BEFORE ZIGGY STARDUST, Aladdin Sane, the Thin White Duke, "Lauren Bacall", the Man who Fell to Earth, the Goblin King, Pierrot, the Elephant Man and Mr. Iman, among other roles and incarnations, David Bowie was a seemingly average boy from Bromley, with big dreams and frequent frustrations. Prior to superstardom, young David had been part of five unsuccessful bands, and took on small gigs as an actor and commercial model. He renamed himself David Bowie in 1965, and perseveringly released four albums by 1971. But it was not until the following year that he would reach otherworldly stardom, with an otherworldly alter ego still unrivalled to this day.
Ziggy Stardust was gorgeous, glamorous, outrageous and androgynous, with flaming red hair that crowned some very elaborate ensembles. "Ziggy turned Bowie to stardust." dubs Jarvis Cocker in BBC Four's documentary David Bowie and the Story of Ziggy Stardust. "He was game-changing." remembers Elton John. Ziggy's persona gained Bowie the fame he had aspired to, and earned him a cult following that biographer David Buckley describes as "unique—its influence lasted longer and has been more creative than perhaps almost any other force within pop fandom."
When pre-superstar Bowie first launched Ziggy, "it almost was as though he just sort of appeared from a different planet." describes GQ editor Dylan Jones in the BBC Four documentary. But most remarkable about Bowie, Ziggy and their stardom was that they were not created overnight. Years of trying, erring and cultivating in fact went into what resulted as the perfect product, praised by fans and other artists alike. "You didn't realize that he was trying to be successful for 10 years." adds Jones.
It feels unsexy associating a legend like Bowie with cultivation and perseverance. He is an alien rock star after all, who fell to earth in a glittering space suit. But you know that friend of yours who's been trying really hard and still can't seem to make it? Have a little faith. They may just one day undergo some ch-ch-changes and emerge with earth-shattering stardust.
Photos of David Bowie between 1963 and 1966. Images from gettyimages.com