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BowieTalk
   >> Interpretation
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Villette
(mortal with potential)
04/15/06 12:01 PM
The Gospel According to Ziggy Stardust? new  

Today, as I was thinking how much I hated music theory, it occurred to me that glam rock sounds like very masculine rock'n'roll -- strong cadences, a steady rhythmic pulse, chord progressions going right where you would expect them to; coupled with the generally feminine traits of singers and lyrics sometimes suggestive of homosexuality, all things seem to point to the androgyny of the genre.

Now this, in turn, got me thinking about whether or not androgyny was the message people like Bolan, Bowie, Slade, whoever, were preaching. If Ziggy was the Messiah figure, what was his gospel?

It has been suggested to me (by my music history professor, who is just a bit dodgy) that David &co were pushing for social change, gender revolution. I think this is a little far-fetched -- do you think that glam rock was trying to eliminate traditional gender roles, or do you think they were using this gender-bending routine for publicity?

(And no worries, this isn't the thesis for my paper.)



DefecateEcstasy
(grinning soul)
04/15/06 05:41 PM
Re: The Gospel According to Ziggy Stardust? new [re: Villette]  

John Lennon said it best... it's just rock and roll with lipstick on. I think the image of the whole glam concept had a lot to do with publicity. Even if glam worked in some ways to advance society's acceptance of ambiguous/risque concepts, I don't think it came about with the intention of starting some gender revolution. Ziggy in particular seems more like a very clever satire about the absurdity of rock/"rock messiahs."



th0mas
(acolyte)
04/18/06 05:09 AM
Re: The Gospel According to Ziggy Stardust? [re: DefecateEcstasy]  

I guess it is more or less about the contrasts. A faggot voice on faggot music would sound nothing but boring. Death Metal is equally boring but in a louder way. But using those opposites makes it sound much stranger (in this case probably like the late Marylin Manson). Using a clear woman's voice together with epic e-guitars or combining pop music with classical chords like rufus wainwright creates contrasts as well. I doubt this is anything but a stylistic decision.


Come and buy my tanks

Edited by th0mas on 04/18/06 05:12 AM (server time).



theidiot2
(mortal with potential)
04/18/06 06:22 AM
Re: The Gospel According to Ziggy Stardust? new [re: th0mas]  

In reply to:

...whether or not androgyny was the message people like Bolan, Bowie, Slade, whoever, were preaching...


There were kind of two "camps" within glam rock, the slightly arty Bowie/Roxy/Bolan contingent, and the "pub-rockers-who-wore-a-bit-of-glitter-in-order-to-meet-the-make-up-girls-at-Top-of-the-Pops" contingent. Though they had some fine singles, Slade were never really androgynous like Bowie or Roxy-era Eno.

In reply to:

I guess it is more or less about the contrasts. A faggot voice on faggot music would sound nothing but boring. Death Metal is equally boring but in a louder way. But using those opposites makes it sound much stranger (in this case probably like the late Marylin Manson). Using a clear woman's voice together with epic e-guitars or combining pop music with classical chords like rufus wainwright creates contrasts as well. I doubt this is anything but a stylistic decision.


I would say that, although the publicity factor was a helpful motive, there was also some genuine interest in the androgyny issue. After all, Bowie and Bolan were never as macho as Led Zeppelin or The Who, and there was a whole area of more centralised sexuality that had never really been dealt with in pop music before then. "Sexual Revolution" might be a bit strong, but I don't believe glam was entirely shallow in motivation.



