The Case For Ziggy Stardust

frontIn the compelling debate of what album Phish will play for Halloween, many ideas and theories have been posed as to which records would create an ideal musical costumes. After perusing many of the potential albums, there is really only one choice for me – David Bowie’s The Rise and Fall Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars. Encompassing themes of hope and love within a plot of rock and roll idolatry in an apocalyptic society, Ziggy Stardust is often hailed as the seminal concept album of the 1970s.


The History Behind Ziggy

Leeds, UK. June '73 (M.Rock)

Leeds, UK. June ’73 (M.Rock)

Ziggy Stardust was David Bowie’s alien savior, who brought a musical message of salvation via rock and roll, but eventually fell from grace due to the perils of rock and roll decadence. In Bowie’s own words:

Ziggy was my Martian messiah who twanged a guitar. He was a simplistic character. I saw him as very simple… Someone who was dropped down here, got brought down to our way of thinking and ended up destroying himself (1976). Ziggy Stardust…was very much Japanese Theatre meets American science fiction (1978).

Far more than a fictional character, Ziggy Stardust gave Bowie an alter ego, one which began to take over his reality. Beginning in 1972, Bowie began introducing himself at concerts as Ziggy Stardust and his band as The Spiders From Mars. Appearing in full costume and character, Bowie was Ziggy Stardust, and as his theatrical performances continued, he over-indulged in his on-stage character.

It was quite easy to become obsessed night and day with the character. I became Ziggy Stardust. David Bowie went totally out the window. Everybody was convincing me that I was a Messiah, especially on that first American tour (late-1972). I got hopelessly lost in the fantasy (1972)

Before long, Ziggy came off the stage, permeating Bowie’s everyday life. Appearing publicly in costume, the line between Bowie and Ziggy Stardust became dangerously blurred.

I thought I might as well take Ziggy to interviews as well. Why leave him on stage? Looking back it was completely absurd. It became very dangerous. I really did have doubts about my sanity. I can’t deny that the experience affected me in a very exaggerated and marked manner. I think I put myself very dangerously near the line. Not in physical sense but definitively in mental sense. I played mental games with myself to such an extent that I’m very relieved and happy to be back in Europe and feeling very well (1977).

Beverly Hills, CA -October '72 (M.Rock)

Beverly Hills 10/72 (M.Rock)

In two separate interviews in the early ’90s,  Bowie reflected on his period of mental instability as he battled – and basked in – his alter-ego. Ziggy had literally become an escape from himself and his every-day life; a place to hide from David Bowie.

I enjoyed the character so much and it was so much easier for me to live within that character that, along with the help of some chemical substances at the time, it became easier and easier for me to blur the lines between reality and the blessed creature that I created – my doppelganger. I wasn’t getting rid of him at all – in fact I was joining forces with him (1990).

There was a theory that one creates a doppelganger and then imbues that with all your faults and guilts and fears and then eventually you destroy him, hopefully destroying all your guilt, fear and paranoia. And I often feel that I was doing that unwittingly, creating an alternative ego that would take on everything that I was insecure about.  Ziggy served my purpose because I found it easier to function through him, although I probably put myself on a path of pure psychological damage by doing what I did.  But it felt like it was going to be easier living through an alternative self.  Of course the major problem was that I was blurring the lines between sanity and an insane figure, and finally did break the lines down in the mid-Seventies where I really couldn’t perceive the difference between the stage persona and myself (1993).

David Bowie / Ziggy Stardust

David Bowie / Ziggy Stardust

Looking further into Bowie’s analysis of this era, one can see parallels to the rock-idolatry and excesses that contributed to Trey’s downfall. After working his whole life to become a rock star, once Ziggy/Bowie/Trey attained his goal – well – what next? As Bowie describes Ziggy’s fate, he could easily be talking about Trey.

It was his own personality being unable to cope with the circumstances he found himself in which is being an almighty prophet-like superstar rocker.  He found he didn’t know what to do once he got it.  It’s an archetype really – the definitive rock n roll star. It often happens (1974).

