suicide" perhaps be his acknowledgment of his aging? Perhaps even his plea to his remaining followers that it's an OK ideal to embrace?

The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars is absolutely the story of a transformation. The interpretation I've offered here somewhat parallels a previous interpretation of mine that the transformation is from female to male (also represented as spider to fly and predator to prey) in that both are a transition from apparent invincibility to apparent vulnerability. The difference is that this interpretation doesn't necessarily see that vulnerability as a bad thing.


- So, what you're saying is that you manipulated me.
- Yes, exactly.

(crash course raver)
01/19/02 07:59 AM
Only One Paper Left new [re: WildWind]  

In reply to:

Old = reality/order/news/death/love/acceptance of one's situation

Another thing, I recall a Ziggy outtake with the intriguing title Only One Paper Left. Could this be the very last newspaper? Or is it a suicide note? Perhaps it is effectively both.

I am what I play!

09/20/02 02:58 PM
Eternal Youth new [re: Adam]  

If the Black Hole Kids did indeed rip Ziggy apart and steal peces of him to make up themselves, then ZIggy never has to grow old. The pieces of him make up the next generation. In this way Ziggy has achieved eternal youth and never has to face his fears about growing old.


Richard Cory went home last night and put a bullet through his head.

09/21/02 00:15 AM
Facing fears of growing old myself [re: StrangeDrugs]  

StrangeDrugs, that is a very interesting take on the interpretation. I tend to, being the old bitch that I am rapidly becoming, try to find comfort in Bowie declaring that it's OK to be old (although, if 'hours..' is any indication, it most certainly isn't).

But the idea that Ziggy's youth has been preserved is intriguing.

On the other hand, if his youth can only be preserved by his being destroyed, it seems to suggest that you die young and remain valuable, or you grow old and become a burden. "It's better to burn out than to fade away," so to speak.

That's rough.


I like beer with my air.

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