Villette
(mortal with potential)
04/18/06 11:32 PM
Re: The Gospel According to Ziggy Stardust? new [re: theidiot2]  

Do you think that David only used image to cultivate this, or that an androgynous ideal is obvious in his music? And which songs? She's Got Medals comes to mind, as does Lady Stardust -- any others that suggest androgyny or an androgynous society?



theidiot2
(grinning soul)
04/19/06 05:09 AM
Re: The Gospel According to Ziggy Stardust? new [re: Villette]  

I think it's present in boths his lyrics and music (as well as image, obviously). There are many examples of songs which have, at the very least, sexually ambiguous lyrics: Rebel Rebel, John I'm Only Dancing, Boys Keep Swinging, and they're only the most blatant examples. Songs like Watch That Man and Cracked Actor are perhaps more androgynous (if there are degrees of androgyny, which I doubt) - both are quite masculine, with the strong rhythm and aggressive manner until he sings something completely feminine in the lines "Must be in tune" in the former and "Ooh stay" or whatever in the latter. In both of these he sounds more Diana Ross than John Lee Hooker.

I don't think, however - and this is probably based entirely on my own opinions on such matters - that he had an ideal of an androgynous society. It seems more likely he was expressing a more centralised view of sexuality than the stereotypes of convention. Not all men eat steak, drink beer and swear at football matches, and even some of them are raging queens.



EuropeanCanon
(crash course raver)
04/19/06 10:48 AM
Oh! You Pretty Things! new [re: Villette]  

In reply to:

Villette - do you think that glam rock was trying to eliminate traditional gender roles, or do you think they were using this gender-bending routine for publicity?


In reply to:

DefecateEcstasy - Even if glam worked in some ways to advance society's acceptance of ambiguous/risque concepts, I don't think it came about with the intention of starting some gender revolution.


I'd agree with that. With a dandified background and, likewise, a long history of cross-gender roles in theatre it was inevitable that "glam" would eventually surface once the English got involved in rock 'n' roll – rock 'n' roll with lipstick on indeed.

Then, with obvious mainstream exposure, it too became inevitable that the sight of men (apparently) in make-up, glitter, feather boas and the like would bring to the forefront notions of sexual ambiguity and gender confusion. Of course, the shock and notoriety that this caused to a superficially staid and conservative British society, still coming to terms with the liberating effects of the “Swinging Sixties”, was often deliberately exploited for that very same reason. Once the path was relatively clear and the commercial benefits obvious a "muscular" (appearance wise) form of glam could then gain a foothold.

It's doubtful, though, that Bowie as Ziggy (or Bolan) had a direct agenda to eliminate traditional gender roles as such. Rather than acting for social change, it could be argued that Bowie, drawing upon the disparate androgyny of the likes of Jagger's infamous Hyde Park appearance, Syd Barrett ("the first bloke I'd seen wearing make-up in a rock band"), English music hall, kabuki theatre (with its own cross-gender roles), was attempting easy sensationalism through sexual ambiguity and gender blurring to push forward an end to his long and desperate search for fame – hence Bowie’s outwardly fey, slightly camp demeanor of that time that culminated in his infamous “I’m gay and always have been” pronouncement to an accommodating media.

But it could equally be argued (as was the case, in fact) that Bowie had simply been evolving toward “rock ‘n’ roll with lipstick” through the likes of Warhol, Velvet Underground, his own The Hype and the visual androgyny of The Man Who Sold The World and Hunky Dory era. For the first time in his career he was probably tapping into a certain undercurrent, for which he was in the advantageous position of being physically suited to “gender-bending.” Allied to a curiosity with homosexuals and/or homosexuality, his inherent theatricality and awaiting his big break, it was only a matter of time before Bowie fully “glammed-up” so to speak.

So, yeah, I guess what I’m trying to say is that, from the outset, Bowie was naturally interested and willing to challenge the acceptance of traditional gender roles within society but he was also fully (cynically?) aware that, by doing so, the priceless publicity that this would offer him. But as to which was the greater motivation, only he would truly know.



I think we all get that feeling “what can I do to help the human race” then you probably like me say fuck it theirs something on the TV - JamieSim

Atonalexpress
(acolyte)
04/20/06 05:45 PM
Re: The Gospel According to Ziggy Stardust? new [re: Villette]  

I believe using the gender-bending routine was for publicity, a clever marketing strategy. It was good for sales. And they are still cashing in:



Obscurity is the Artist's Refuge



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