Always cast outside of the rock and roll mainstream, Trey’s former demise followed a not-so-uncommon path. As was Ziggy’s fate, the decadence surrounding his rock and roll super-stardom brought him down; the fame, the parties, the ego, the glamour, the sex, and ultimately, the drugs. Like Ziggy’s finale, “Rock and Roll Suicide,” dark habits threatened the very survival of certain Phish members, forcing them to “break up the band,” following the fate of The Spiders From Mars. Bowie’s personal relationship to Ziggy Stardust mirrors Trey’s battle with his own rock and roll stardom and inner conflicts that brought each man to the brink.


Ziggy Stardust– The Album

Ziggy and The Spiders From Mars (Unk)

Ziggy and The Spiders From Mars (Unk)

For the elaborate theatrics and space-aged costumes alone, Ziggy Stardust would make a superb spectacle for the Halloween set. But beyond the glamorous show this album could provide, the music and lyrics of Bowie’s record fit perfectly with Phish’s place in time. The dreamy psychedelia of Ziggy Stardust seems made for Phish to play, incorporating all band members (and a few horns) in forming a tapestry of Bowie’s early ’70s sound. And the copious fade-outs on almost every track is an essential detail of the record, leaving the door wide open for Phish to improvise out of almost any song. With musical coherence, symbolic relevance, poignant lyrics, Ziggy Stardust is the perfect choice for Phish this year.

1. “Five Years”

We got five years, stuck on my eyes
Five years, what a surprise
We’ve got five years, my brain hurts a lot
Five years, that’s all we got

The album starts off with Ziggy singing a melancholy dirge for humanity, stating there are only five years left before the apocalypse.  Due to a lack of natural resources, the world is on the verge of perishing. In Bowie’s explanation of the song:

Ziggy was in a rock n roll band and the kids no longer want rock n roll. There’s no electricity to play it. Ziggy’s advisors tell him to collect news and sing it, cause there is no news. So Ziggy does this and there is terrible news (Rolling Stone, 1973).

The obvious Phishy reference in this song lies in the title “Five Years,” alluding to the past half-decade we lived without Phish in our lives. But now, like Ziggy and The Spiders, the band is back to save us from a degrading society with their universal musical messages.

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2. “Soul Love”

Victoria Hall, Hanley, UK (P.Calvert)

Victoria Hall, Hanley, UK (P.Calvert)

This wistful song details various forms of love and their interrelation, including the highest form – “Soul Love.” Suggesting an overt spirituality, there are religious undertones to this song, asserting that “Soul Love” is embodied by every human, a central theme in Ziggy’s extra-terrestrial message. The beauty of the universe lies within everyone, there is still hope.

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3.”Moonage Daydream”

Phish would absolutely destroy this scorching song that has often been cited as the strongest track on the album. Recounting times they played the song live, Trevor Bolder, a member of The Spiders From Mars observed:

It really used to get the kids going. That would start the kids off. Every night you knew that “Moonage Daydream” was going to be the one that really lifted them. (1976)

This song introduces Ziggy Stardust – the Space Invader / Alien Messiah – who offers rock n roll salvation from earth’s imminent disaster outlined in “Five Years,” and a object for society’s religious worship evident in “Soul Love.” Its searing guitar lines and syncopated keyboard patterns lift off into wild sheets of sound, and could provide Phish with a serious launchpad for improvisation. In some ways congruent with Phish’s place as worshipped rock and roll superheros, “Moonage Daydream” details the seduction of rock stardom. If the first two slower tracks don’t get people going, “Moonage Daydream certainly would.

