Ziggy Stardust is a character Bowie created with the help of his then-wife, Angela. The character's name was inspired by the '60s psychobilly musician, Legendary Stardust Cowboy. Bowie performed under the Stardust persona for about a year. 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?" Bowie said that the song is "about the ultimate rock superstar destroyed by the fanaticism he creates."
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 Malcom McDowell character in A Clockwork Orange, and on William Burroughs book Wild Boys. Some of the posturing was 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 band mates 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 the 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.
In a poll by Out.com, The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars was voted the gayest album of all time. A panel of "gay experts" including Boy George, Rufus Wainwright and Cyndi Lauper voted in the poll.
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.
The song is ranked #277 on Rolling Stone's list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
Bowie later said that his Ziggy alter-ego "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."
Ian from BostonI'm pretty sure when he says "come on so loaded man, well hung, and snow white tan." Heroin is almost always tan in color. It's the top of the line "China White" heroin that is white. And then there was the "My little China girl." Reference. Food for thought.
Tim Keough from Lakewood OhioMick Ronson was a hugely intregal part of Bowie's music in the Ziggy era...from exquisite guitar playing to string arrangements and piano he contributed so much to David's music at that time....Space Oddity to Alladin Sane was brilliant period and of course more superb music from David came after without Mick...
Emily from St Louis, MoI would bet my life Paul McCartney was on David Bowies mind when he wrote the lyrics. I've seen a picture of a young and unknown David Bowie in a room with the Yellow Submarine cardboard cutout Beatles and David has his arm around the Paul cutout. Paul was very androgynous in '67 and '68 and hanging out with the art crown in London. ;)
Anthony from Toronto, OnNo mention of the Robert A. Heinlein novel, Stranger in a Strange Land? When the album came out, it was pretty much common knowledge that this was the inspiration, like 1984 would become the inspiration for Diamond Dogs. Seems to have been entirely forgotten.
'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'
Those lines are practically a direct lift from the novel.
Philkelt from Dublin, IrelandGilly was a chilhood aquaintance of Bowie who beacame a local hero,a teenage biker who told the headmaster where to go when he tried to force him to shave off his sideburns.
Nick from Shoreham, NyDoes anybody know the significance of the Leper Messiah?
Hilary from New York, NySince that Nazz post was so long; "god-given ass" comes from rhyming slang but is one of the more convoluted examples. "Bottle and Glass (or sometimes Bottle of Glass). Usually reduced to just "bottle". It can mean "ass/arse" as in, your butt. But it also can mean courage, cojones, balls, nerve. If someone has lost their bottle, it means they were so afraid that they sh-t their pants, Conversely, if one has "bottle" or 'ass/arse" then they have balls of iron .
Hilary from New York, Ny"he was the nazz with god-given ass" A couple of things about this line: 1. "The Nazz" was taken from a popular comedy routine of the same name, by a revered comic monologist that went by Lord Buckley. He was pretty "far out" for those days, 40s-50-s. Lord Buckley's thang was dressing as posh and proper gentleman while talking in hipster jazz hepcat slang. he performed at Beatnik haunts, Jazz clubs and even Ed Sullivan, developing a devoted cult follwing and had a big influence of Lenny Bruce, Mort Sahl and presumably countless other comics, musicians, writers and assorted hipsters. Anyway, he would re-tell stories from literature, the bible, history and so on, giving the protagonist a "cool daddio" name like 'The Hip Einie" for Einstein. "The Nazz" was "...But I'm gonna put a cat on you was the coolest, grooviest, swingin'est, wailin'est, strongest, swingin'est cat that ever stomped on this jumpin' green sphere. And they called this here cat "The Nazz." http://www.lordbuckley.com So: Ziggy was The Nazz, ie: a way-out cooler-tan cool, hippest of hipsters AND a Saviour sent from above to stir up the kids from their dull, grey 60's lives. Though I agree about the Nasdat he spatters throughout, I don't really think that is the way he meant it in this case, unless perhaps the more Shakespearean meaning of a fool - a trickster, harlequin; the one that can get away with telling the harsh truth because it is masked in clownishness.
Rg from Philadelphia, PaDavid Bowie was fond of "A Clockwork Orange" and used bits of Nadsat, the Russian based slang that Alex spoke. In Nadsat droog is friend, as in "Hey droogie, don't crash here" from Suffragette City.
Since nazz is fool in Nadsat, a nice double meaning results. Ziggy was both a Christ figure and a fool. Whether he meant both you'll have to decide for yourself.
John from Concord, NhBowie's altar ego debut. Successful, controversial, trend-setting, unusual, and surreal. The song, however, is among his commonly recognized.
Zep from Cape May, NjDavid Bowie mentioned during an interview that this song was also based off of Syd Barret. Who was one of the original foundering members of Pink Floyd, and because of fame he went insane ("He took it all to far, but boy could he play guitar", "Ziggy sucked up into his mind") Bowie also mentioned Syd was one of his many influences.
Glen from Motown, NjThe comment that Big Jim Sullivan played guitar on this is outrageous.
Mick Ronson played lead guitar as well as providing the string arrangements and various other instrumentation.
In 1967 Mick Ronson in a band called The Rats recorded a one-off psychedelic track, "The Rise And Fall Of Bernie Gripplestone."
Mick Ronson was the greatest unknown guitar player.
Rayna from Pembroke Pines, FlBowie is a talented, attractive gent, and I love this tune. He "experimented" with guys in the past but now is very happy with his glamorous female partner. The thing with his eyes happene when he got in a fight with a pal as a teen. The fight was over a girl (Ahhh, the things one does for love! Romantic, in a warped way)
Emily from Newcastle, AustraliaDavid Bowie got punched in the eye (with a ring) over a girl when he was 15. "So where were the spiders while the fly tried to break our balls? Just the beer light to guide us, So we bitched about his fans and should we crush his sweet hands?".....i cant help but laughh
Lainy from New York, Ny"snow white tan" I think refers to drugs since in many songs snow is a reference to drugs or cocaine I read somewhere else that it was drugs but I cant remember where
Jack from Lodi, Nj'Ziggy Stardust' is in my opinion one of the greatest classic songs in rock history. Once you hear the 'hook' in it you become hooked for life on it. When I first heard the album in 1973 it completely blew me away as one being so far ahead of it's time that nothing compared to it. It is by far the greatest and most 'complete' album ever recorded; again IMO.
My take on Bowie's Ziggy character is this: Originally it was simply his conception and story of the ultimate legendary 'rock star'. One who became consumed by his fame and ego and ultimate 'self' demise. With it's overwhelming success he contrived to himself be Ziggy playing the role to the max. Then despite the astonishing disappointment of his fans. It became a brilliant and bold move on his part to end the characterization. I personally was furious when I first got to see his Diamond Dogs tour after he had completely ditched the character and turned to 'plastic soul'. Yet time shows his moves were well calculated to form the legend of 'Bowie'.
His lyrical genius shines with such lines as:
'He could lick'em by smiling, He could leave'em to hang. Came on so loaded man, Well hung, and snow white tan.'
Of course the 'snow white tan' means he is pale white from being a night creature.
'He was 'The Naz', With God given ass'
A clear reference to the Messiah image of Ziggy - The Naz is a common reference to Christ as an abbreviation for 'The Nazarene'.
The final verse again is a brilliant play on words: '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'
Vagelis from Athens, --Why is there such a fuss about David's eyes or his sexual identity?This song rocks!!!
Claudio from Buenos Aires, ArgentinaListen
the band : "Massacre" Buenos Aires 2007 Cover "Ziggy Stardust"
Michael from Pittsburgh, PaThis song has at least two different "voices" in it - both Bowie singing, but representing both Ziggy and at least one member of the band. That's where "when the kids had killed the man I had to break up the band" comes from - Ziggy dies and so does the band.
Allison from A Little Ol' Town In, MiReally good album. The lyrics are very Wierd but ya know; its bowie. Very well written.
Kristian from Perth, AustraliaI don't understand why it's so hard for people to grasp the concept of a 'snow white tan'. It just means he's really white. Pale as anything.
Nicole from Arlington, WaZiggy Stardust was a Completely different personality from David Bowie. "He played it left hand" and "well hung"(watch the labrynth either he stuffs those leotards or he is well hung, I like to think it's the 2nd option) are refering to ziggy not to hendrix. Bowie isn't gay but Ziggy was. People were afriad of the gay community at the time ziggy was preforming. "Like a leper messiah" meaning perhaps he lead the way for acceptance but was outcast to some extant for it. I still know adult men who were alive when he was the most popular who don't like him purely for his Ziggy stint. "When the kids had killed the man I had to break up the band" the man most commonly aludes to society I think he was a first step toward equal rights for homosexuals becuase he quelled some of the fear and stigma associated with them.
Liquid Len from Ottawa, Canada"When Bowie says snow white tan he's saying that Ziggy wasn't really tan at all" I think he's saying something freaky and self-contradictory, for the hell of it. Like all the fat, skinny people, and all the tall, short people. Maybe you could say it hints at being a misfit. But it's mainly meant to entertain (play this record at maximum volume setting), not provide an intricate message you have to decode.
Becca from London, EnglandHahahaha only an American. I must explain, Bowie being British would not have thought of pants as trousers but as underwear (trust me). We call them trousers! Not a very rock and roll line if that is the correct lyrics. Pants = Y=fronts in Britain. :P So the lyrics really are 'Well hung, snow white tan' Also thanks Kendra for speaking some sense!! No one seems to know their bowie facts on here atall apart from us :P xxxx
Andrew from London, EnglandThis WAS released as a single: twice in fact. Both were B sides but could be considered double As: the first time was on the flipside of "Jean genie" (I think!) and the second was a live version from his album "Stage" on the flip side of "Breaking glass" from the same album.
Kendra from Grottoes, VaThe correct lyrics are 'snow white tan.' That makes a lot more sense than 'snow white pants.' When Bowie says snow white tan he's saying that Ziggy wasn't really tan at all, just really pale skinned. And wouldn't you think that if every lyrics site you've seen has snow white tan, wouldn't you think that's correct?
And to clear up the eye thing: "When Bowie was 15, his friend George Underwood, wearing a ring on his finger, punched him in the left eye during a fight over a girl. Bowie was forced to stay out of school for eight months so that doctors could conduct operations in attempts to repair his potentially-blinded eye. Underwood and Bowie remained good friends; Underwood went on to do artwork for Bowie's earlier albums. Doctors could not fully repair the damage, leaving his pupil permanently dilated. As a result of the injury, Bowie has faulty depth perception. Bowie has stated that although he can see with his injured eye, his colour vision was mostly lost and a brownish tone is constantly present. The colour of the irises is still the same blue, but since the pupil of the injured eye is wide open, the colour of that eye is commonly mistaken to be different." Thanks Wikipedia!
Rexeveryhting from Laguna Beach, CaWhen is everybody going to correct the lyrics to this song?
It's "well hung in snow white pants," not "well hung and snow white tan."
Think about it. WTF's a "snow white tan?"
No! David Bowie is singing about a glam-rock icon! Doesn't it make a lot more sense that he's saying, "well hung in snow white pants?"
Every lyric site I checked makes this same mistake. Can we find out if I'm right? I can't believe he's really saying "well hung and snow white tan."
Adam from Lancaster, PaZiggy played Guuuiiitar! Awesome song.
Colin from Bournemouth, EnglandThere is a lot about Ziggy that resonates with hendrix 1. the names have a similar sound 2. jamming good with wierd and gilly - hendrix loved to jam and wierd and gilly always seemed good names for redding and mitchell 3. spiders from mars - much of jimis work had a science fiction feel about it 4. played it left hand...boy could he play guitar - both sum up the greatest guitarist ever 5. screwed up eyes and screwed down hairdo - good description of the afro days 6. came on so loaded - often played stoned or tripping 7. well hung - read what the plastercasters groupies said about him 8. snow white tan - ironic reference to black skin? 9. jiving us that he was voodoo - this has to be the clincher, listen to the two versions of voodoo child on electric ladyland 10. leper messiah - hendrix and clapton were considered gods or gurus 11. both characters end up dead there is a lot that doesn't seem to fit but that just makes it interesting!
