David Bowie – Ziggy Stardust

What hooked me on this song was the guitar riff played by Mick Ronson. Bowie said that the song is “about the ultimate rock superstar destroyed by the fanaticism he creates.”

The song is off of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars and it peaked at #75 in the Billboard 100 in 1973 and #5 in the UK in 1972.

Ziggy Stardust is a character Bowie created with the help of his then-wife, Angela. The character’s name was inspired by the 1960s psychobilly musician, Legendary Stardust Cowboy. Bowie performed under the Stardust persona for about a year.

In 2010 the song ranked at No. 282 on Rolling Stones list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.”

In the middle of this period, Bowie was itching to move on from Ziggy. “I’d said all I could say about Ziggy,” Bowie said. “I’m very tempted to go further with this Ziggy thing only because it’s so popular, but actually, it’s not what I really want to do. I’ve created this bloody thing, how do I sort of get out of it?” He soon did… Bowie abandoned Ziggy and re-imagined himself again. “He really grew, sort of out of proportion — got much bigger than I thought Ziggy was going to be,” “Ziggy just overshadowed everything.”

Bowie said that Ziggy  “wouldn’t leave me alone for years. That was when it all started to go sour … My whole personality was affected. It became very dangerous. I really did have doubts about my sanity.”

From Songfacts

 This specific song is about Stardust growing too conceited: “Making love with his ego, Ziggy sucked up into his mind.” Stardust’s band, The Spiders From Mars, consequently plan to get revenge on the egotistical front man: “So we bitched about his fans, and should we crush his sweet hands?” 

Iggy Pop (note the name: zIGGY), Lou Reed, Marc Bolan, Gene Vincent and Jimi Hendrix (“He played it left hand, but made it too far” – Hendrix was left-handed), were all likely influences on the character Ziggy Stardust, but the only musician Bowie admits was a direct influence is Vince Taylor, an English singer who took the “rock star” persona to the extreme, calling himself Mateus and declaring himself the son of God. Taylor was popular in France in the early ’60s, and Bowie met him in 1966 after his popularity had faded.

Bowie-based the clothes, hair, and makeup of Ziggy Stardust on the Malcolm McDowell character in A Clockwork Orange, and on William Burroughs book Wild Boys. Some of the posturings were inspired by Gene Vincent, a rockabilly star who injured his leg in a 1960 car accident that killed Eddie Cochran. When Bowie saw Vincent in concert, he was wearing a leg brace and had to stand with his injured leg behind him; Bowie appropriated this stance, calling it “position number one for the embryonic Ziggy.”

“Weird and Gilly” were two of Bowie’s bandmates in The Spiders From Mars: bassist Trevor Bolder and drummer Woody Woodmansey.

This song and the Ziggy Stardust persona as a whole was a major influence on glam rock bands like T-Rex and Suede. Glam rock was characterized by outrageous costumes, flamboyant stage antics, and sexual ambiguity.

Bowie was very theatrical and a student of acting and mime. He admitted that the Ziggy character was his way of dealing with the mental health issues that plagued his family – he basically went into character so he wouldn’t go crazy. “One puts oneself through such psychological damage in trying to avoid the threat of insanity,” Bowie said. “As long as I could put those psychological excesses into my music and into my work, I could always be throwing it off.” After a while, Ziggy started to scare David, as he was getting engrossed in the persona. He was afraid that the blurring of Stardust and Bowie would lead to madness, and on July 3, 1973, David did his last show as Ziggy at the Hammersmith Odeon in London. The show was made into a movie directed by D.A. Pennebaker called Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars. It was released on DVD in 2003. For years Bowie would not look at tapes of himself performing as Ziggy Stardust, but when he finally did, he thought they were hilarious.

The album cover shows David Bowie (dressed as Ziggy Stardust) standing outside the furriers, K. West, which was located at 23 Heddon Street, London. In March 2012, a plaque honoring Ziggy Stardust was installed where the K. West sign once hung. This plaque is one of the few in the UK dedicated to a fictional character.

While doing an interview in character as Ziggy Stardust, Bowie admitted he was gay. This gave him a great deal of publicity, even though it was not entirely true. Bowie later married the model, Iman.

Bauhaus recorded a version of this song in 1982 that hit #15 in the UK. The song has also been recorded by Def Leppard, Nina Hagen, and Hootie And The Blowfish.

A production error meant a live version of this song was left off some copies of the 3-CD set Bowie At The Beeb. Bowie later made the track available for download to those fans who did not get it on the album.

This never charted because it was not released as a single. Many British acts at the time focused on albums and tried to limit the number of singles they issued.

There is a plaque outside the pub in London where Bowie created the Ziggy Stardust character. Bowie performed there when it was The Three Tuns. It is now called The Rat And Parrot.

Ziggy Stardust

Ziggy played guitar, jamming good with Weird and Gilly
And the spiders from Mars. He played it left hand
But made it too far
Became the special man, then we were Ziggy’s band

Now Ziggy really sang, screwed up eyes and screwed down hairdo
Like some cat from Japan, he could lick ’em by smiling
He could leave ’em to hang
‘Came on so loaded man, well hung and snow white tan

So where were the spiders, while the fly tried to break our balls
With just the beer light to guide us
So we bitched about his fans and should we crush his sweet hands?

Ziggy played for time, jiving us that we were voodoo
The kid was just crass, he was the nazz
With God given ass
He took it all too far but boy could he play guitar

Making love with his ego Ziggy sucked up into his mind
Like a leper messiah
When the kids had killed the man I had to break up the band

Ziggy played guitar

David Bowie – Rebel Rebel

The guitar riff is worth it even if Bowie wouldn’t have sung on it. When I learned this on guitar…though not hard but it sounded great.  When I’ve been in bands that played it live it never fails to get a good reaction. The song peaked at #64 in the Billboard 100, #5 in the UK, and #30 in Canada in 1974.

Bowie’s guitarist, Mick Ronson, quit in 1973 in order to pursue a solo career, so Bowie played guitar on this song… Bowie said this: “When I was high school, that was the riff by which all of us young guitarists would prove ourselves in the local music store. It’s a real air guitar thing, isn’t it? I can tell you a very funny story about that. One night, I was in London in a hotel trying to get some sleep. It was quite late, like eleven or twelve at night, and I had some big deal thing on the next day, a TV show or something, and I heard this riff being played really badly from upstairs. I thought, ‘Who the hell is doing this at this time of night?’ On an electric guitar, over and over [sings riff to ‘Rebel Rebel’ in a very hesitant, stop and start way]. So I went upstairs to show the person how to play the thing (laughs). So I bang on the door. The door opens, and I say, ‘Listen if you’re going to play…’ and it was John McEnroe! I kid you not (laughs). It was McEnroe, who saw himself as some sort of rock guitar player at the time. That could only happen in a movie, couldn’t it? McEnroe trying to struggle his way through the ‘Rebel Rebel’ riff.”

 

 

From Songfacts

This song is about a boy who rebels against his parents by wearing makeup and tacky women’s clothes. It was a defining song of the “Glam Rock” era. Characterized by feminine clothes and outrageous stage shows, Glam was big in England in the early ’70s. Bowie had the most mainstream success of the glam rockers.

Three years before this was released, Bowie admitted he was bisexual. The announcement seemed to help his career, as he gained more fans and wrote more adventurous songs.

Bowie did an episode of VH1 Storytellers in 1999 where he introduced this song with this yarn:

I can tell you about the time that I first met Marc Bolan who became a very, very good friend of mine. We actually met very early on in the ’60s before either of us were even a tad pole known. We were nothing; we were just two nothing kids with huge ambitions, and we both had the same manager at the time. And we met each other firstly painting the wall of our then manager’s office.

“Hello, who are you?”

“I’m Marc, man.”

“Hello, what do you do?”

“I’m a singer.”

“Oh, yeah, so am I. Are you a Mod?”

“Yeah, I’m King Mod. Your shoes are crap.”

“Well, you’re short.”

So we became really close friends. Marc took me dustbin shopping. At that time Carnaby Street, the fashion district, was going through a period of incredible wealth and rather than replace buttons on their shirts or zippers on their trousers, at the end of the day they’d just throw it all away in the dustbin. So, we used to go up and down Carnaby Street, this is prior to Kings Road, and go through all the dustbins around nine/ten o’clock at night and get our wardrobes together. That’s how life was, you see. 

I could also tell you that when we used to play the working men’s clubs up north – very rough district – and I first went out as Ziggy Stardust, I was in the dressing room in one club and I said to the manager: “Could you show me where the lavatory is, please?”

And he said: “Aye, look up that corridor and you see the sink attached to the wall at the end? There you go.”

So, I tottered briefly on my stack-heeled boots and said: “My dear man, I’m not pissing in a sink.”

“He said: “Look son, if it’s good enough for Shirley Bassey, it’s good enough for you.”

Them were the days, I guess.

In 1972, Bowie produced “Walk On The Wild Side” for Lou Reed, which is another song celebrating transgender individuals.

An alternate version appears on Bowie’s compilation album Sound And Vision. On this version, Bowie plays all the instruments, bar the congas, which are played by Geoff MacCormack.

The Diamond Dogs tour was an enormous production. It featured moving bridges, catapults, and a huge diamond that Bowie emerged from.

The album cover was painted by Dutch artist Guy Peellaert. It shows Bowie as a dog in front of a banner that says “The Strangest Living Curiosities.” The cover caused some controversy because the Bowie dog had clearly not been neutered. An alternate cover was released with the appendages airbrushed out. Mick Jagger had shown Bowie artwork that Peellaert had done for the not yet released Rolling Stones album It’s Only Rock And Roll. Bowie quickly got a hold of Peelaert and had him design the cover for Diamond Dogs, which was unleashed to the public prior to the album by The Rolling Stones. Mick Jagger was none too happy about this. David Bowie has this to say about the incident: “Mick was silly. I mean, he should never have shown me anything new. I went over to his house and he had all these Guy Peellaert pictures around and said, ‘What do you think of this guy?’ I told him I thought he was incredible. So I immediately phoned him up. Mick’s learned now, as I’ve said. He will never do that again. You’ve got to be a bastard in this business.” 

The lyric, “We like dancing and we look divine,” is a reference to the famous drag queen known as Divine, who starred in many John Waters films, including Pink Flamingos and Hairspray.

The transgender musician Jayne County claims Bowie based this on her song, “Queen Age Baby,” which was recorded a month before “Rebel Rebel.” County told Seconds magazine: “After one of his shows, me and Bowie were chatting. I had just signed to MainMan at the time and had all these great ideas kicking around, and I told David I had the best idea in the world. I told him I wanted to do a whole album of all British Invasion hits. Six months later he comes out with Pin-Ups [Bowie’s cover album]. I was flabbergasted! When I would say anything to anyone, they would just laugh and say I was paranoid. I said, ‘Something’s up here.’ They took me into the studio to record. I recorded ‘Wonder Woman,’ ‘Mexican City,’ ‘Are You Boy Or Are You A Girl?,’ ‘Queen Age Baby,’ all these incredible lyrics I had come up with. So I sent him all of my tapes and not long after that, Sherry is sitting at the house in Connecticut. Bowie called her up and said that he wrote this great song called ‘Rebel Rebel’ and plays her this demo. She listened to it and said, ‘This sounds like one of Wayne’s songs.’ Basically, ‘Queen Age Baby’ is the mother of ‘Rebel Rebel.’ If he had never heard ‘Queen Age Baby,’ he would have never written ‘Rebel Rebel.'”

This song was created in a spate of spontaneous inception. Alan Parker, the guitarist on “1984,” recalled to Uncut magazine: “He (Bowie) said, ‘I’ve got this list and it’s a bit Rolling Stonesy – I just want to piss Mick off a bit.'”

“I spent about three-quarters of an hour to an hour with him working on the guitar riff – he had it almost there, but not quite,” Parker continued. “We got it there, and he said, ‘Oh, we’d better do the middle…’ So he wrote something for the middle, put that in. Then he went off and sorted some lyrics. And that was us done.”

Rebel Rebel

Doo doo doo-doo doo doo doo doo 
Doo doo doo-doo doo doo doo doo
Doo doo doo-doo doo doo doo doo

You’ve got your mother in a whirl 
She’s not sure if you’re a boy or a girl
Hey babe, your hair’s alright
Hey babe, let’s go out tonight
You like me, and I like it all
We like dancing and we look divine
You love bands when they’re playing hard
You want more and you want it fast
They put you down, they say I’m wrong
You tacky thing, you put them on

Rebel Rebel, you’ve torn your dress
Rebel Rebel, your face is a mess
Rebel Rebel, how could they know?
Hot tramp, I love you so!

Don’t ya?
Doo doo doo-doo doo doo doo doo 

You’ve got your mother in a whirl ’cause she’s
Not sure if you’re a boy or a girl
Hey babe, your hair’s alright
Hey babe, let’s stay out tonight
You like me, and I like it all
We like dancing and we look divine
You love bands when they’re playing hard
You want more and you want it fast
They put you down, they say I’m wrong
You tacky thing, you put them on

Rebel Rebel, you’ve torn your dress
Rebel Rebel, your face is a mess
Rebel Rebel, how could they know?
Hot tramp, I love you so!

Don’t ya?
Oh?
Doo doo doo-doo doo doo doo doo 
Doo doo doo-doo doo doo doo doo

Rebel Rebel, you’ve torn your dress
Rebel Rebel, your face is a mess
Rebel Rebel, how could they know?
Hot tramp, I love you so!

