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Monday, May 7, 2012

The Myth Of Ziggy Stardust

Abbey Road To Ziggy Stardust book cover from Bobby Owsinski's Big Picture production blog
It's now less than a month away from the release of Abbey Road To Ziggy Stardust, the memoir of the amazing life of the legendary producer/engineer Ken Scott published by Alfred Music Publishing that I was lucky enough to co-write.

The book will come out on June 6th, which happens to be the 40th anniversary of the release of David Bowie's seminal album Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars. In Ken's book, he dispels a number of myths surrounding some of the biggest acts he worked with, from The Beatles to Bowie to Elton John to Duran Duran (and many many more). In this excerpt, Ken speaks to the myth that Ziggy Stardust was a preconceived concept album.

"There’s always been this whole thing about Ziggy being a concept album, but it really wasn’t. There are only two rock albums that I would 100% consider concept albums; Tommy and Quadrophenia by The Who, and that’s because they were written as a complete piece, whereas Ziggy was just a patchwork of songs. Yes, they fit together very well and one can weave a story from some of them, but when you consider that “Round and Round” was originally there in place of “Starman,” it doesn’t make much sense as a concept. How does “Round and Round” ever fit into the Ziggy story? It’s a classic Chuck Berry song. How does “It Ain’t Easy” fit in with the Ziggy concept? That was taken from the Hunky Dory sessions. All this about Ziggy being Starman is bullshit. It was a song that was just put in as a single at the last minute at the record label’s insistence. So while it’s true that there were a few songs that fitted the ”concept”, the rest were just songs that all worked well together as they would in any good album.

Even David didn’t take the Ziggy concept too seriously at first (that would come later). He has told various stories of how the character came into existence. Supposedly, in one tale, the name Ziggy came from a London tailor shop (“Ziggy’s") that David had seen from the train, and in a later version he told Rolling Stone that Ziggy “was one of the few Christian names I could find beginning with the letter Z.” David has also been quoted in many interviews stating that the character Ziggy Stardust was based upon the Elvis impersonator Vince Taylor, an eccentric leather-clad Brit who achieved a level of stardom in England in the late 50’s before having a very public mental breakdown and winding up in a psychiatric institution. And just as an aside, many, like the Clash’s illustrious Joe Strummer, even considered the bizarre Mr. Taylor to be the beginning of British rock and roll. 
"I met (Vince Taylor) a few times in the mid-Sixties and I went to a few parties with him. He was out of his gourd. Totally flipped. The guy was not playing with a full deck at all. He used to carry maps of Europe around with him, and I remember him opening a map outside Charing Cross tube station, putting it on the pavement and kneeling down with a magnifying glass. He pointed out all the sites where UFOs were going to land."
Bowie, from Golden Years; the David Bowie Story on BBC Radio 2, 18 March 2000
But as David and the band hit the stage after the album was complete, David began to become the Ziggy character and the the public ate it up."

You can find out more about the book and even preorder it at


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