Here's a new documentary on Ziggy Stardust from the BBC, in honor of its - or his - 40th anniversary. I learned about it from Karen Elson, the supermodel, who learned about it from Iman, the supermodel who is married to David Bowie. It's easy to hobnob with the stars when you're on Twitter.
There are some great, uplifting clips for us post hippy kids - now sadly just known as "baby boomers" with the rest of the hippies - in the four segments. The exemplar being David Bowie throwing his arm chummily around Mick Ronson's shoulders on Top of the Pops as the crowd goes wild - three billion girls think it's cute, a couple of hundred gays (including the future members of Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Soft Cell's Marc Almond) look on in awe that Ziggy could break that boundary on Top of the fucking Pops - and about 12 homophobes, all of whom pack it in soonish and went with the flow (I hope). It was just an arm round the shoulder, but the nation was galvanized.
I think I've driven home ad nauseam that I was primarily a T. Rex fan. I loved Ziggy Stardust, and I loved Aladdin Sane and I listened to both obsessively. But somewhere inside I preferred Bolan's hippy authenticity to David Bowie's carefully-groomed, Lindsay Kemp-tutored dance and theater. Of course years later I learned all about showbiz and how Marc Bolan was hardly authentic, but at the time it was pistols at dawn. The documentary does a great job on trying to convince me I backed the wrong horse.
It's fun to hear the down-to-earth tones of the Spiders From Mars discussing those days, and sadly, discussing how little they were paid. And Bowie's catalog of early tries at fame, all clever, all well-thought-out and all complete flops are funny, at least for me, who is not Bowie, and is watching forty years later. They reminded me how close the exceptionally watchable Velvet Goldmine really was to being a documentary.