This illustration portraits Mr. David Jones (a.k.a. David Bowie) at the time he was performing as Ziggy Stardust. The poster design was created as a collage of many different pieces of vintage paper from old newspapers and magazines with articles about Bowie. Some nice textures and decorations were found on books and all sorts of collectible ephemera as well.
David Bowie once stated: «I’m a collector. I always just seemed to collect personalities, and ideas. I have a hotchpotch philosophy which is very minimal». He used this archive of ideas and personalities as a toolbox to create characters and alter egos to play on stage: «I was a character when I performed all those albums, and I carried the character into interviews, newspapers, on stage, off stage – whenever there was media around I had to keep those characters concrete. The fabric of my work is using my body, my personality as well as my songs and stage performance, rather than a canvas».
The character of Ziggy Stardust is a perfect example of such holistic creational process. It was designed as a collage of various elements from Bowie’s cultural palette, mixing together his collected items: Iggy Pop and The Stooges, Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground, The Legendary Stardust Cowboy, model Twiggy (which later appeared on the cover of David Bowie’s Pin Ups), and many more. The idea for the title (and maybe for the name of his band too) of his concept album The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars probably came from an LP recorded by The Rats, former group of Mick Ronson, Trevor Bolder, Mick “Woody” Woodmansey, and John Cambridge (who will all later play with Bowie). The Rats recorded The Rise And Fall Of Bernie Gripplestone And The Rats From Hull in 1967. It was written by John Cambridge: «I had just been to see the film How I Won The War which featured John Lennon and I based the name of Bernie Gripplestone on musketeer Bernard Gripweed – the character played by John Lennon». John Cambridge was the drummer who joined stage with Bowie, Tony Visconti, Mick Ronson, as The Hype, for the Atomic Sunrise festival held at the Roundhouse on Wednesday 11 March 1970. It’s believed that Glam Rock was invented that night. Even Marc Bolan (T-Rex) was there, glued to the front of the stage and probably inspired by the show. Tony Visconty has been pretty clear about that event: «For me this will always be the very first night of Glam Rock. I didn’t know it at the time, but when we saw photos taken of us by Ray Stevenson , Marc Bolan was visible resting his head on his arms on the edge of the stage, taking it all in, Bolan never admitted he even went to the gig!».
But the main inspiration for Ziggy Stardust was certainly rock ‘n’ roll dark legend Vince Taylor, a wild stage animal that, by mid 60s, was already on the downside path of his musical career as an acid casualty. It was around this time that Bowie met Taylor (who had took his name “Vince” from Elvis Presley’s character “Vince Everett” in Jailhouse Rock and “Taylor” from actor Robert Taylor, even though other accounts say he got the name from the Latin phrase In Hoc Signo Vinces on Pall Mall cigarette pack) at the La Gioconda club in London. David Bowie recalls Vince Taylor telling him he was a god or an alien or probably a bit of both. Some of the features of This fading rock ‘n’ roll star who went crazy under a diet of amphetamines and LSD, claiming to be an alien god, were later injected inside Ziggy Stardust, who was going to be, indeed, another rock star messiah.
Ziggy and Vince had many things in common, starting with the make-up (and ending with self-destruction). You can picture Bowie thinking about the rise and fall of Vince Taylor, a leather messiah who ended up in a rock ‘n’ roll suicide. A composite rocker who quickly blended into his alter ego, melting in his own confusion.
There is an interview where Vince Taylor (whose real name was Brian Maurice Holden) says: «I’m a normal person. On the stage… My stage is an act». Just like Bowie and Ziggy. But sometimes boundaries between fictional and real can dangerously blur together. As Bowie once said: «I don’t know if I’m writing the characters or the characters are writing me».
Curiously, the name Ziggy came from a London tailor’s shop, called “Ziggy’s”, that Bowie saw from a train one day.
The collection of different pieces that Bowie used to create his own artwork was the inspiration for this mixed media illustration, a portrait made of paper clippings. Recycling old elements in something new, something with a different cut is also related to the cut-up technique. A technique that David Bowie used to write some of his songs, something he had borrowed from William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin. But I will leave this for a new post!
Check out my other illustrations and posters dedicated to Bowie: