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David Bowie: The Glam Rock Years

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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" from 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.

1972: "Starman" from 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" from 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.

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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" from 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?" from 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" from 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" from 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" from 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.

© 2012 Richard

Are You a Fan of Bowie's Glam Rock?

Nathalie Roy from France (Canadian expat) on January 11, 2016:

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

Paul from Liverpool, England on January 11, 2016:

Sad news today - a great body of music and showmanship

WebMarketingPro on January 20, 2014:

Absolutely. Fabulous lens! Thanks so much!

Nathalie Roy from France (Canadian expat) on October 03, 2013:

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

EMangl on January 09, 2013:

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

bossypants on December 24, 2012:

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!

Sharon Bellissimo from Toronto, Canada on October 29, 2012:

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

Paul from Liverpool, England on October 29, 2012:

Ah, memories.

tsissons on June 01, 2012:

David Bowie is THE ultimate icon in my eyes!

kayla_harris on May 29, 2012:

Definitely Yes! I really like him!

JaySing on May 21, 2012:

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

Derek_Armson on May 21, 2012:

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 :>)

Derek_Armson on May 21, 2012:

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 :>)

julia007 on May 18, 2012:

I am a fan of Bowie's Clam Rock!

Karen Kay from Jackson, MS on May 17, 2012:

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!

Terrie_Schultz on May 17, 2012:

Love Bowie! Awesome lens.

sherridan on May 17, 2012:

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

maree-martin on May 16, 2012:

Oh yeah.

anonymous on May 16, 2012:


microfarmproject on May 16, 2012:

Fun lens. Thanks!

clouda9 lm on May 16, 2012:

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.

Fiona Carroll from Sydney, Australia on May 16, 2012:

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

Michey LM on May 16, 2012:

Well deserved purple star and LOTD. Congrats!


burd1982 on May 16, 2012:

Congrats on LOD. Great Lens!

Little Linda Pinda from Florida on May 16, 2012:

Congratulations on getting the LOTD, Yeah!!!

Corey from Massachusetts on May 16, 2012:

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

Aquavel on May 16, 2012:

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!

soaringsis on May 16, 2012:

Congratulations on you LotD

soaringsis on May 16, 2012:

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

Tony Payne from Southampton, UK on May 16, 2012:

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.

Bill from Gold Coast, Australia on May 16, 2012:

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! :-)

grannysage on May 16, 2012:

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.

Frankie Kangas from California on May 16, 2012:

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

momscorner on May 16, 2012:

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

Eileen from Western Cape , South Africa on May 16, 2012:

Great lens ! Congrats on LOTD !

Eileen from Western Cape , South Africa on May 16, 2012:

Great lens ! Congrats on LOTD !

sheezie77 on May 16, 2012:

Very nice post Thumbs up!

Kathy McGraw from California on May 16, 2012: 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 :)

pkmcr from Cheshire UK on May 16, 2012:

Congratulations on a well deserved LOTD!

coincrazy98 on May 16, 2012:

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

OldStones LM on May 16, 2012:

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

Clairissa from OREFIELD, PA on May 16, 2012:

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

anonymous on May 16, 2012:

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

MissMalaprop on May 16, 2012:

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!

Michelle from Central Ohio, USA on May 16, 2012:

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.

Debbie from England on May 16, 2012:

I'm a fan of all Glam Rock!!

anonymous on May 16, 2012:

You have a very interesting lens.

anonymous on May 16, 2012:

Congratulations on LotD on David Bowie! :D

Susan Deppner from Arkansas USA on May 16, 2012:

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

jayceehaynes on May 16, 2012:

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

Cynthia Sylvestermouse from United States on May 16, 2012:

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

julieannbrady on May 16, 2012:

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!

Renaissance Woman from Colorado on May 16, 2012:

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

Faye Rutledge from Concord VA on May 16, 2012:

Congratulations on LotD!

getmoreinfo on May 16, 2012:

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

JoshK47 on May 16, 2012:

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

fdurham on May 16, 2012:

Fantastic lens! Thumbs up.

Wednesday-Elf from Savannah, Georgia on May 16, 2012:

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 aka 'survivoryea' from Jersey Shore on May 16, 2012:

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

Robin S from USA on May 16, 2012:

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:

agoofyidea on May 16, 2012:

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.

anonymous on May 16, 2012:

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

anonymous on May 16, 2012:

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

Diana Grant from United Kingdom on May 16, 2012:

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

Kapalbility on May 16, 2012:

Congrats, RIch. :)

Paul from Liverpool, England on May 16, 2012:


anonymous on May 16, 2012:

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!!

anonymous on May 16, 2012:

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!

anonymous on May 16, 2012:

i like the post very much

CameronPoe on May 15, 2012:

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

legalmoviedownloads1 on May 15, 2012:

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

piarejuden on May 15, 2012:

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

MaggiePowell on May 15, 2012:

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

trendydad on May 15, 2012:

great job on writing about david bowie

myamya on May 14, 2012:

Great lens! Thumbs up

anonymous on May 12, 2012:

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! :)

OctavioMelesio on May 12, 2012:

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

AlexTedford on May 10, 2012:

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

avigarret on May 09, 2012:

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

getmoreinfo on May 09, 2012:

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

KimGiancaterino on May 09, 2012:

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

Matie on May 09, 2012:

I love him! Thank you very much!

Matie on May 09, 2012:

I love him! Thank you very much!

intermarks on May 08, 2012:

Great piece for David Bowie. Very nice information!

blessedmomto7 on May 07, 2012:

Love David Bowie!

Close2Art LM on May 07, 2012:

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

xmen1209 on May 07, 2012:

Yes, i love his song, good musician

anonymous on May 07, 2012:

@xmen1209: No stops here!

Nancy Farrell from Isle Of Wight on May 05, 2012:

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

cleanyoucar on May 05, 2012:

Great musician, great lens :D

xmen1209 on May 05, 2012:

@anonymous: Great song and distinc, i love it

miaponzo on May 04, 2012:

I sure used to be! Blessed!

arcarmi on May 03, 2012:

I love his music! Huge fan!

writerkath on May 03, 2012:

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!*

Derrolyn on May 02, 2012:

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

Spokanewebdesig1 on May 02, 2012:

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

Fcuk Hub on May 02, 2012:

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

Nancy Johnson from Mesa, Arizona on May 01, 2012:

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 on May 01, 2012:

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

flycatcherrr on May 01, 2012:

David Bowie was a genius both as a musician and as a showman... but I would have been just as happy to never again see that pic of him in the short-shorts body suit. :)

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