Live: Town Hall, Birmingham

David Bowie and the Spiders From Mars performed at Birmingham’s Town Hall on 17 March 1972.

It was the 16th date of the Ziggy Stardust Tour, which had begun on 29 January. On this occasion Bowie was supported by Mr Crisp.

Although the show was poorly attended, the date was significant for two reasons. The first was the red hair dye that stylist Suzi Fussey had applied to Bowie’s head prior to the concert. She also gave him the haircut which would soon be known as the Ziggy style. Although a deeper red would later be used, Bowie’s new stage persona was taking shape.

He walked over to show me a photo in a magazine. It was of a model for fashion designer Kansai Yamamoto with short, red, spiky hair. He said, ‘Can you do that?’ As I said yes, I was thinking, ‘That’s a little weird – it’s a woman’s hairstyle. And how am I going to actually do it?’ Inside, however, I was excited – this was a chance to be very creative. David was rock-star thin with white skin, a long neck, a great face – if I could pull it off, it would look fantastic.

It took me about a half an hour to cut, and when I finished, his hair didn’t stand up. It kind of flopped. I looked at David, and he was panicking, and I wasn’t feeling too bright. I said, ‘Listen, David, the second we tint your hair, the colour will change the texture and it will stand up.’ I prayed I was right.

I found the colour, Schwarzkopf Red Hot Red with 30 volume peroxide to give it a bit of lift. There was no ‘product’ in those days to help me make it stand up, so I used Gard, an anti-dandruff treatment that I kept for the old girls at the salon – it set hair like stone.

The second David saw himself in the mirror with that short, red, spiky hair, all doubts disappeared. Angie and I looked at him in awe, he looked so good. A huge wave of relief washed over me: I’d done it! I hadn’t known it was going to work until I felt the texture changing in my hands as I was drying it, and it stood up. He looked amazing. I started gathering my things together to leave, and Angie said, ‘Oh, how much do we owe you?’ I think I said, ‘£2, please.’

Suzi Ronson
Daily Mail

Fussey initially used a light red dye, with the top set in place with Guard setting lotion. Soon, however, Bowie wished to have a deeper shade. They found the correct tone a few days later, after Bowie showed her a magazine containing a photograph of model Marie Helvin, wearing clothes by Japanese designer Kansai Yamamoto. On stage, Bowie often used red lights to further enhance the effect.

Photographer Mick Rock interviewed Bowie after the Birmingham show for adult magazine Men Only. They continued talking back at Bowie’s Beckenham home, Haddon Hall, and continued talking through the night. Rock collaborated with Bowie on many photo and video shoots in the 1970s, becoming responsible for some of the most iconic images of the singer.

The venue is half-empty, and those in attendance are more spellbound than boisterous, but Bowie performs with the energy and fervour of a man with a goal. He seems totally out of context in such dull surroundings.
Mick Rock
Rolling Stone, 8 June 1972

Bowie had previously performed at Birmingham’s Town Hall on 15 February and 10 October 1969. The Ziggy Stardust Tour returned to the venue on 21 and 22 June 1973, for two shows on each day.

Last updated: 12 April 2023
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