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4. “Starman”

There’s a Starman waiting in the sky
He’d like to come and meet us
But he thinks he’d blow our minds
There’s a Starman waiting in the sky
He’s told us not to blow it
Cause he knows it’s all worthwhile

David Bowie / Ziggy (Unk)

David Bowie / Ziggy (Unk)

The only single off Ziggy Stardust, “Starman” tells the story of Ziggy’s origins as an “infinite being,” and details his message that hope and love can save the world before earth comes to an end. This, as Bowie explained “was the song that Ziggy wrote which inspired people to follow him…but he continued and then he was crushed by his own ego” (1974). Phish are the “Starmen” of our generation, enlightening us; showing us a different way of living amidst a war-torn, segmented world. Grandiose? Sure. Far fetched? Not so much.

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5. “Lady Stardust”

Bowie’s personal tale of rock and roll androgyny kicks off the B-side of the album. But for Phish, and specifically for Trey, the power of this ballad lies in the lyrics.

And he was alright, the band was altogether
Yes he was alright, the song went on forever
Yes he was awful nice
Really quite out of sight
And he sang all night long

Seemingly written for this exact occasion in Phish’s career, these lyrics would bring shivers to every fan in the desert when Trey (or Page) sang them.

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This song details the Ziggy’s dreams of super-stardom with a more upbeat song. In the chorus, Bowie sang:

I could make a transformation as a rock n roll star
So inviting – so enticing to play the part
I could play the wild mutation as a rock n roll star

Fame and stardom allured both Bowie and Phish, dreaming of success while not compromising their art. In Phish’s modern era, however, “Star” would be a reflection on the band’s past inspiration as they fought for the big time – a glimpse back to the years of the early ’90s and the musical hunger that defined them.

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7. “Hang On To Yourself”

Well come on, come on, we’ve really got a good thing going
Well come on, well come on, if you think we’re gonna make it
You better hang on to yourself

bloom73bThis song chronicles the height of fame for Ziggy Stardust with a rocking feel and melodic hooks. But as his popularity grew, so did his indulgences – hence the song’s title. Loosely parallel to the years of 2000-2004, this was the era that Phish barely hung on to themselves, battling the very temptations and indulgences as Bowie’s fictional rock-god. “Hang On To Yourself” leads naturally into the infectious album’s infectious title-track.

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7. “Ziggy Stardust”

A classic song in the annals of rock history, Ziggy’s title track would be the song that any Phish fan is guaranteed to know. And hearing Trey destroy the song’s signature guitar riff would be worth the price of admission on its own. The song, itself, details the rise and fall of Ziggy Stardust – a symbol of the ultimate rock god – as told by one of his band members.

Making love with his ego, Ziggy sucked up into his mind
Like a leper messiah
When the kids had killed the man, I had to break up the band

Alluding to several of rock’s fallen idols, “Ziggy Stardust” explains the character’s fate as an idolized rock star and, subsequently, a rock and roll tragedy. In the end they had to break up the band – sound familiar?

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8.” Suffragette City”

1972 (Unknown)

1972 (Unknown)

One of Bowie’s favorite originals, this is the most rocking track on the album by a long shot. This song – like “Drowned,” “Crosseyed and Painless” and “Rock and Roll” – would be a heavy favorite for Phish to keep in their permanent rotation. Chronicling  Ziggy’s decadent over-indulgence, many fans theorize that this song should have came before “Ziggy Stardust,” as it sets up the star’s fall from glory. “Suffragette City” would also see a guest appearance from a horn section.

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9. “Rock N Roll Suicide”

This acoustic piece narrates the fate of Ziggy Stardust, and his final demise. Despite its somber ending, Bowie’s wife saw an uplifting message of unity in the song’s final chorus :

Just turn on with me and you’re not alone
Let’s turn on and be not alone
Gimme your hands cause you’re wonderful
Gimme your hands cause you’re wonderful
Oh gimme your hands

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When looked at as a holistic piece of art, strewn with congruences and parallels to Phish’s career as rock superstars, Ziggy Stardust emerges as an ideal fit for the band’s Halloween set. Imagine Trey dressed as Ziggy, and Mike, Page and Fish as The Spiders From Mars?! This album could take Phish’s musical costume to a whole new level. Strewn with symbolism, artistry, and musical theatrics, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars presents not only one of the most engaging musical choices for Festival 8, but one that holds plenty of significance as well.