You’ve torn your dress, your face is a mess
You can’t get enough, but enough ain’t the test
You’ve got your transmission and your live wire
You got your cue line and a handful of ludes
You wanna be there when they count up the dudes
And I love your dress
You’re a juvenile success
Because your face is a mess
So how could they know?
I said, how could they know?

So what you wanna know
Calamity’s child, chi-chile, chi-chile
Where’d you wanna go?
What can I do for you? Looks like you’ve been there too
‘Cause you’ve torn your dress
And your face is a mess
Ooo, your face is a mess
Ooo, ooo, so how could they know?
Eh, eh, how could they know? 
Eh, eh

David Bowie – The Jean Genie

I love the rawness of this song and performance. I’m convinced there is no style that Bowie could not do.

The two main influences for this song were said to be Iggy Pop and Cyrinda Foxe. Many of the lyrics reflect Iggy Pop’s lifestyle and stage antics. Cyrinda Foxe was an actress who starred in commercials for Jean Genie jeans. Legend has it that Bowie wrote this in Foxe’s apartment in an effort to entertain her. Foxe would go on to appear in the song’s official video alongside Bowie.

Foxe has a sad ending. She married Steven Tyler and they had a child. They had a bitter divorce and she released a tell-all book on Tyler. She developed brain cancer and died in 2000.

This song was released in 1972 and peaked at #71 in the Billboard 100, #2 in the UK and #75 in Canada.

 

From Songfacts.

On the Santa Monica ’72 live album, Bowie says that this is about a “a New York lady and a guy who lives in New York and he’s called The Jean Genie” (referring to the rebellious French writer Jean Genet).

David Bowie added in his 2005 book Moonage Daydream: “Starting out as a lightweight riff thing I had written one evening in NY for Cyrinda’s enjoyment, I developed the lyric to the otherwise wordless pumper and it ultimately turned into a bit of a smorgasbord of imagined Americana … based on an Iggy-type persona. The title, of course, was a clumsy pun upon Jean Genet.”

This was one of the first tracks Bowie wrote in New York City. He loves the city and has written many of his songs there. In 2001, Bowie opened the “Concert For New York,” a tribute to the police, firemen, and rescue workers involved in the World Trade Center attacks.

In 1973, Bowie spoke to NME about this song: “I wanted to get the same sound the Stones had on their very first album on the harmonica. I didn’t get that near to it, but it had a feel that I wanted – that ’60s thing.”

The lyric, “He’s so simple minded, he can’t drive his module,” provided the inspiration for the remaining members of Johnny & The Self Abusers to become Simple Minds, who later scored a #1 US hit with “Don’t You (Forget About Me).”

In 2011, a cameraman named John Henshall found a tape of Bowie performing “The Jean Genie” live on the British music show, Top of the Pops, in 1973 – a performance that had thought to have been erased. In December 2011, the performance aired for the first time since January 1973. You can watch the footage – which was filmed using Telefex Fisheye lenses which Henshall himself designed.

 

The Jean Genie

A small Jean Genie snuck off to the city
Strung out on lasers and slash-back blazers
Ate all your razors while pulling the waiters
Talking ’bout Monroe and walking on Snow White
New York’s a go-go, and everything tastes right
Poor little Greenie, ooh-ooh

Keep her comin’
The Jean Genie lives on his back
The Jean Genie loves chimney stacks
He’s outrageous, he screams and he bawls (Jean Genie)
Jean Genie, let yourself go, whoah

Sits like a man but he smiles like a reptile
She love him, she love him but just for a short while
She’ll scratch in the sand, won’t let go his hand
He says he’s a beautician and sells you nutrition
And keeps all your dead hair for making up underwear
Poor little Greenie, ooh-ooh

The Jean Genie lives on his back
The Jean Genie loves chimney stacks
He’s outrageous, he screams and he bawls (Jean Genie)
Jean Genie, let yourself go, whoah

He’s so simple-minded, he can’t drive his module
He bites on the neon and sleeps in a capsule
Loves to be loved, loves to be loved

Oh, Jean Genie lives on his back
The Jean Genie loves chimney stacks
He’s outrageous, he screams and he bawls (Jean Genie)
Jean Genie, let yourself go, whoah

Go!
Go!

The Jean Genie lives on his back
The Jean Genie loves chimney stacks
He’s outrageous, he screams and he bawls (Jean Genie)
Jean Genie, let yourself go, whoah

Go, go go!