David Bowie is widely recognized as one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century. Bowie’s early work in the 60s and 70s blended elements of rock, glam, and experimental music to create a sound that was entirely his own. He challenged societal norms with his androgynous appearance and sexually charged lyrics. Bowie’s impact went beyond music, as he also explored themes of identity, gender, race, and politics in his work.
Glam would be in decline within a few years, and Bowie would leave for more elitist, refined pastures. Punk rock, which was a response against the decadent rock excesses of the 1970s, including Bowie’s, erupted in 1977 as if to confirm that forecast. Yet, Bowie couldn’t just be grouped in with all the Led Zeppelins and Pink Floyds that the original punk generation detested. Bowie, in contrast to the majority of the other prominent rock musicians of the 1970s, gave punks more than simply a cause for rebellion; he gave them both fuel and fire.
Clash guitarist Mick Jones said, “In the early ’70s David Bowie came out with Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars and they were like a proper band, It wasn’t like the David Bowie we all knew about, the ‘Space Oddity’ David Bowie. This was different. We took that seriously.”
Bowie was keen for “Space Oddity” to have an effect when his music career truly took off with it. The song is about the loneliness of the present capitalist society. Producer Tony Visconti remembered, “David said [‘Space Oddity’] was actually a song about isolation and he used the astronaut in space as the metaphor. The song was written in that spirit, being isolated in this little capsule, but seeing the Universe from your window.”
David Bowie was steadfastly working to bring drifters down to earth and revive the youth movement since this was a drift that was not just impacting spacemen like “Major Tom.” His genius move was Ziggy Stardust. Stardust’s self-titled LP opens with a depressing news broadcast. A tidal wave of misdirected urban slop splashes up on your leg as you carelessly tread on the broadcast’s faded signal, and a general sense of sadness spreads like a heavy rain that gets caught beneath paving stones. The resulting damp sock is then the kind that causes you to completely lose faith in the benefits of rock and roll. Yet, a weak sun may be glimpsed through this oppressive deluge. Promising salvation is rumored to exist underneath… Ziggy, a “simply outrageous” rock ‘n’ roll extraterrestrial, is the hero among us coaxing him down.
Ziggy begins gripping the youth’s lapels and jarring them into action like a used Skoda driving over a cattle grid on behalf of the floating everlasting “starmen.” He captures life’s wild side and adopts the persona of a celestial messenger. His errant behavior conveys one unmistakable message: We are here to have fun.
Ziggy may have conveyed that message in a dystopian novel, but Patti Smith and others were perceptive enough to understand what Bowie was trying to say. She revealed to Spin, “I was young, but I felt our cultural voice was in jeopardy and needed an infusion of new people and ideas. I didn’t feel like I was the one. I didn’t consider myself a musician in any way, but I was a poet and performer, and I did feel that I understood where we were at, what we’d been given and where we should go, and if I could voice it, perhaps it could inspire the next generation.”
“The only people that were interesting at all were people like David Bowie.”
He appeared to believe that the restraints that had gradually crept up on society and art were being resisted by a spirit. It’s understandable why he chose a lightning bolt as his theme as he utilized it to impart an electric shock to the landscape that evoked the vitality of the past while illuminating the present.
Aladdin Sane also brought to the forefront the idea of using the rock to save the planet from a stilted drab routine. He incorporates all things the 1950s into the musical mix for a swinging reproduction of the slicked-back period on the third track of the album, “Drive-In Saturday.” He hails the emancipatory power of music in that passage.
Bowie stood out in the music industry as a freak going his own way. He inspired others to follow in his footsteps and use the power of rock ‘n’ roll to bring about dramatic change. His outrageous attire was quickly imitated by groups like the New York Dolls, and all of a sudden, youngsters had a new movement to cling to—a way to escape the dystopia all around them. This passion for upsetting potential doom with an assegai of rebellious creativity is something he stood by throughout his career, and it is, in essence, the same fundamental tenet of punk. Examples include his love of Metropolis and [The Cabinet of Dr.] Caligari and his support of Iggy Pop’s riotous nature.
About the genre, he said, “It was a vital necessity at the time. Everything again was becoming complacent. Everybody was saying such and such. ‘This is how it goes’, and we’ve all got our future’s planned’. It was getting too technical again. Everybody wanted to be great guitarists, or at that time, synthesiser players.”
He added, “Then these ragged arse little street muffins came along, With instruments, they’d either stolen, or got on hire purchase and saying, ‘We want to be superstars, and we want to sing about the conditions we know about. We can’t afford to go to rock concerts to see bands or things. So we’ll just sing about the neighbours, girls, the things we do or we don’t want to do, and the places we don’t want to go.”
Punk’s discovery may have been lost in the mud if Bowie hadn’t originally shown that in his own outsider style amid the bombardment of prog.Was this his original goal with Ziggy Stardust? Bowie, though, had a deep understanding of psychology. He once spent the weekend conducting research for Outside at a distant mental institution in Austria with Brian Eno. It’s difficult to say if his psychological curiosity extended to knowledge of The Learned Helplessness Experiment, but one metaphor is clear: he was unquestionably the brave beagle who persuaded the hopeless to jump over the obstacle and go outside.