Credit: BBC

Ziggy Stardust has lift off: The night David Bowie changed music forever

The legend of David Bowie is one rightly flecked with genius and creativity but we suspect we wouldn’t be sat here still talking about the musician if it weren’t for his most cherished and legendary persona Ziggy Stardust. It all started on this day in 1972.

With this persona, Bowie changed music forever. He was tired of boring rock and roll and decided to add some life and energy into proceedings and make a live rock show also a trip to the theatre. It would pave the way for everyone from Marilyn Manson to Kanye West, as Bowie laid the foundations of modern music with this one tour.

182 dates later and Ziggy Stardust would meet a sticky end at the hands of Bowie himself after the persona and the person controlling it began to blur into one difficult to handle prospect. But that’s a story for another day, for now, let’s go back to the beginning.

With his band The Spiders From Mars, Bowie would push his alien-rock and roller form outer space to the centre of the music industry and turn all those around him a paler shade of glitter as he championed glam rock for the masses. But, while the legend may be grand, the iconography deeply rich, and the costumes immeasurably brilliant, it all started in a tiny pub in Surrey.

The Toby Jug in Tolworth, just off the A3 and now a flattened piece of real estate waiting for redevelopment—a fitting setting you’d agree—was the first time the world saw the flame-haired alien of Bowie’s creation. It was the moment that Ziggy Stardust had lift off.

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The Toby Jug, despite its less than glamourous name and site, was a famous venue on the circuit for some time. In the late sixties and early seventies it welcomed massive acts like Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull, Yardbirds and later Squeeze. But its most notable contribution to music will remain Bowie’s introduction of Stardust.

Surely a grand audience would be waiting on February 10th, 1972 to greet Bowie’s new incarnation. Simply put—no, they didn’t. In fact, only around 60 people turned up to see the ‘Space Oddity’ singer. Though the previous year Bowie had released one of his most beloved albums, Hunky Dory and the year before that The Man Who Sold The World, nobody was ready for Ziggy.

A then eighteen-year-old Stephen King remembered the moment, “I had never seen or heard anything like it before. I was completely blown away. I was just entranced by the entire performance. It was a heady combination of the best music I have ever heard, tremendous sound, very basic but so effective lighting.” One can only imagine the impact of seeing Bowie in such a setting might evoke.

“Nothing would ever be the same again,” said King.

He wasn’t wrong. Ziggy would become a sensation, he would change the way people looked, what they wore, how they talked and most certainly the music they desired. But above all else, Ziggy Stardust left the people entertained. Even if it only was 60 or so blokes at the local boozer.

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