Ziggyology: A Brief History of Ziggy Stardust | Simon Goddard (Ebury Press)

ziggyology 75The book is a joyous read and will transport you back to a time when rock giants like Bowie and Mark Bolan (from T-Rex) roamed the planet.

 

ziggyology 500

Simon Goddard, the author who has previously released the fantastic Songs That Saved Your Life and Mozipedia, returns with Ziggyology. While his first two books centered on The Smiths and their famously crusty lead singer, his new tome centers on David Bowie…or more to the point, the birth and death of Ziggy Stardust. It also offers a less exhaustively encyclopedic approach and settles on an almost archaic prose.

The first thing that attracted me to this book was the care and binding that makes up its packaging. The design (which is credited to David Wardle of Bold & Noble) features tinged orange page edges and a cover feel and look that made me think of a book I would have received as a child. It has the look and feel of something you would have checked out of the library in the 1960s. The book with its cover prepares us for the story that Goddard tells on the inside.

Instead of a standard “making of …” book, we get a mythical tale that begins its journey in the late 19th century, giving us a primer on the origins of the origins of both David Bowie and his famous character, the prophet of the coming starmen – Ziggy Stardust who would become the subject of the album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars in 1972. Goddard researched not only the obvious people – Tony Visconti who shaped the early Bowie; Bowie’s immediate predecessors Elvis Presley, Vince Taylor, and Jeff Beck – but also intricately weaves the stories of H.G. Wells, Gustav Holst, and Arthur C. Clarke along with the architecture and culture of England in the 50s and 60s. In doing so, he creates a well-illustrated path that shows the reader the many interactions and events that brought us Bowie’s masterpiece.

In keeping with the packaging of the book, I felt the prose also reflected another age – the writing felt as if it were pulled from a previous era. It reminded me of Wells’ writing from the War of the Worlds or maybe a boy’s adventure book like The Hardy Boys series. This is not to take anything away from Goddard, it fits the subject perfectly as he delves into science fiction and mixes facts and fantasy almost effortlessly.

The amateur historian in me appreciates Goddard’s great job of research for this book. But more important, he summarizes the mythology around this album, this character, this being that reveals why it happened, when it did (the album, the fictional birth and death, and Bowie’s meteoric rise), and how it changed our lives. There are some great stories in the book (and bless you Goddard for having an index) about Bowie’s first trip to America, meeting Iggy Pop, the Velvet Underground, and the fortuitous meeting with Rodney Bingenheimer in California.

The book is a joyous read and will transport you back to a time when rock giants like Bowie and Mark Bolan (from T-Rex) roamed the planet and fought for domination of the hearts and minds of rock fans everywhere. Goddard’s book brings to life this unique moment when the stars came together to form one of rock’s enduring icons. | Jim Dunn

352 pages

About Jim Dunn 126 Articles
Jim Dunn grew up in NY in the 70s and 80s. Even though that time in music really shapes his appreciation it does not define it. Music, like his beloved history is a long intermingled path that grows, builds and steals from its past. He lives in Colorado with his lovely wife and a wild bunch of animals.

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