(References – Rolling Stone, Blender, Pop Matters, The Ziggy Stardust Companion)

Winged music note=====

Jam of the Day:

Reba” 10.18.94 II SBD

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A soaring “Reba” from Nashville, TN in a year that redefined the song.



7.6.2000 Molson Amphitheatre, Toronto, ON < Torrent

7.6.2000 Molson Amphitheatre, Toronto, ON < Megaupload

2000-07-06moHere we have Phish’s second visit to the beautiful Molson Amphitheatre, right on Toronto’s waterfront. Standout versions of “Reba” and “YEM bookend the 90-mintue opening set. The second frame opens with a delicate jam bridging “Limb” and “2001,” and closes with the feel-good combo of “Hood,” “Loving Cup.”

I: Reba, Dogs Stole Things, Taste, Dog Faced Boy, Heavy Things > The Moma Dance, First Tube, I Didn’t Know, The Inlaw Josie Wales, Prince Caspian > Golgi Apparatus, You Enjoy Myself

II: Limb By Limb* > Also Sprach Zarathustra > Bug, Piper > Driver, Harry Hood, Loving Cup

E: The Squirming Coil


Source: Unknown

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5,403 Responses to “The Case For Ziggy Stardust”

  1. empire01 Says:

    oh black sabbath, paranoid would be dope for a halloween show.

  2. Pence Says:

    ^of the two bowie albums

  3. morecowbell (aka jay) Says:

    You could interpret it as part of Ziggy’s downfall. He is too busy fucking groupies that he has no time for friends or anything else. Also, maybe Henry is supposed to be heroin and H keeps interfering in his ability to have any kind of relationship with a woman.

  4. MakisupaSecurity Says:

    I’ve been calling Ziggy since the beginning, but like someone said, that seems to be the popular choice and Phish has always been known to go against the grain, so I say its either Ziggy or something not included at all on the website.
    Yesterday we discussed the message Mike left on his voicemail blog. He sang a song he claimed was a clue into what they were playing. The song was “Our Lips Are Sealed” by the GoGo’s. So lets take a closer look at the lyrics;

    Can you hear them
    They talk about us
    Telling lies
    Well that’s no surprise

    Can you see them
    See right through them
    They have no shield
    No secrets to reveal

    It doesn’t matter what they say
    In the jealous games people play (hey hey hey)
    Our lips are sealed

    Careless talk
    Through paper walls
    We can’t stop them
    Only laugh at them

    Spreading rumors
    So far from true
    Dragged up from the underworld
    Just like some precious pearl

    It doesn’t matter what they say
    In the jealous games people play
    Our lips are sealed
    Pay no mind to what they say
    It doesn’t matter anyway
    Our lips are sealed

    There’s a weapon
    We must use
    In our defense

    When you look at them
    Look right through them
    That’s when they’ll disappear
    That’s when you’ll be feared

    Hush, my darling
    Don’t you cry
    Quiet, angel
    Forget their lies

    So is there more to Mikes hint? If we take more credit than just an on-the-spot playful joke from Mike, he could be saying all the speculation and talk of what album it is won’t matter, because its going to be a total surprise. If thats the case then the costume is probably not on the list. I still can’t seem to shake that Ziggy hunch though!

  5. morecowbell (aka jay) Says:

    I am pretty sure that suffragette city coined the phrase “Wham Bam Thank You M’am”

  6. Pence Says:

    ^He says “we arent going to give you any hints” Then says…”it doesnt matter anyways, our lips are sealed, hey, hey, hey”

  7. halcyon Says:

    intelligent thought provoking piece today regarding F8’s musical costume. Thanks.

  8. Chalkdustin Says:

    Miner, this is a brilliant analysis. You never fail to impress me and for that, I thank you.

