Monday, March 22, 2010


So, 'Moonage Daydream' and 'Starman' established that Ziggy is an alien, and 'Lady Stardust' revealed one of the traits that make him an alien: his bisexuality. The next song, 'Star', presents Ziggy's other otherworldly trait: his superstardom.

We have already encountered Bowie's fascination with the phenomenon of stardom, and how it connects to his dreams of a heroic existence. 'The Prettiest Star' suggests that we carry the memories of movies we saw, and out of them we can create ourselves as something bigger than life, like the silver-screen stars. And Hunky Dory contains several references to Hollywood and its stars, as well as eulogizing Andy Warhol and his aesthetic celebration of fabrication and glamour. But why do I call this "otherworldly"? Because it went against the grain of the Hippie worldview that dominated the rock world at the time, a worldview that demanded that musicians should be authentic and stay away from any artificiality and fabrication. Stardom was regarded as part of the "fake and meaningless" world of pop, which serious rock musicians were to stay away from. When Bowie and Bolan turned glam and embraced stardom, most critics dismissed them as sellouts who gave up on authenticity in exchange for fame and fortune. But they were wrong, because what Bowie does here is actually to undermine the entire Hippie worldview, and redefine our notions of "real" and "fake".

Why did the Hippies, and most other people, grasp glamour and stardom as something fake? Because their worldview holds the belief that we are defined by an "inner self", a core that remains stable, while our varying outer-identity is just the cultural mask we are wearing. The star persona is not who the person "really is inside", but a projection for the public's eyes, and therefore regarded as unreal. Hippies believed that rock should be an expression of authenticity, and that music is the way to remove the masks, and reveal ourselves as we really are. Furthermore, they believed that by dropping the masks, the boundaries between humans will fall, and the human race will unite in harmony and love. Playing the game of stardom, and putting the emphasis on one's "fake" outer persona instead of his real "inner self", were therefore regarded as something that hinders our chances to create a utopia.

Bowie, of course, saw things differently. As we know, he did not believe in an "inner real self", a permanent core that defines us, and regarded everything in our being as subject to change. In his worldview, what defines us is not who we are inside, but what we act out in the world, and if the way we act induces happiness, then it is real. In 'Andy Warhol', he tells us what would happen if we force Andy to take a cruise on his own, as if to tear him away from his regular actions and surroundings and give him a chance to search for his inner self: he will nevertheless continue to think about his art, and about other people. In other words, Warhol gets that the "real self" is not a personal inner thing that you are born with, but rather something you create and share with others. And that is why the star, who presents a distinct artificial identity that can be imitated by others, is actually a model of authenticity.

It is well known that the formation of a movie star, in the golden age of Hollywood, was largely the work of the studios, which created the persona for the stars, and then sold it to the public through a clever public relations machine. When it comes to music, however, our approach tends to be more romantic, and we want to believe that rock stars become so because of their musical talent. The perception isn't true in both cases: Hollywood stars become so mainly because of a quality they themselves possess, while the making of rock'n'roll stars does involve a great deal of conjuring. Bowie was now getting prepared to employ the lessons of decades of star making, and conjure up the biggest rock star of them all.

Of course, David Bowie himself is nothing but a stage persona conjured up by David Jones, and one of the tactics he used to market this alias was to blame it on another rock act, an act that became infamous for its inauthenticity. The Monkees, a band that was conceived by two TV producers who wanted to create an American version of the Beatles, hit American television in September 1966 as a weekly show, offering a combination of zany slapstick comedy, innocuous youth rebellion, and Beatlesque musical numbers written by professional tunesmiths. The personas of the band members were prefabricated by the producers and played by actors (including a Briton named Davy Jones), but many kids nevertheless fell under their charm, and hysteria didn't fail to ensue. Within a year, though, rock started taking itself more seriously, moving in the direction of authenticity and profundity, and the Monkees became a laughing stock (even the band members themselves rebelled against the concept, and tried to make it as a "real" band, writing their own tunes). In the collective memory of rock, the Monkees were remembered as a sham, a cynical attempt by the industry to cash in on youth culture. Bowie managed to escape the peril of being wrongly identified as Monkee Davy Jones when he changed his name, but by 1972, he was taking a fresh look on the world of rock, and finding merit in what the Monkees had to offer. The people who created the Monkees showed that you can actually determine the image of the band before you make the music, and also that you can make the public believe in it, through the electronic media. They were displaying their creativity not through the musical side of pop, but through the sides of identity creation and crowd manipulation, sides that late-sixties rockers didn't pay much attention to, but Bowie was now getting ready to explore. So while past heroes like Elvis, the Beatles, the Stones, the Who et al. left the development of these sides to their managers, Bowie was to set a new standard, in which image creation and media manipulation are to be done by the artists themselves, part and parcel of their art. "I wasn't at all surprised that Ziggy Stardust made my career," he said years later, "I packaged a totally credible plastic rock star – much better than any sort of Monkees fabrication. My plastic rocker was much more plastic than anybody's." Bowie was about to redefine what rock was about: instead of focusing on the music and letting everything else revolve around it, the rock artist should first of all create an identity for himself, and everything else should revolve around that.

