leejohnson's current selection is:
by David Bowie

It's that time again. Remember the man! From the appropriately-named biography by Paul Trynka ("Starman" - ISBN 978-0-7515-4293-6, published by 'Sphere', 2011) comes this mine of information on the song and Bowie's highly-significant British television appearance on "Top of the Pops":



Thursday evening, seven o'clock: decadence is about to arrive in five million front rooms. Neatly suited dads are leaning back in the comfiest chair, mums in their pinnies are clearing away the dishes, while the kids - still in school shirts and trousers - are clustered around the small television for their most sacred weekly ritual.

The tiny studio audience, milling around in tank tops and dresses, clap politely as the artist at number forty-one in the charts strums out two minor chords on his blue twelve-string guitar. The camera cuts from his hands to his face, catching the barest hints of a smirk - like a child hoping to get away with something naughty. But then as his friends - Trevor, Woody and Mick Ronson - clatter into action with a rollicking drum roll and throaty guitar, the camera pulls back and David Bowie meets its gaze, unflinchingly. His look is lascivious, amused. As an audience of excited teens and outraged parents struggle to take in the multi-coloured quilted jumpsuit, the luxuriant carrot-top hairdo, spiky teeth and those sparkling, mascaraed come-to-bed eyes, he sings us through an arresting succession of images: radios, aliens, 'get-it-on rock 'n' roll'. The audience is still grappling with this confusing, over-the-top spectacle when a staccato guitar rings out a Morse code warning, and then, all too suddenly, we're into the chorus.

From the disturbingly new, we shift to the reassuringly familiar: as he croons out 'There's a star - man ...' Bowie's voice leaps up an octave. It's an ancient Tin Pan Alley songwriter's trick, signalling a release, a climax. And as we hear of the friendly alien waiting in the sky, the audience suddenly recognises a tune, and a message, lifted openly, outrageously, from 'Over The Rainbow', Judy Garland's escapist, Technicolor wartime anthem. It's simple, singalong, comforting territory, and it lasts just four bars, before David Bowie makes his bid for immortality. Less than one minute after his face first appeared on "Top of the Pops" - the BBC's family-friendly music programme - Bowie lifts his slim, graceful hand to the side of his face and his platinum-haired bandmate Mick Ronson joins him at the microphone. Then, casually, coolly, Bowie places his arm around the guitarist's neck, and pulls Ronson lovingly towards him. There's the same octave leap as he sings 'star - man' again, but this time it doesn't suggest escaping the bounds of earth; it symbolises escaping the bounds of sexuality.

The fifteen-million-strong audience struggles to absorb this exotic, pan-sexual creature: in countless households, the kids are entranced - in their hundreds, in their thousands - as parents sneer, shout or walk out of the room. But even as they wonder how to react, there's another stylistic swerve; with the words 'let the children boogie', David Bowie and The Spiders break into an unashamed T. Rex boogie rhythm. For a generation of teenagers, there was no hesitation; those ninety seconds, on a sunny evening in July 1972, would change the course of their lives. Up to this point, pop music had been mainly about belonging, about identification with your peers. This music, carefully choreographed in a dank basement under a south London escort agency, was a spectacle of not-belonging. For scattered, isolated kids around the UK, and soon the East Coast of America, and then the West Coast, this was their day. The day of the outsider.


(Although this performance, recorded on July 5th 1972 and broadcast the following day, is often cited as being the first UK TV performance of the song, it had in fact been performed on ITV's "Lift Off With Ayshea" three weeks earlier.)

That was me. Taken aback but excited by the vision on the screen before me. And, for me personally, nothing WOULD ever be the same again - musically. My mother, to her credit more liberated and understanding than most, merely watched on in silence - I have no idea how my father reacted, as they had split up by then. He probably didn't even watch the show - why should he?

If YOU were a child of that time, if YOU caught the TV gig (or even only heard about it from friends), then I fully recommend that you invest in a copy of Paul's book. If, however, you belong to much newer times but still have an avid interest in Bowie...

...then I STILL recommend you to buy it!
(The above extract is from the introduction to the book, and is copyright Paul Trynka 2011.)
1972 - RCA Victor - United Kingdom - From the 1972 album "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars".
Posted: 19th April 2016
Born in 1954, leaving education by 1972, 'glam' was my thing, "Ziggy" Bowie my hero. I was even the only guy in my town with the haircut (though not the carrot red colouring!). Therefore every seventh selection is a Bowie track.
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