David Bowie: The Glam Rock Years

Updated on February 3, 2020
Richard-H profile image

Richard is a freelance writer and blogger who enjoys all forms of entertainment, including movies, music, and television.

David Bowie/Ziggy Stardust
David Bowie/Ziggy Stardust

David Bowie Is Ziggy Stardust

When David Bowie dyed his hair orange and donned a revealing bodystocking, many commentators accused him of compromising rock music with showbiz, while manipulating the process of image and stardom. No doubt. This was Bowie the actor, starring as Ziggy Stardust on the stage of British glam rock.

Eschewing the fading seriousness of the hippie subculture, along with its fading denim jeans, Bowie created his most memorable character in 1972. Ziggy Stardust exploded onto the music scene, alongside contemporaries Marc Bolan, Elton John, and Bryan Ferry of Roxy Music.

At the time, Glam rock was effectively in its infancy, but Bowie caused it to enter puberty with the release of the album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (which included the standout single, "Starman").

Over the next two years, Bowie's Ziggy Stardust pantomime would create a breath of fresh air, essentially ridiculing the pretensions of those who fell into the camp of the progressive rocker. Perhaps camp is the operative word here, as Bowie's outrageous lurex clothing and orange hair became the leading trademark of glam rock in the U.K.

However, there is no denying that many of the tracks produced by David Bowie during this era have become classics of rock, no matter how you wish to describe it.

1972: "Changes"—Hunky Dory

Released in early 1972, on the album Hunky Dory, "Changes" became the song that introduced the chameleon-like public persona of David Bowie. Soon after, he would shed his skin and appear as the character Ziggy Stardust.

"The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust" and the Spiders from Mars Album cover
"The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust" and the Spiders from Mars Album cover

1972: "Starman"The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars

"Starman" was David Bowie's first British hit single since the song "Space Oddity" had appeared three years earlier. Appearances on popular music shows of the time propelled the song into the U.K. Top 10 and ensured that the image of Ziggy Stardust would be forever etched into the minds of the public.

1972: "John, I'm Only Dancing"

Released in the Autumn of 1972, "John, I'm Only Dancing" never appeared on an original album by Bowie. The meaning of the track has often been the subject of debate.

Listening to the lyrics, is this a gay taunt or simply the reassurances of a straight man? Whatever the answer, the song followed "Starman" on the U.K. Top 20, while conservative America bypassed the release of the track, judging it to be too lurid.

1973: "The Jean Genie"—Aladdin Sane

A song that could easily be described as one of David Bowie's signature tunes, "The Jean Genie," became his biggest hit when it reached number two on the U.K. music charts in 1973.

Oddly, it was competing with another glam rock track called "Blockbuster!" (a song that used a very similar riff to "The Jean Genie") by The Sweet for the number one position. On this occasion, The Sweet won the battle.

1973: "Drive-In Saturday"—Aladdin Sane

"Drive-In Saturday," One of the best tracks from Bowie's Aladdin Sane, is also considered one of his lost hits. It peaked at number three on the U.K. music charts and tells the story of a future post-apocalyptic world.

Having already recorded Bowie's "All the Young Dudes," the track was offered to Mott the Hoople, but lead singer Ian Hunter inexplicably turned it down. Fortunately, Bowie went on to record it himself.

1973: "Life on Mars?"—Hunky Dory

Although "Life on Mars?" was included on the album Hunky Dory, it wouldn't be until June 1973 that it would be released as a single. Though the track included some of Bowie's strangest lyrics, it soon found itself a top three hit in the Summer of 1973.

1973: "Sorrow"—Pin Ups

"Sorrow" is a cover of a song by a U.K. band called The Merseys, which was originally recorded in the mid-'60s. It was lifted from Bowie's album Pin Ups, which included twelve tracks that are favorites of Bowie from that period.

1974: "Rebel Rebel"—Diamond Dogs

"Rebel, Rebel" was David Bowie's last glam rock single before he moved on to dabbling in soul and funk and taking on the Thin White Duke persona.

