How To Buy Ziggy Stardust
The story so far: I have made a bet that I can buy a full set of Bowie’s albums (in their original vinyl versions – and in excellent condition with all the inserts) from The Man Who Sold The World to Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps). That’s fourteen albums in fourteen days. Total budget: £100. The loser has a heavy penalty: to buy drinks – and wear a Westlife T-shirt for a day.
The day after making the bet I took stock of what was already in the bag.
1. A copy of Aladdin Sane, bought six months ago for £3.
2. A copy of Stage bought six months ago for £1.
3. A re-issue of Low (that probably didn’t count for the bet as I didn’t think it was an original release) that cost £1.
So twelve albums to go, and £96 to play with. Accepting that a couple of records might be harder to find, I still thought it might be possible. The spectre of having to wear a Westlife T-Shirt weighed heavily, but, like an Arsenal fan at the start of each season I was full of cautious optimism.
As a start, I had snaffled a first pressing of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars on eBay for £8.70 (plus P&P). “Ziggy” was a huge commercial success and is thus reasonably priced because it isn’t all that rare. We all know Bowie retired the character soon afterwards….
….but for a while, Ziggy was a huge phenomenon. The cover, photographed in Heddon Street (off Regent St in London) in black and white (it was later tinted, giving it that unusual, futuristic look) is now a classic. Seeing it on a 12″ record certainly does it more justice than on CD. A plaque was erected in Heddon St last year to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the album, albeit the street now looks very different.
The concept of Ziggy Stardust only came together at the last minute, after many of the songs had been written, according to Bowie’s recent biographer Paul Trynka. Two of the key “concept” songs – about Ziggy’s rise and fall – “Rock n Roll Suicide” and “Suffragette City” were among the last songs to be recorded, with Chuck Berry’s “Around and Around” still on the track listing.
Perhaps Bowie’s biggest challenge was to persuade his three musicians from working class Hull to wear the costumes. Trynka explains that Bowie took the sceptical Spiders to see A Clockwork Orange and explained Freddie Buretti’s costumes “were “futuristic” rather than something “poofs” would wear. When the three were presented with their catsuits – blue for Trevor, gold for Woody and pink for Ronson…Bolder frankly admits he was not impressed – “To be honest it took a lot to wear that stuff” – and remembers Mick, destined for the pink jacket, as the most vociferous objector. “Mick was not up for it. Not at all.”
The band played Friars Aylesbury to launch the new image on 29 January 1972 and after a stunning show the local paper declared “A Star Is Born”.
Ziggy Stardust first pressings are identifiable by the lack of a “MainMan” credit on the reverse of the cover.
Above is a copy without the MainMan credit…
…and here’s a later pressing with the MainMan credit just below the A Gem Production credit in the top right.
MainMan was the management company Bowie’s then manager, Tony Defries had set up, so all later pressings contained this credit. Many early copies have a nice inner sleeve also – with photos and lyrics.
It’s worth the extra hunting around (and couple of quid if you are lucky) to get the inner sleeve. It’s great to get a copy that sounds good – but as part of the attraction is holding the record and reading the credits it seems a shame not to enjoy the whole experience – which with Ziggy Stardust vinyl albums doesn’t cost much more. An Orange RCA label is also preferred over the later black coloured labels – again because orange labels were earlier UK pressings.
So: Ziggy Stardust was in the bag. Eleven albums to go. Going well. Or so I thought…