Spencer from Los Angeles, CaJust because it's a song about a popular left-handed guitarist doesn't mean it's about Jimi Hendrix. I think that notion's stupid. Only the first verse remotely resembles Hendrix. The second verse sort of destroyes that image: screwed down hairdo, snow white tan, etc.
Andrew from Wimauma, FlI was Guitar Hero when I stumbled on this song. I was hooked, I couldn't stop playing it. The song was great, the story line a little weird, but overall a good song.
Fyodor from Denver, CoI believe in England, T. Rex is considered to have originated glam and to be have been more of an influence on Bowie than vice-versa. T. Rex already had at least two #1 hits in England, including their biggest international hit, Get It On (Bang A Gong in the US) previous to Ziggy Stardust's entrance on the scene, and their subsequent hits would seem to be a continuation of the same style rather than any sort of departure that might have reflected some new influence. But Bowie was much bigger in the US and had a much longer career, so I think that's why we Americans have a skewed impression of their relative signifigance within "glam".
Dan from Hoptown, MaI dont like David Bowie much, but this has got all the parts required of an amazing song
Bill from Erie, PaIf you just listen to the lyrics, I think it's very clear it's about Jimi Hendrix. He played the guitar lefthand, there were rumors of him being gay/bisexual, he did make it too far, etc.
Steve from Midland, MiOne of my FAVORITE David Bowie songs. How could you not like this song??
Stefanie from Rock Hill, ScThis song is awesome! Rock on! It s a great album too!
Derek from South Jersey, NjThis song's story sounds very similar to the one in "Shooting Star" by Bad Company.
Maurice from Philly, PaThere are two guys talking in the song about Ziggy if you noticed the change in voices. These two guys are the members of The Spiders from Mars and there telling the story of Ziggy Stardust and how they left Ziggy after the kids had killed him , meaning because of the kids (fans) his ego got so big and that led to his downfall
Scott from Redding, CtThis song, is in fact about David Bowie, since he performed for a year under the name Ziggy Stardust. The line "Screwed up and eyes and screwed down hair" refrences to the fact, since Bowie has different colored eyes and hair that goes straight down when he preformed as Ziggy.
Dimitri from Oklahoma, KsI use the nick Ziggy Stardust as my stage name when I work at the bar dancing some nights to earn a few extra dollars to fund my dogs, Lily, open heart surgery
Seb from Perth, AustraliaI have a question...
If Bowie is Ziggy Stardust... why does the song say that Ziggy Stardust is a guitarist???
Arik from Akron, Ohi know it was written in 1972...i am just saying NOW...
Johnny from Los Angeles, CaKurt Cobain!?!?! How is that, this song was in 1972, when Nirvana didn't even exist. And a agree with Eric from Cincinatii (I know I didn't spell it right but I'm being rushed.) He killed Ziggy??? I didn't know???
Wendy from Sheffield, , EnglandWhat's with the fascination with Bowie's eyes!!I believe he got into the music biz so the world could discuss this!Bowie is a genius. There is a new British artist called Jody Wildgoose & he has a definate Bowie influence, worth listening to.
Arik from Akron, OhHaving listened to the song a ton of times, I always feel like it could now be applied to Kurt Cobain. Not all the lyrics, but a great deal of them. But then again, maybe this is just me.....
Jeremy from Warren , RiThis hands down has to be one of the most ground breaking albums of all time, and one of my favorite Bowie albums! I'd have to say 2nd favorite, number 1 favorite being the Man Who Sold The World album, but this one gets 5 stars as well, Bowie's the Lepah Messiah!