As with most of Bowie's output at this time, the gender bending lyrics fit in well with the Ziggy Stardust character, as well as the camp nature of the music genre as a whole.

For proof of what got "mother in a whirl," check out the lyrics to Rebel, Rebel.

1974: "Diamond Dogs"—Diamond Dogs

"Diamond Dogs" was Bowie's last gasp glam rock single. It sounded more like punk rock than glam. As the title track from his latest album, it proved to be one of his least successful singles of this period, stalling at number 21 on the U.K. music charts.

Which of Bowie's glam rock songs here is your favorite?

See results

Questions & Answers

    © 2012 Richard

    Are You a Fan of Bowie's Glam Rock?

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      • FanfrelucheHubs profile image

        Nathalie Roy 

        4 years ago from France (Canadian expat)

        RIP David Bowie, this is a great lost. What an amazing artist he was

      • Paul Ward profile image

        Paul 

        4 years ago from Liverpool, England

        Sad news today - a great body of music and showmanship

      • WebMarketingPro profile image

        WebMarketingPro 

        6 years ago

        Absolutely. Fabulous lens! Thanks so much!

      • FanfrelucheHubs profile image

        Nathalie Roy 

        6 years ago from France (Canadian expat)

        I love everything Bowie ever did. He is one of my fav singer

      • EMangl profile image

        EMangl 

        7 years ago

        added to sidebar of my latest lens. took me three tries to open your lens, no idea why it makes chrome crash

      • profile image

        bossypants 

        7 years ago

        What memories! One Halloween, I helped a friend paint his face like the cover of the Aladdin Sane album. Probably would have been better if we had real face paint! We used pulverized pastel chalks! Ouch!

        Enjoyable lens!

      • sharonbellis profile image

        Sharon Bellissimo 

        7 years ago from Toronto, Ontario, Canada

        Yes, I certainly am! This brings back the memories for sure.

      • Paul Ward profile image

        Paul 

        7 years ago from Liverpool, England

        Ah, memories.

      • profile image

        tsissons 

        7 years ago

        David Bowie is THE ultimate icon in my eyes!

      • profile image

        kayla_harris 

        7 years ago

        Definitely Yes! I really like him!

      • JaySing profile image

        JaySing 

        7 years ago

        Good video biography lens. He is one of the last true artists.

      • profile image

        Derek_Armson 

        7 years ago

        Excellent Lens, great memories, Ziggy Stardust was the first album I ever purchased! On new Dynaflex which was so buckled my "Star" slipped and Rumbelows wouldn't change it! Even now when I listen to the CD I epxect the slip :>)

      • profile image

        Derek_Armson 

        7 years ago

        Excellent Lens, great memories, Ziggy Stardust was the first album I ever purchased! On new Dynaflex which was so buckled my "Star" slipped and Rumbelows wouldn't change it! Even now when I listen to the CD I epxect the slip :>)

      • profile image

        julia007 

        7 years ago

        I am a fan of Bowie's Clam Rock!

      • DreamingBoomer profile image

        Karen Kay 

        7 years ago from Jackson, MS

        Love Bowie! Saw him in the Glass Spider tour... but that was after the glam rock days.... he still rawked it! I named my cat after Ziggy Stardust. Thanks for the great lens! Love it!

      • profile image

        Terrie_Schultz 

        7 years ago

        Love Bowie! Awesome lens.

      • sherridan profile image

        sherridan 

        7 years ago

        I agree totally with Poddy's comments. Brilliant lens which takes me back......

      • profile image

        maree-martin 

        7 years ago

        Oh yeah.

      • profile image

        anonymous 

        7 years ago

        Congrats!

      • microfarmproject profile image

        microfarmproject 

        7 years ago

        Fun lens. Thanks!

      • clouda9 lm profile image

        clouda9 lm 

        7 years ago

        Everything anyone ever wanted to know about David Bowie and the glam rock era is right here on this page. Excellent presentation...congrats on LOTD.

      • FionaCarroll profile image

        Fiona Carroll 

        7 years ago from Sydney, Australia

        OMG ! I loved him so. Terrific lens. Thanks for the walk down memory lane.......