  9. Panda Says:


  10. MakisupaSecurity Says:

    ^ actually he says “we aren’t going to give you any hints.. except this one”

    So there could still be a hidden hint in the song if you look past the face value of the joke. I personally doubt it, but fun to speculate.

  11. beepaphone Says:

    {taps out} ok Miner, AW, Mr. C.

    you win

  12. fat bastard Says:

    great write up, and a worthy album, but it doesnt rock like a dozen of the other potential albums IMO. i want a party not theater.

  13. mittens Says:

    Ziggy Stardust? It’s a good album. Personally, I want Zappa Hot Rats. I think its the “jamband” album ever made. It’s way ahead of it’s time. I think it would send the place into a frenzy.

  14. Robear Says:

    “t-SHIRTS, get yer red hot T-shirts, click my name for T-shirts and dog shirts”

    Better get my coffee. I thought someone posted all the lyrics to “Our lips are sealed” on this blog.

  15. fat bastard Says:

    thanks makisupa

  16. beepaphone Says:

    I don’t think the relevance to Phish’s plight makes this album less likely at all. Sure, they picked all of their other costumes likely just because they were good, classic albums. But look at their old albums vs. Joy. Music aside, there is more emotion, lyrical relevance, and tendency toward unifying theme than ever before. Is MGMT, as Hitler fears, one of the most likely albums to be played? Sure. But the Vegas odds on Ziggy are probably about 2:1 if I had to guess.

  17. Chuck D Says:

    wow, what a write up. thank you mr miner.

  18. Neemor Says:

    “i want a party not theater.”
    ^ I get that, too.
    I think it helps to picture our boys putting their ambient spin on things.
    At points, Bowie’s voice is retched on this album, but at other points, if I picture Trey or Page (or even Jon) tackling the vocals, I would absolutely love it.
    I guess I find myself looking back at the past costumes and thinking that I never really was able to picture what they would sound like, or rather, I never imagined that they would come out sounding so good. (Especially Remain in Light)
    I know it’s really for discussion purposes, but I really feel like the analyzation is drawing some of the charm away from the process.
    There is such a thing as over-analyzation.
    And it’s a bad thing.
    IMO, we have plenty of other things to talk about over the next fortnight to Festy8.
    Let Rolling Stone speculate.
    That being said, Thanks for the write up Miner…it was really cool to see it broken down.

  19. fat bastard Says:

    so the early theme for indio was the air baloons righ? Zep 1 has the hidenburg crashing right? maybe we see the band coming in from a “hidenburg” baloon and “crashing” on stage?

  20. Robear Says:

    Hey all,

    I just entered the lottery for Portland > MSG. Pretty painless. I agree with those that posted about cleaning up the scalp scene by making folks send money orders for ticket lottery. That’s a great idea. While I was filling out my request, I could picture a room full of little peeps pounding away at keyboards for their scalp master.

    I cannot believe the expanse of the Phish repertoire and catalog.

  21. beepaphone Says:

    ^ Nice…I and IV are great, but seeing III as a possibility would have been the only way for me to be a big time Zep supporter for this process.

  22. Specialist Forbin Says:

    A-Friggin-Men Neemor! Overanalysis killed the cat. I say sit back, and let them blow our minds. If I wanted to know the setlist, I’d go to a U2 concert…

    No, I’d NEVER go to a U2 concert!

  23. Robear Says:

    re: Reba

    I’ve always loved the version from ‘Deer Creek 6/19/95’, their first venture to the corn of Indiana. I’ll blare this ‘JOTD’ after school.

  24. jonathan Says:

    Yep, great analysis. What about “It Ain’t Easy?” It’s a cover (Kinks?) but still part of the album.

    I think ZSATSFM has a ton going for it, but there are others still alive that have big upsides as well. Electric Ladyland and Purple Rain would be at the top of my list alongside this one.

  25. Neemor Says:


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