Ziggy on tour

The first US leg of the tour was from September to December 1972, with more, bigger, shows following in February and March 1973. These were transformative times, when Bowie’s natural theatricality was abetted on stage by more elaborate costumes and more ambitious staging, and with a confidence bolstered by critical acclaim and commercial success.

It started in that summer of ’72. I have footage of fans talking about Bowie at the Rainbow. Then it builds and builds, and you can see that audiences are enthusiastic, but not the way it got in ’73. Once he got back from the States, then it was authentic ‘Bowiemania’. They were quite small venues he was playing, remember, and he encouraged the communication. There are lots of pictures of the audience reaching out and touching him, and running onto the stage. By that summer it was pandemonium.

The look, the persona of Ziggy, had taken over, and David was in some sort of psychic confusion. Because everyone was in love with Ziggy Stardust it was hard for him to find out who he was. Plus, I think the misbehaviour level was mounting … although the overwhelming thing I remember was the work ethic. He worked bloody hard, David did. He was unbelievably focused for that entire period.

Mick Rock
Aladdin Sane 30th Anniversary edition

The tour, however, was not a total success. While some US cities, such as New York and Philadelphia, saw ecstatic scenes of adoration, reactions elsewhere were somewhat more muted.

A late addition to the tour was the Kiel Auditorium in St Louis, Missouri, on 11 October 1972, and the concert suffered for a lack of advance publicity. Just 180 of over 10,000 tickets were sold, prompting Bowie to encourage the dedicated fans to assemble at the foot of the stage.

I think for any Englishman that goes to America for the first time they probably write some of their best stuff. I don’t know how much of a culture shock it is now … But I think for us back then, going to America was it. It used to blow us away. It was our language, but it was this other world, and for me, of course, wanting this other world, I just fell into it completely. Here was this alternative world that I’d been talking about, and it had all the violence, and all the strangeness and bizarreness, and it was really happening. It was real life and it wasn’t just in my songs. Suddenly my songs didn’t seem so out of place. All the situations that we were going through were duly noted down and all the remarks I had heard, real Americanisms that caught my ear. Just the look of certain places like Detroit really caught my imagination because it was such a rough city and it almost looked like the kind of place that I was writing about. I thought, ‘Christ, these places really exists and people live in them!’ I thought, I wonder if Kubrick has seen this town? It makes his kind of world in Clockwork Orange look kind of pansy!
David Bowie
Aladdin Sane 30th Anniversary edition

Although he would kill off the Ziggy Stardust character in July 1973 with a final concert at London’s Hammersmith Odeon, Aladdin Sane was ostensibly a continuation, with blurred lines between the two personas.

I think Aladdin was more in the area of ‘Ziggy Goes To America’. I kind of knew that I had said all that I could say about Ziggy, and what I’d end up doing would be ‘Ziggy Part 2’. I thought, well, you know, I’m very tempted to go further with this Ziggy thing only because it’s so popular, but actually it’s not really what I want to do … as an interim measure I did this ‘Ziggy Goes To America’.
David Bowie, 1993

Bowie’s persona was given a new visual dimension following the Ziggy Stardust Tour’s Japanese dates in April 1973. Bowie reinvented himself once again, performing in authentic Kabuki garb, designed by Kansai Yamamoto. Photographer and film maker Mick Rock recalled the year of changes:

Clearly Ziggy Stardust was the animal that was running amok. Aladdin Sane had the same hairdo; David just souped up the clothes. The late Pierre La Roche, or ‘Pierre Le Puff’ as he was affectionately known, began doing the make-up, and that stepped up David’s appreciation for a more elaborate look. Pierre was a brilliant make-up artist. David learnt a lot because he mostly still did his own make-up at the time as there wasn’t that much money around. The trip to Japan in early 1973 was also a crucial factor.
Mick Rock
Aladdin Sane 30th Anniversary edition