All The Strangers Came Today
Yes, this is one of these posts that you’re probably going to get sick of in a few days time. But don’t be fooled, this is not an obituary or a “personal story that connected me with the artist” thing. This is just a small gesture to appreciate and celebrate David Bowie and Ziggy Stardust in all their exaggerated and decadent glory.
Ziggy, a sparkling light, carrying a dark soul, which exploded in the face of the music industry, revolutionizing pop culture itself in the process. A character created from bits and pieces of people, books, musicians and artists that David Jones admired so much. Ziggy’s non-gender, bisexual persona was not a welcomed subject at the start of an openly sexist and homophobic decade. The glorious 70’s, where man were like Tom Selleck and women where like coin-operated Barbie dolls, were quite unforgiving for the odd kids, those who didn’t fit in the “love generation” or the rising “Heavy Blues era”. Led Zeppelin were spreading like a cock-rock STD but Marc Bolan was re-introducing eye liner and make-up as part of the rock n’ roll that Little Richards gave birth to. Queer, unapologetic and fucking brilliant. Marlene smiled while a guillotine was beheading Alice Cooper. Quite macabre for David’s taste but quite convincing for lads like Mark Ronson who didn’t want to dress-up and wear make-up. David Jones was amazing in pressing the right buttons on the right people by using the right people.
Ziggy was not the starting point of the queer period for David Jones, unless you’ve never seen the cover of “The Man Who Sold The World”. Here it was David Jones, in this same dress, looking beautiful in the middle of a town somewhere in Texas, being held at gunpoint by a random, passing guy. He insisted in wearing the dress till departure. It was now part of a character that makes people act extreme. “It’s quite outrageous”, he would’ve probably thought. There was always a planned-out process in his early seventies work. A slow progress to shape-shifting and creating a persona to out stand his phobias and weaknesses, a new person who’s fearless enough to land at the centre of the stage, in drug, openly speaking about his supposed homosexuality, while being married with Angie Bowie at the same time. See what he did there? “Quite thought-provoking”, he must have thought. And it worked. After ten years of trying to make it, he was finally making it by being somebody else.
“He looked just like Charlie Chaplin, a clown suit, a big black hat,” said Simone. “He told me that he was not a gifted singer and he knew it. He said, ‘What is wrong with you is you were gifted—you have to play. Your genius overshadows the money, and you don’t know what to do to get your money, whereas I wasn’t a genius, but I planned, I wanted to be a rock-and-roll singer and I just got the right formula.’ ”
Nina Simone On Meeting with David Bowie.
That meeting took place way after David Bowie has killed Ziggy (or did he?). Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars introduced a gender-free-sex-free-alien-space-playground with the right amount of excess and decadence, to an audience that was used in hairy half-naked musicians singing about their inches of their love. No I don’t hate Led Zep, they just make it so easy to pick on. And they kinda sucked on ripping off so many artists that never had their own private jet (fun fact, it wasn’t actually private but rather rented). Ziggy inspired an army of imposers, some of them good, some bad, some are part of this mix, some are part of your lives. Other artists that are part of this mix are people and personas that influenced him, and others who had the same ideas at the same time. And of course him, the man who fell on earth himself. All of them though helped an image-addicted society, get used in something more daring, and more provoking. The same way that Nina Simone helped an image-addicted society get used in black-woman artists being amazingly talented and politically activated at the same time.
“Outrageous”, he would have thought.
So yeah, this is not an obituary or a “sad personal story” that connects me with David Bowie, this is about the impact of a group of artists that connected a whole generation to a whole different view of sex, politics and musical expression, were performance is required and theatrics are essential, even when they are exaggerated and unnecessary. Even when David Jones left the glam-rock boat early, before it started to smell of repetitive acts of nonsense, even then he already set the seeds that would inspire a new generation of musicians to create fearless and thought-provoking art.