When Ziggy rocked the world

The Westmorland Gazette: Dylan Jones's book Dylan Jones's book

When Ziggy Played Guitar: David Bowie And Four Minutes That Shook The World by Dylan Jones (Preface, £20)

Journalist and lifelong David Bowie fan Dylan Jones’s premise for this book is that his hero’s appearance on Top Of The Pops, on July 6, 1972, changed popular culture.

Bowie, who had alredy been in the business for ten years, had enjoyed some success already but it was the creation of his character Ziggy Stardust that would propel him to super-stardom.

On that summer night in 1972, Bowie and his band, including guitarist Mick Ronson, performed Starman.

Bowie, with his orange ‘cockade-hair’, dressed in a multi-coloured jumpsuit and knee-high boots, was - Jones argues - a complete shock to the system, someone who transcended the glam movement and gave a whole generation of teens something to admire and relate to.

Jones is particularly good at depicting the rather drab and gloomy world of the early 1970s. The hope and expectation of the 1960s had fizzled out a bit and here was Britain, trudging along with economic problems and a host of management/union disputes threatening to bring the country to its knees.

Bowie, otherwordly and confident, was colourful and brash - a welcome antidote.

Occasionally the author over-eggs the pudding a little and there is a tendency for purple prose to creep in. Writing about the TOTP performance, he states: “Bowie could never have been in the audience, even though that’s desperately where we wanted him to be. Bowie was simply too perfect a creation to walk among us.”

Jones may be trying to evoke the star-struck feelings of young teens here - if so, the sentence is forgiveable!

The book is an entertaining read and includes some fascinating snippets, including that Bowie sang on some of the popular Top Of The Pops albums in the 1970s, which featured cover versions by artists trying to mimic the sound of the original recrodings. Bowie sang vocals, apparently, on a version of the Beatles’ Penny Lane.

Jones also brings the Bowie story up to date and werites interestingly of the experience of meeting his hero and getting to know him in later life.

Bowie is certainly one of the most influential figures in rock history and ‘Ziggy’ was a great concept. Bowie fans - and other music afficionados - will find much to enjoy here.

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