      • Michey LM profile image

        Michey LM 

        7 years ago

        Well deserved purple star and LOTD. Congrats!

        Regards

      • profile image

        burd1982 

        7 years ago

        Congrats on LOD. Great Lens!

      • LittleLindaPinda profile image

        Little Linda Pinda 

        7 years ago from Florida

        Congratulations on getting the LOTD, Yeah!!!

      • Cabmgmnt LM profile image

        Corey 

        7 years ago from Massachusetts

        Love, love, love David Bowie...this lens is awesome....thanks!

      • Aquavel profile image

        Aquavel 

        7 years ago

        My roommate dragged me to see a Bowie concert in Boston many, many years ago. I wasn't a fan until that moment when I watched him sing "Changes." And yes, he was dressed in full regalia as Ziggy Stardust. I've loved his music and performances (on film too) ever since!

      • profile image

        soaringsis 

        7 years ago

        Congratulations on you LotD

      • profile image

        soaringsis 

        7 years ago

        I liked Bowie because he had the courage to be himself.

      • TonyPayne profile image

        Tony Payne 

        7 years ago from Southampton, UK

        Excellent job Richard and congratulations on Lens Of The Day, a rare award. I loved the early Bowie, from Space Oddity through Hunky Dory to Starman, but didn't like Ziggy Stardust and for years I didn't enjoy his music. It was only when Let's Dance was released that I began to like Bowie again, and now enjoy the hits of those in between years. Great job, blessed.

      • RawBill1 profile image

        Bill 

        7 years ago from Gold Coast, Australia

        I have never been a huge fan of Bowie but I do like some of his songs. The Jean Genie is my favourite of this period. I cannot help but tap my foot to the beat of that one. Congrats on LOTD. Great to see a classic rock Lens featured! :-)

      • profile image

        grannysage 

        7 years ago

        David Bowie is not one of my favorites but he is original and influenced a lot of later performers, Adam Lambert to name one. Very well presented information. Congrats on LOTD.

      • Franksterk profile image

        Frankie Kangas 

        7 years ago from California

        Congrats on a great lens and getting a LOTD. Way to go! Bear hugs, Frankster

      • momscorner profile image

        momscorner 

        7 years ago

        I really love Space Oddity. "Ground control to major Tom, commencing countdown engines on...." Just beautiful. Thanks for this.

      • eilval profile image

        Eileen 

        7 years ago from Western Cape , South Africa

        Great lens ! Congrats on LOTD !

      • eilval profile image

        Eileen 

        7 years ago from Western Cape , South Africa

        Great lens ! Congrats on LOTD !

      • profile image

        sheezie77 

        7 years ago

        Very nice post Thumbs up!

      • KathyMcGraw2 profile image

        Kathy McGraw 

        7 years ago from California

        Rich...you did it again :) I don't know anyone that writes with such pleasure as you do about music. Sorry to say David Bowie isn't a favorite of mine, but I read this whole thing and learned a few things. Congratulations my friend on LOTD :)

      • pkmcruk profile image

        pkmcr 

        7 years ago from Cheshire UK

        Congratulations on a well deserved LOTD!

      • MelissaRodgz profile image

        MelissaRodgz 

        7 years ago

        I love that David Bowie is not afraid to express his originality. Congrats on the LOTD!

      • profile image

        coincrazy98 

        7 years ago

        Congratulations on LOTD! I pubished my first lens yesterday. Your great work here has given me lots of ideas to help me!

      • OldStones LM profile image

        OldStones LM 

        7 years ago

        Great selection of music,David Bowie has always been a favorite.

      • Scotties-Rock profile image

        Clairissa 

        7 years ago from OREFIELD, PA

        Congrats on your lens of the Day! Great Lens and tribute to David Bowie.

      • profile image

        anonymous 

        7 years ago

        Loved all of those Bowie albums and his shows. Great lens. Congratulations on getting LoTD!

      • profile image

        MissMalaprop 

        7 years ago

        Congrats on your LOTD! It's well-deserved! I'm a HUGE David Bowie fan and the glam rock period is absolutely one of my favorites! I love the way you did this lens too!