Another influence on Bowie's new perception came from the Legendary Stardust Cowboy, an eccentric country & western performer who was convinced he was going to become a legendary star, and named himself accordingly. He was basically laughed off the stage, but Bowie was intrigued by the fact that the guy announced himself as a star before becoming one, hoping that he can get others to see him as such. Borrowing the "Stardust" moniker for his own creation, Bowie was determined to succeed where the Ledge failed.

In 1970, Bowie encountered another wannabe star, when he was approached by Les Payne, lead singer of the band Chameleon, who asked him to write a song for them. Chameleon were on the verge of breaking big, and Bowie penned a song called 'Star', which reflected the thoughts of every teenager dreaming of rock stardom. But Chameleon soon broke up and their version was not released, and Payne went on to miss a few more shots at fame, eventually making a name for himself as the rocker who almost made it. Bowie, on the other hand, did make it, and his revamped version of 'Star' became a central piece in the Ziggy story.

Tony went to fight in Belfast
Rudi stayed at home to starve
I could make it all worthwhile as a rock & roll star
Bevan tried to change the nation
Sonny wants to turn the world, well he can tell you that he tried
I could make a transformation as a rock & roll star

'Star', in a way, is an extension of 'Changes'. On that song, Bowie told us that there were "a million dead-end streets", and here he counts some of them. Tony went to fight for his country, still believing in the old notions of patriotism, but the country turned out to be a false idol. Bevan (a name that brings to mind Aneurin Bevan, and therefore socialism) tried to change the nation from within and achieve socialist utopia, but that proved to be unattainable as well. Rudi (probably a shout-out to his friend Freddi Burretti, a.k.a "Rudi Valentino") gave up on all ideologies and refuses to commit to anything, but that way, as Bowie already told us in 'Quicksand', only leads to spiritual starvation. And Sonny kind of sums up all those ideologies, who believed that in order to give meaning to your existence, you should strive to change the world for the better. 'Changes' overturned that perception, in teaching us that the change should not be done for the end result, but for the sake of the change itself, because through transformation we find joy. 'Star' presents the way of life that enables you to realize this new ethic: as a rock'n'roll star, he could perform the transformations he wants, and make his existence worthwhile.

So inviting - so enticing to play the part
I could play the wild mutation as a rock & roll star

And so he will become a rock'n'roll star, and through that, he believes, he will have the freedom to keep mutating, and keep living a wild and exciting way of life.

I could do with the money
I'm so wiped out with things as they are
I'd send my photograph to my honey - and I'd c'mon like a regular superstar

This passage deals with the more trivial temptations of stardom: money and fame. Bowie acknowledges that they are part of it as well, but as he told us in 'Changes', the aim is not to be a richer man, but a different man. Money and fame are seen as a secondary thing, while the main goal is self-creation. Bowie uses the term "superstar", a term Warhol used to denote those glamorous characters that surrounded him, and lived their entire lives as if they were stars on the silver-screen. This now becomes Bowie's ideal: he will present the rock'n'roll equivalent to Warhol's superstars, and create a persona who exists not only on stage, but in real life as well. He will become the star persona, and compel the rest of the world to see him that way. Thus, he believes, he will achieve the heroic existence he was dreaming of.

I could fall asleep at night as a rock & roll star
I could fall in love all right as a rock & roll star

Here, however, the rhetoric is going a little too far, and reveals the ironic side of the song, an irony that drips from the way Bowie sings these lines. The protagonist, it seems, believes a little too much in the power of stardom to provide happiness. The song goes against Hippie dogma and shows us that stardom is actually a positive thing, but these lines remind us that it has a dark side as well. It seems that the protagonist has gone over to the dark side, and fell into the entrapments of stardom.

