David Bowie died yesterday at the age of 69 after losing his 18-month battle to cancer.
Bowie was also renowned for being a musical chameleon who move through a range of images through his career. One of the most memorable was his androgynous alter ego, Ziggy Stardust, which emerged in 1972 and was defined by extravagant costumes, red mullet, and a thunder bolt drawn on his face.
In an interview with American novelist, William S. Burroughs, for the Rolling Stones in 1974, Bowie explains the reasoning behind the character which he says was inspired by the world being on the eve of destruction within five years due to a lack of natural resources.
Here’s how Bowie puts it:
“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. [The album was released three years ago.] Ziggy is in a position where all the kids have access to things that they thought they wanted. The older people have lost all touch with reality and the kids are left on their own to plunder anything. Ziggy was in a rock & roll band and the kids no longer want rock & roll. There’s no electricity to play it. 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. “All the Young Dudes” is a song about this news. It is no hymn to the youth as people thought. It is completely the opposite.”
He then goes on to describe how his bisexual character became a messiah and messenger for extra-terrestrial beings:
“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. 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. 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 traveling 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.
Now Ziggy starts to believe in all this himself and thinks himself a prophet of the future starman. He takes himself up to incredible spiritual heights and is kept alive by his disciples. 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 on our world. And they tear him to pieces onstage during the song “Rock and Roll Suicide.” As soon as Ziggy dies onstage 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. Maybe we are the Rogers and Hammerstein of the Seventies, Bill!”
Since his death, many have paid tribute to the rock legend with thousands of fans flocking to a mural of him in his birthplace in Brixton, London.
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