It’s a difficult one to explain . Ziggy Stardust made his debut on the world stage at the Toby Jug Tolworth on 10 February 1972 . I live three and half miles down the road . How on earth did I miss it?
I read the Melody Maker slavishly. Admittedly the ad was small but it was more to do with my mindset .
In February 1972 I still saw everything largely through the spectrum of Electric Folk and Prog Rock .The Incredible String Band , John Martyn , Roy Harper , Fairport/ Fotheringay, Al Stewart , Bob Dylan , the Mothers of Invention , Yes , Genesis , Van Der Graaf Generator loomed large in our minds with pleasing artwork to be carried around school like a mobile canvas advertising we were the acme of cool , at least in our own eyes . Led Zeppelin, and the Who featured massively , along with Humble Pie and the Velvet Underground. Sometimes our idols came to Kingston . I saw Lou Reed at Kingston Poly in early 1972 – he had just released his slated first solo album .
Glimmerings of Glam
In a sign of what was to come Bolan had confused us by releasing ‘ Ride a White Swan ‘ in September 1970 . First he picked up an electric guitar and shortened the band’s name ( if Mickey Finn on tabla constituted a band ) to T. Rex .
In the summer of 1970 at the Fairfield Halls he had been Tyrranosaurus Rex – doyen of the Perfumed Garden and High Priest of the Beltane Way – My People Were Fair and Wore Flowers in Their Hair .
The smell of joss sticks and patchouli oil had wafted through the bell bottomed air .
Just a few months later the glimmerings of Glam Rock had emerged although you wouldn’t have detected it in the ranks of Bolan’s new fans.We were back in Croydon sitting in the same seats but now uncomfortably next to them : Skinheads buttoned up in their Crombies , Ben Shermans and Doc Martins . It was unsettling and difficult to rationalise. Rock stars weren’t supposed to be in it for the money – remember the Mothers’ album . But of course even if it didn’t seem that way to us Prog Rockers in reality it was always about money and fame – it just wasn’t cool to talk about it.
The Arts Lab
I guess Bowie was still a marginal figure for us in 1972 . I do remember his fleetingly touching our lives. Lawrence Ashelford told me one Monday morning in 5A ( which makes it 1970) that on Saturday night he had been to the Arts Lab , upstairs at the Three Tuns in Beckenham . He had met Tony Visconti. His claim to fame in our eyes was that he produced Roy Harper. Of course he was Bowie’s producer and the Arts Lab was Bowie’s project. Bowie was mentioned and we had a passing interest in Space Oddity from the summer before but it hadn’t passed the cool test. We would probably have been more impressed by Peter Frampton ( at school with Bowie , and member of the Herd and Humble Pie – a Super Group for Goodness Sake ) .
The Day Everything Changed
Thinking about it I remember the day it all changed : 29th July 1972 at the Crystal Palace Bowl . We went along to a one day festival to see Arlo Guthrie ( film of Alice’s Restaurant was current – a film about a song about being arrested for going to the tip on Thanksgiving Day – really , it was 1972 – you had to be there ). Guthrie was the top of the bill supported by Edgar Winter and Osibisa .
I was cool of course , wearing split knee flared jeans in brushed denim , orange t shirt ( itchy at the back of the collar ) and brown suede boots . Hair below shoulders of course .
The Dawning of Roxy
Roxy Music were second on the bill. ‘ We like them on principle ‘ Simon Reynolds had said a few days earlier as he put the album on the deck. He explained : Phil Target-Adams , now Manzanera , had been in Quiet Sun with Charles Hayward , brother of Martin – who was at Alleyns with us .
It was like nothing I had ever seen.
Bryan Ferry quiffed up on one side of the stage , Eno bedecked with ostrich feathers on the other.
Both standing at keyboards.
Ferry: ‘ We are Roxy Music and this is Virginia Plain’.
It was electric. I was transported.
The first single. Not on the album. Not fair on the kids said Ferry later. But we had to wait days to hear ‘ Make me a deal and make it straight , to Robert E. Lee I’ll take it ‘again
All too soon it was the last song. ‘CPL 593 H‘ blasted the chorus of ‘ Remake / Remodel’
Everything had changed.
The next day , Sunday , it was down to the Chichester Festival Theatre to see the Incredible String Band . It was a good set . But walking back to the car I was humming-CPL 593 H. Nothing was ever the hippy same again.
Then He Broke Up the Band
I might not have been at Ziggy’s first outing but I was at his last. Hammersmith Odeon , summer of 1973. Sixth row from the front when he broke up the band.‘ Our last gig ever ‘ It was a heart stopping moment. ( Blue Shirt , Grey Loons and same suede boots – it’s very clear ) but no one apart from us seemed to hear. The screaming went on . We went outside shocked and puzzled. Did he really just say that ? But not as shocked and puzzled as Mick Ronson , Trevor Boulder and Woody Woodmansey. He hadn’t told them. They had just heard it for the first time too.
So that is my story of Ziggy .
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