Within the context of the Ziggy saga, this is the moment when our hero starts to lose it. When he initially took the stage, he did it because he wanted to express himself, and in order to find others who are like him, with whom he can come together in love. Now he starts to think about money and fame as well, and believes he can find even better love as a star, as someone who is above the crowd. We are at the zenith if Ziggy's rise. From here on begins the fall.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Lady Stardust

In 'Starman', Bowie describes the moment when the kids first hear Ziggy on the airwaves, and portrays the thrill of encountering a new musical experience, something that is alien to the rationality of the culture you grew up in. 'Lady Stardust' does the same, but describes the moment of actually seeing the new act perform on stage. And it adds two more important ingredients to the story. First, it gets deeper into the phenomenon of the crowd's reaction, and tries to understand what causes it. Secondly, it provides us with a clue to one of the traits of the Ziggy character, one of the things that make him an alien.

As with any other track on the album, this one can be understood both ways: as a standalone piece, and as part of the bigger story. In itself, the record seems to be inspired by a very special moment in pop history, the moment glam rock broke big. The glam sensibility had been fermenting since 1970, inspired by Warhol via the Velvet Underground, and developed in England by the two friendly rivals David Bowie and Marc Bolan. Both of them have been going through the same phases since the mid-sixties, but up to 1972, Bolan was always a step ahead: trendier as a Mod, freakier as a Hippie, flashier as a glam rocker. In his Hippie phase, he was a cult figure, catering to the flower children's yearn to escape the realm of science into the realm of magic by providing Tolkienesque fairytales of wizards and elves, sung in a dreamy voice with folksy acoustic backing. But when Hippie magic started to whither away, Bolan joined Bowie in the quest to reconnect to the roots of early rock'n'roll, and draw imagery not from fantasyland, but from a futuristic space age. His lyrics were still surrealistic, but the landscape was now an urban landscape, the images were now rock'n'roll images (in other words, cars and girls), the music was rhythmic and electrified, and the vocals charged with sexual energy and prowess. Tyrannosaurus Rex, his cult band, now became T. Rex, a stomping monster oriented towards making smash hits, and in March 1971 they were scheduled to appear on Top of the Pops, to perform their new single 'Hot Love'. And appear they did, with Bolan adorned in a shiny silver suit and a touch of glitter under the eyes, bringing back the glamour into rock'n'roll. It doesn't look very shocking when you watch it nowadays, but against the backdrop of the unglamorous, macho, denim-clad world of early seventies rock, he came over as a radiant androgynous figure, sending a jolt of excitement through many teen viewers. Within weeks, the streets were colonized with kids who mimicked Bolan's style, and the era of glam was upon us.

Bowie, as always, took notes and internalized. And so, even before he had his own Top of the Pops moment, he already prophesizes the reaction he would generate, by writing a song inspired by Marc's big moment, and making it part of the Ziggy Stardust narrative. 'Lady Stardust' is that song.

People stared at the makeup on his face
Laughed at his long black hair, his animal grace
The boy in the bright blue jeans
Jumped up on the stage
And lady stardust sang his songs
Of darkness and disgrace

Once again, Bowie is analyzing the moment when human beings encounter something that is alien to their rationality. Rock'n'roll, when it broke in the fifties, went against every notion of musical "quality", and was laughed at and scolded by culture guardians, who regarded it as a primitive form of music. But there was also fear: the sudden appearance of this primitive, "animalistic" form of music went against the notion that we are continuously progressing away from our animal roots, and thus threatened to expose the whole rationality of "progress" as erroneous. That is why the adults were so perturbed by it, and tried to ridicule it and shut it up, but the kids didn't care – they knew rock'n'roll gave them more joy than anything else, and they didn't have to explain it rationally. By the late sixties, however, rock also began to think of itself in terms of "quality" and "progress", and moved away from its rock'n'roll roots. Bowie, through Ziggy, brings rock'n'roll back, with a rereading of what rock'n'roll does: the ecstatic joy did not come from a "retreat to animalism", but because this "animalism" was alien to the rationality of the fifties, and liberated the kids from it. Rock'n'roll, in other words, is a liberating force, that smashes the rationality of your old world and gives you that special thrill of breaking loose. So to revive rock'n'roll, you must find a way to come over as something that is alien to the rationality of your time, and this is exactly what Bolan did. In his long black hair, makeup and glitter, he looked effeminate, confusing the very strict gender lines. Androgyny, then, is the way to go, and Bowie appropriates it to his own means. The description given in 'Lady Stardust' fits Bolan to a tee, documenting that moment when he made his initial ripple, but at the same time it switches the story towards our hero, Ziggy Stardust. Referring to him throughout as a male, but calling her a "Lady", it suggests that this is a creature of dubious sexuality, which does not fit any sexual category in our current rationality, and thus threatens to show this entire rationality as erroneous. As always, most people reject this alien, reacting with fear and ridicule. The fear was mentioned in 'starman'; here we encounter the ridicule.