Ashley from Auckland, New ZealandOkay David Bowie has two same coloured eyes, but when he got into a fight and was punched in the eye when he was 14, he developed a condition called anisocoria. He had two operations for it. One of his pupils is enlarged and remains open, this makes his eyes look strange and as if he has two different coloured eyes, but he doesn't. I found this out at http://www.bowiewonderworld.com/faq.htm#p18
Josh from Las Vegas, Nvhis eyes were fine when he was born- then he got punched in one and almost went blind, but instead the pupil got bigger or smaller, can't remember which, and it changed colors.
Alan from Durham City, EnglandSuper Session guitarist Big Jim Sullivan played guitar on Ziggy. Big Jim played on a thousand UK top 20 records.
Jenny from Hereford, EnglandThis LP meant the most to me whilst growing up and gives me shivers still everytime I hear it.He went on to do even better things which says everything , what a complete and total GENIUS that touched me where no one else could even get close.XX love ya DB !xx
Brian from Meriden, CtI thought this crap and persona was blown way out of proportion. Maybe that's why Bowie so quickly moved on and "had to break up the band." It wasn't that important. A rock and roll parody. Satire. Humor. Fun. No big point from this great artist.
Danno from Sussex, Englandleft eye removed... lmao
Danno from Sussex, EnglandHe shouldnt have killed Ziggy... Moved on YES, Killed Ziggy NO.... i miss Oh! You Pretty things and Bombers...
Dave from Brisbane, AustraliaBauhaus do an awesome cover of this song, sounds great
Jimmu from Vineland, NjI have a question, does bowie ever say how ziggy died or stopped playing other than the fact that he thought himself too great.
Eric from Cincinnati, OhSeriously, people, the line is, "Making LOVE with his ego..." I looked it up on the album insert from inside the CD case, to make sure my memory was sound. ("Making long...? That makes no sense.) I love the song, and used the Ziggy Stardust character as the inspiration for my costume to a recent party -- And won a prize for best FEMALE costume!
Stefanie Magura from Rock Hill, Scweird song! It's pretty cool though.
Mike from Indianapolis, InTo correct Jeff in Philly, the term is heterochromia. Dichromia is a deficiency of color vision in which the person can match any given hue by mixing only two other wavelengths of light (as opposed to the three wavelengths needed by people with normal color vision. Also, his one eye is unable to constrict, not dilate.
Phil from Bolton, EnglandThe street (more an alleway really) where the album pic was taken is just off Regent Street in London (possibly Heddon Street - I can't remember exactly!) Like many fans, I stood in the place in awe and reverence but was on my own at the time, so no photo! The sign ("West") was still there and I think it was a furrier's premises. Fond memories, great album.
Ian from San Jose, CaWhen I first heard the song, I thought it was... "...making love with an eagle...." then I thought... "...making love with his ego...." now it's.... "making long with his ego" I really prefer making love with an eagle.
Paul from TeddingtonNot one of my favourite DB songs - I prefer the Bauhaus version from '82
Ethan from Slc, UtHe never got his eye removed or got it stabbed with a compass he only got in a fight!
Janelle from New York City, Nyoh man! in the song it sounds like david already described the ending of ziggy and the spiders from mars when he says,"making long 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"
Janelle from New York City, Ny"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." true. perfect description of ziggy! When it says"screwed up eyes" true!Remember the acidencent he had as a child.
Janelle from New York City, NyI think that the song is excellent, go get the dvd!
Jeff from Philly Area, PaHe was born dichromatic, a common genetic trait that gives the person eyes of different colors. In some cases, one blue and one brown. In addition to that, from what I have heard, a schoolyard fight in which he was stabbed in the eye with a compass left one eye unable to dilate.
Les from Manassas, VaHe didn't have the eye removed... he got in a fight with George Underwood when he was a kid and it was damaged, making it appear different. Underwood later did artwork for Bowie albums.
The Jyd from Albany, NyBowie had his left eye removed and replaced with a blue one..
Geoff from Adelaide, AustraliaI saw David Bowie live last night at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre. He finished the show with Ziggy Stardust...amazing!