David Bowie on Top of the Pops: “Let All The Children Boogie”
Here was a man with make up – an orange haired bisexual in a comic book version of a spaceman’s jumpsuit.
A beautiful, androgynous man who camped it up, draping his arm suggestively around his guitarist, Mick Ronson, the pose wonderfully displaying Bowie’s nail-polish.
Bowie’s sly smile, his casually decadent demeanour and the way he related to the camera, playing to the viewer, suggested a private joke between him and you.
The impact of this performance was immense and is fondly remembered in Britain as an iconic event.
In that audience were kids who later became musicians deeply influenced by Bowie and who would themselves also influence further generations of musicians.
Robert Smith of The Cure:
“everyone of my age remembers the time he played Starman on Top of the Pops. The school was divided between those who thought he was a queer and those who thought he was a genius … He was blatantly different … I thought: this is (what) I’ve been waiting for.”
Alan McGee, who discovered Oasis:
(The ‘Starman’ appearance was) “The reason I got into rock’n’roll.”
“David took it to another level. It was game-changing.”
Jarvis Cocker of Pulp:
“Music on Planet Earth would never be the same again.”
It is bizarre to think that the Ziggy Stardust album had been finished before ‘Starman’ was written and that it had been a late inclusion, changing the intended line-up of the album.
This iconic ‘Starman’ performance has inspired a book called When Ziggy Played Guitar, by GQ editor Dylan Jones, published in Britain on June 28 and which may be released soon in the States. The book is sub-titled, David Bowie And Four Minutes That Shook The World.
‘Starman’ was televised on Top Of The Pops, a music chart program that was a fixture of the weekly TV calendar from 1964 to 2006, broadcast by the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation).
Top Of The Pops was comparable to (but even more popular than) American Bandstand or Solid Gold in the USA, but none of these programs have any equivalent in today’s much more fragmented and diverse popular culture.
It would now be virtually unfeasible to reach a quarter of a country’s population in a single transmission. And it would be all the more ridiculous to suggest that it could be done with a chart show. How many years has it been since even MTV played music videos in prime time?
But the world was different in 1972. Two weeks before the Top Of The Pops appearance, ‘Starman’ had entered the singles charts and now would shortly reach the top ten, taking Bowie and his cosmic alter ego Ziggy Stardust to a mass audience.
“Hey, that’s far out so you heard him too!”