Femme fatales emerged from shadows
To watch this creature fair
Boys stood upon their chairs
To make their point of view

But not everybody is laughing. There are those who find in the alien something that reflects what they feel inside, something they can identify with. Bowie characterizes Ziggy's crowd: it is made from "boys", teenagers who feel alienated from the world they grew up in, and "femme fatales", a term that immediately evokes the Velvet Underground classic, and can stand for all those urban misfits in the VU's albums. All those persons now come out of the shadows and "make their point of view" – another clever Bowie pun, which can mean either that they want a better view of the performer, but also that they can now finally express what they feel inside, given a voice by Ziggy.

I smiled sadly for a love I could not obey
Lady stardust sang his songs
Of darkness and dismay

Suddenly, the narrator makes his own presence known, and we learn that he too was among this crowd. But he reacts differently than all the others: he does not mock the alien, but he does not let himself be swept by him/her either. He does feel that this creature kindled something inside him, but he cannot obey this inner feeling, and remains in the capacity of observer to the whole affair. What is that "love" that he feels inside, and why does he feel that he cannot obey it? We shall have our answer by the end of the record.

And he was alright, the band was altogether
Yes he was alright, the song went on forever
And he was awful nice
Really quite out of sight
And he sang all night long

It is part and parcel of the rock'n'roll mythology: when rock'n'roll first broke, it suddenly seemed like time stopped rushing forward, and instead became an eternal circle of joy. Every new moment brought a new thrill, the options to explore seemed endless, and life became a twenty-four-hour party. You can hear this sentiment in early rock'n'roll records like Bill Haley's 'Rock Around the Clock' and Chuck Berry's 'Round and Round'. But then the rock'n'roll moment faded, time resumed its forward motion, and life was a drag once again. The memory lingered, though, and rock'n'roll always dreamed of returning to that magical moment. Ziggy, now, comes to revive it once again, to stop time and plunge the youth into non-stop partying. The album was supposed to contain his rendition of 'Round and Round', telling us how the joint started rocking once Ziggy came on, and just wouldn't stop. The track was eventually edited out, but it doesn't matter, because the chorus of 'Lady Stardust' says it all. The appearance of this "out of sight" musical alien seems to lock us in a magical circle where the song just goes on forever, and we find ourselves in a "paradise" of ultimate joy.

In 'Soul Love', Bowie spoke of his need for love, and how he does not know how to find it, and can only hope for it to descend on him. Well, Ziggy now shows us that love can also be willfully generated. When you find a way to embody something inside you that heretofore could not be expressed, you provide anyone who suffered from the same repression with something they can identify with, and once they do, they all assume a collective identity, and unite in a mutual bond. "The band was all together", sings our narrator, but it's not just the band: everyone touched by Ziggy now comes together, and find themselves to be parts of a bigger whole, and all-embracing love.

So by appearing as androgynous, Ziggy touched something inside a few kids and misfits, helping them to come out of the shadows. What is that repressed trait inside of them, which the alien now liberates?

Ooh how I sighed, when they asked if I knew his name

It's the sigh that gives it away. In 'Two Loves', a poem written by Lord Alfred Douglas, Uranian poet and Oscar Wilde's "special" friend, the hero dreams of standing in a strange garden, where he has a brief erotic encounter with a young lad. Then, two figures promptly appear, one of them singing beautiful and joyous songs about love between boy and girl, the other just sighing sadly. The hero asks the silent one "what is thy name?", and the latter replies "my name is Love", but the other figure immediately intervenes and contradicts him, claiming that "I am true Love, I fill the hearts of boy and girl with mutual flame", while the other one's name isn't "Love" but "Shame". To which the sad one sighs again and says: "Have thy will, I am the love that dare not speak its name." What is the nature of that "other" love, the love that dare not call itself love, dare not sing its own songs, because it is not allowed to do so by the more dominant kind of love? To the prosecutors in Oscar Wilde's trial (and they were most probably right), there was no doubt: it is homosexual love, asking to be recognized on the same level as heterosexual love. This was, of course, out of the question in Victorian England, and continued to be so in the 20th century, but by invoking that infamous poem in his line about sighing and daring not saying the name, Bowie is now telling us who Lady Stardust truly is: she is the voice of that other love, which finally found a way to sing its own songs. Not allowed to sing beautiful love songs, she focuses on the dark side of human existence, singing about disgrace and dismay, but by so doing, she provides a turf for those other kind of lovers to express themselves and come together. The narrator is still bound by the old conventions, still sighing instead of calling his feelings by name, still not daring to obey his homosexual love. But on the stage in front of him, and in the crowd's reactions around him, the conventions are breaking down, and we are entering a new world.