      • MJsConsignments profile image

        Michelle 

        7 years ago from Central Ohio, USA

        I'm a huge David Bowie fan, period. I graduated from HS way back in '84. His music was part of my "formative" years, LOL.

      • debnet profile image

        Debbie 

        7 years ago from England

        I'm a fan of all Glam Rock!!

      • profile image

        anonymous 

        7 years ago

        You have a very interesting lens.

      • profile image

        anonymous 

        7 years ago

        Congratulations on LotD on David Bowie! :D

      • SusanDeppner profile image

        Susan Deppner 

        7 years ago from Arkansas USA

        Congratulations to an all-star lensmaster for your Lens of the Day!

      • jayceehaynes profile image

        jayceehaynes 

        7 years ago

        He's a cool guy but, no :) Congrats on on LOTD!

      • Sylvestermouse profile image

        Cynthia Sylvestermouse 

        7 years ago from United States

        Back to say, Congratulations on LOTD!!! Rock on!

      • profile image

        julieannbrady 

        7 years ago

        Very cool to have David Bowie featured as a LOTD to showcase such an original and unique talent who put the GLAM into Rock! He was/is a showstopper for sure!

      • Diana Wenzel profile image

        Renaissance Woman 

        7 years ago from Colorado

        Congrats on LotD! Bowie certainly did glam like no one else.

      • Faye Rutledge profile image

        Faye Rutledge 

        7 years ago from Concord VA

        Congratulations on LotD!

      • profile image

        getmoreinfo 

        7 years ago

        Congrats on making LOTD I have featured you on my trendsetting music of the 80's lens.

      • profile image

        JoshK47 

        7 years ago

        Forever one of my favorites - thanks so much for sharing this lens! Blessed by a SquidAngel, and congrats on LotD! :)

      • fdurham profile image

        fdurham 

        7 years ago

        Fantastic lens! Thumbs up.

      • Wednesday-Elf profile image

        Wednesday-Elf 

        7 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

        Congrats on LotD for this review of David Bowie's Glam Rock. I like the way you interspersed posters throughout this page. Great wall art for Bowie fans!

      • MartieG profile image

        MartieG aka 'survivoryea' 

        7 years ago from Jersey Shore

        Congrats on a well deserved LotD - As a sixties child I remember Bowie well and this sure brings home many memories :>)

      • aka-rms profile image

        Robin S 

        7 years ago from USA

        I'm such a huge fan that I couldn't answer your favorite song poll because there was no way to choose "all of the above".

        Congrats on LOTD! Here's the write up:

        http://hq.squidoo.com/lotd/david-bowie-the-glam-ro...

      • agoofyidea profile image

        agoofyidea 

        7 years ago

        Congratulation on LOTD! I don't care what a singer looks like as long as the music is good. Lucky for a lot of singers.

      • profile image

        anonymous 

        7 years ago

        Congrats on LOTD for your incredible tribute to David Bowie during the Glam Rock Years. Pretty awesome on both counts.

      • profile image

        anonymous 

        7 years ago

        From a distance - meeting him back then would have been scary.

      • Gloriousconfusion profile image

        Diana Grant 

        7 years ago from United Kingdom

        Definitely a fan - this lens brings back happy memories of my daughter painting up my son's face to look like Ziggy Stardust, when they were both teenagers. We used to have his records blaring morning noon and night.

        Congratulations on Lens of the Day, and here are some Angel Blessings

      • profile image

        Kapalbility 

        7 years ago

        Congrats, RIch. :)

      • Paul Ward profile image

        Paul 

        7 years ago from Liverpool, England

        LOTD! WTG!

      • profile image

        anonymous 

        7 years ago

        Congratulations Rich on such a well deserved Lens of the Day - hubby has just put his head around my office door and is VERY impressed that I am listening to Bowie at 9.30 in the morning!!

      • profile image

        anonymous 

        7 years ago

        What a pity !Dacid Bowie is a great musician!