'Lady Stardust', then, introduces us to one of the traits that make Ziggy an alien: his bisexuality. It has a few levels. On one level, it is simply a continuation of the sixties sexual revolution. The Hippies said "Make Love, Not War", and lived up to their credo by practicing "free love" – in other words, as much sex as possible. Ziggy now comes to traverse more boundaries, and make love even more global and free. His inaudible muttering in the end, which sounds something like "get some pussy now!", suggests that this is merely the next step in rock'n'roll's insatiable quest for the next sexual adventure.

But it is also a revolution. Ziggy embodies an identity that couldn't exist before, an identity that went against the rationality of the time. This rationality defined each gender in strict terms, and had very definite ideas on what is "masculine" and what is "feminine". If a boy displayed "feminine" traits, or a girl "masculine" traits, they were regarded as "unnatural" and needing a cure. But many girls and boys had traits that did not fit into the neat draws of the dominating rationality, and they had to hide these traits, hide their true nature. Ziggy now blends "feminine" and "masculine" together, presenting an identity that contains both, and enables those kids to break away from oppression, and live out what they feel inside.

And, of course, he is also giving a voice to that love that dared not speak its name, to homosexual love. Homosexuality was also considered "unnatural" and forced to hide, but Ziggy wears it on his sleeve with pride, and encourages others to do the same. Finally, in the subculture that develops around Ziggy, they can sing their own songs.

Finally, Ziggy's bisexuality can be understood on an aesthetic level as well. There is an old tradition in Western thought that regards the male gender as the one who stamps his own form into things, and the female as the formless clay who is being stamped. Rock music followed this tradition, demanding that its male singers would present an original identity, and impose it on the world. Ziggy obeys this demand, but Bowie understood that there is no such thing as a completely original identity – everyone learns from others, and originality means taking what you've learned and creating something new out of it. In other words, you first of all have to let others lay their form on you, and be impregnated by them, before you can create a new form and lay it on others. Ziggy, then, is a bisexual type of artist, holding both the "female" part of being stamped by someone else, and the "male" part of stamping his own form on the world.

'Lady Stardust' is the record that puts forth this novel aesthetic approach. The reigning perception of art contended that every artist has a unique vision, which stems from his unique self, and he should spend his entire life developing that vision, and growing the self in the process. But Bowie's perception regards the self not as a growing thing, but as a thing that is periodically reborn through transformations, and so he uses his art to create these transformations. At the beginning of each transformation there's this moment where he encounters an alien performer, and feels a strange fascination, an inner attraction. His rationality tells him that this is a love that he cannot obey, that this alien is all "wrong", but Bowie tells us that we should indeed obey this love, because we will be reborn in the process. On one level, this record is about how Bowie was reborn when he saw Marc Bolan, and let himself be transformed by emulating him. On the second level, it is about how the kids are reborn when they let themselves be taken by Ziggy. On the third level, this is the blueprint for Bowie's entire career, a career built on constant transformations, achieved through emulating alien forms of art.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


So, in 'Soul Love', we saw the hero wallowing in the same desolate state of mind like most of Hunky Dory's heroes, idly passing the time, disillusioned by all the options the world has to offer, waiting for love to descend on him, but not really believing it can happen. And then, suddenly…

Didn't know what time it was, the lights were low
I leaned back on my radio
Some cat was layin' down some rock'n'roll, "lotta soul" he said
Then the loud sound did seem to fade
Came back like a slow voice on a wave of phase
That weren't no D.J., that was hazy cosmic jive

Every music fan knows this feeling. Some day, you are busy on your daily routine, not expecting anything, and the radio is blaring the same old tunes in the background. But then, something new comes blasting out of it, something that makes you drop everything and freeze in your place, something that compels you to swerve the car to the side of the road and stay there until the record ends, something that makes all the tiny hairs on your body bristle. When those magical three minutes are over, you are not the same person any more. You are forever transformed, and you want nothing but more of that new sound.

I had to phone someone so I picked on you
Hey, that's far out, so you heard him too!
Switch on the TV we may pick him up on channel two
Look out your window I can see his light
If we can sparkle he may land tonight
Don't tell your poppa or he'll get us locked up in fright

And it is never a solitary experience. When you are hit by the new musical gospel, you find that there are other kids who have been hit by it, and they understand what you're going through. Your parents, on the other hand, don't understand it at all, and they try to lock you up and prevent you from hearing this music, prevent you from expressing yourself. The kids here are aware of it, so they keep it their own secret, creating a world of their own. 'Starman', we see, is another youth anthem, another celebration of the generational gap, which Bowie already tried to capitalize on in records like 'Changes' and 'Oh! You Pretty Things'. In those records, Bowie defined the difference between youth and adulthood in terms of their attitude towards the alien and towards change, and attempted to redirect the sixties revolution along these lines. Now, he turns it into part of the Ziggy saga, and defines "change" and "love of the alien" as the essence of rock'n'roll.

There's a starman waiting in the sky
He'd like to come and meet us
But he thinks he'd blow our minds
There's a starman waiting in the sky
He's told us not to blow it
Cause he knows it's all worthwhile
He told me:
Let the children lose it
Let the children use it
Let all the children boogie

The chorus ties this track to its album precursor. In 'Moonage Daydream', Bowie recreated himself as Ziggy, a creature who introduces himself as an invader from outer-space, and calls the kids to follow him and come together in a new church, a church founded on rock'n'roll. In my analysis of the track, I claimed that this was his way to regenerate the rock'n'roll experience, which comes about when you are hit by something that is alien to your logic, but relates to your innermost intuitions. 'Starman' looks at the same thing from the opposite perspective, from the perspective of the youth who are hit by this new message, and their ecstatic response to it. The Starman is someone who is out of this world, someone frightening and mysterious, and yet there's something about him that makes him seem right, more right than anything they encountered before. Bowie uses the word 'blow' to create a double-meaning that expresses the dangers and opportunities of this close encounter. Taken literally, it is a warning that the meeting might prove too powerful for their earthly mind, and is liable to blow it up, but if it doesn't blow, it will prove to be worth their while. Taken in its colloquial sense, it says that it will offer them a "mind blowing" experience, that can change their mind forever, but they are also liable to "blow it", to fail to live up to what he offers them, and miss the chance for happiness.

The Starman refers to the youth as "the children", a term rife with biblical resonance, which enhances his messianic aura. But the main mythology behind this story does not come from the bible – it is first and foremost rock'n'roll mythology. In 1957, in one of the first records that celebrated the power of rock'n'roll and distinguished it from other types of music, Chuck Berry requested: "Just let me hear some of that rock'n'roll music / Any old way you choose it / It's got a backbeat, you can't lose it / Any old time you use it / It's gotta be rock'n'roll music / If you wanna dance with me." Berry promised us that if we remain true to the backbeat, there is no way we can lose that wondrous sensation, and rock'n'roll will last forever. But youth culture did lose it, did forget how to make rock'n'roll, and was no longer able to use the music to generate the same joy. Our Starman now promises to bring it back, to let the children "lose it" and "use it" once again, and be able to boogie to it like they did before.

It all harks back to the fifties, to the early days of youth culture. In the fifties, American and British youth lived in a society that believed it is the best of all societies, and it is well on the road to solving all its problems and creating the perfect world. Everyone was expected to play a positive part in this society, and no one was to stray from the path. You can see it in the numerous alien invasion movies created by Hollywood, where the aliens represented lesser ways of life coming to take over our society, and we must work together to overcome them. But in little known B-movies, or in obscure rock'n'roll gems like 'Flying Saucer Rock'n'roll' and 'Purple People Eater', an opposite picture was presented: the aliens were regarded as symbols for a more exciting way of life, an alternative to the boring conformity, who come to Earth to play rock'n'roll and teach us how to have fun. Four tracks into The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, we realize that Bowie is now finally taking this undercurrent and bringing it to the surface, to create a sci-fi story that is the opposite to what we were told in the fifties. The idea that we are on the way to a perfect society died, and its death was proclaimed in 'Five Years'. The alien Ziggy now comes to offer an alternative, and pave a new road to happiness. When he launches into the chorus, whose first notes are lifted straight out of 'Somewhere over the Rainbow', we feel that this is someone who comes from Oz, or Mars, or any other magical place that is on the other side of the rainbow, and that he has come to take us, his children, to that place.