        Once I uploaded video on the website Milli0nαire connect.C`oM-

        All you can go and memorise DB!

      • profile image

        anonymous 

        7 years ago

        i like the post very much

      • CameronPoe profile image

        CameronPoe 

        7 years ago

        "Man who sold the world" during his glam years? I'll be looking it up.

      • profile image

        legalmoviedownloads1 

        7 years ago

        I'm not a fan of glam rock, but I must admit that David Bowie is great musician. His songs are awesome!

      • piarejuden profile image

        piarejuden 

        7 years ago

        Great lens.. congrats on the LOTD! Thanks for the info! Cheers!

      • profile image

        MaggiePowell 

        7 years ago

        Nice coincidence... I've been listening to my Bowie CD's all day!

      • profile image

        trendydad 

        7 years ago

        great job on writing about david bowie

      • profile image

        myamya 

        7 years ago

        Great lens! Thumbs up

      • profile image

        anonymous 

        7 years ago

        Congratulagtions once again on this Bowie lens. Nice to see it #82 in Music, #1,674 overall on Squidoo. Yes, I'm a fan of David's! :)

      • profile image

        OctavioMelesio 

        7 years ago

        Great Lens.... thans for share... i like it

      • AlexTedford profile image

        AlexTedford 

        7 years ago

        Grrrrreat lens! Thanks...I look forward to seeing your other lenses!

      • avigarret profile image

        avigarret 

        7 years ago

        Oh my god do I love Bowie and his alter egos, and this lens :)

      • profile image

        getmoreinfo 

        7 years ago

        David bowie really set some great trends in music from the 80's.

      • KimGiancaterino profile image

        KimGiancaterino 

        7 years ago

        I used a lot of David Bowie's music when I taught aerobics. He was a trailblazer for sure. Nice job on the lens!

      • profile image

        Matie 

        7 years ago

        I love him! Thank you very much!

      • profile image

        Matie 

        7 years ago

        I love him! Thank you very much!

      • intermarks profile image

        intermarks 

        7 years ago

        Great piece for David Bowie. Very nice information!

      • blessedmomto7 profile image

        blessedmomto7 

        7 years ago

        Love David Bowie!

      • Close2Art LM profile image

        Close2Art LM 

        7 years ago

        awesome lens, Blessed****, huge Bowie fan

      • profile image

        xmen1209 

        7 years ago

        Yes, i love his song, good musician

      • profile image

        anonymous 

        7 years ago

        @xmen1209: No stops here!

      • nancyrowina profile image

        Nancy Farrell 

        7 years ago from Isle Of Wight

        Great idea for a lens, I love David Bowie, why didn't I think of it?

      • profile image

        cleanyoucar 

        7 years ago

        Great musician, great lens :D

      • profile image

        xmen1209 

        7 years ago

        @anonymous: Great song and distinc, i love it

      • profile image

        miaponzo 

        7 years ago

        I sure used to be! Blessed!

      • arcarmi profile image

        arcarmi 

        7 years ago

        I love his music! Huge fan!

      • writerkath profile image

        writerkath 

        7 years ago

        Well, I've never been much of a fan, but you cannot deny his brilliance! Pretty amazing artist! By the way, you did a great job on this lens! *Blessed!*

      • profile image

        Derrolyn 

        7 years ago

        Love, love, love Bowie. I could listen to Ziggy all day long... and sometimes do.

      • Spokanewebdesig1 profile image

        Spokanewebdesig1 

        7 years ago

        I always thought he was strange, but he had a way about him and his music that was just great.

      • Fcuk Hub profile image

        Fcuk Hub 

        7 years ago

        He is great singer, but I wouldn't say is my idol :)

      • Nanciajohnson profile image

        Nancy Johnson 

        7 years ago from Mesa, Arizona

        Ziggy Stardust was my first Bowie Concert in Hollywood. A night to remember so many years back. I love David Bowie's Glam Rock. Owned every album.

      • GoAceNate LM profile image

        GoAceNate LM 

        7 years ago

        I loooove David Bowie. Hunky Dory is my fav Bowie album.

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