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David Bowie: The Glam Rock Years

Updated on August 04, 2016

David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust

When David Bowie dyed his hair orange and donned a revealing bodystocking, many commentators accused him of compromising rock music with showbiz, while manipulating the process of image and stardom. No doubt. This was Bowie the actor, starring as Ziggy Stardust on the stage of British glam rock.

Eschewing the fading seriousness of the hippie subculture, along with its fading denim jeans, Bowie created his most memorable character in 1972. Ziggy Stardust exploded onto the music scene, alongside contemporaries Marc Bolan, Elton John and Bryan Ferry of Roxy Music.

Glam rock was effectively in its infancy, but Bowie soon had it entering puberty with the release of the album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, along with the single Starman.

Over the next two years, Bowie's Ziggy Stardust pantomime would create a breath of fresh air, essentially ridiculing the pretensions of those who fell into the camp of the progressive rocker. Perhaps camp is the operative word here, as Bowie's outrageous lurex clothing and orange hair became the leading trademark of glam rock in the UK.

There is no denying, however, that many of the tracks produced by David Bowie during this era have become classics of rock, no matter how you wish to describe it.

Image: David Bowie
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1972: Changes - From Hunky Dory

Released in early 1972 from the album Hunky Dory, Changes essentially became the song that introduced the chameleon-like public persona of David Bowie. Soon after, he would shed his skin and appear as the character Ziggy Stardust.

David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust
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1972: Starman - From: The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars

Starman was David Bowie's first British hit single since the song Space Oddity had appeared three years earlier. Appearances on popular music shows of the time propelled the song into the UK Top 10 and ensured that the image of Ziggy Stardust would be forever etched into the minds of the public.

1972: John, I'm Only Dancing

Released in the Autumn of 1972, John, I'm Only Dancing never appeared on an original album by Bowie. The subject matter of the track has often been the subject of debate.

Listening to the lyrics, is this a gay taunt or simply the reassurances of a straight man? Whatever the discussion, the song followed Starman into the UK Top 20, while conservative America bypassed the release of the track, judging it to be too lurid.

1973: The Jean Genie - From: Aladdin Sane

A song that could easily be described as one of David Bowie's signature tunes, it became his biggest hit when it reached Number 2 in the UK music charts of 1973.

Oddly, it was competing with another glam rock track, Blockbuster! by The Sweet for the Number 1 position, a song that was using a very similar riff to The Jean Genie. On this occasion The Sweet won the battle.

1973: Drive-In Saturday - From: Aladdin Sane

One of the best tracks from Bowie's Aladdin Sane is often considered as one of his lost hits. It peaked at Number 3 in the UK music charts and tells the story of a future post apocalyptic world.

Having already recorded Bowie's All the Young Dudes, the track was offered to Mott the Hoople, but lead singer Ian Hunter inexplicably turned it down. Fortunately, Bowie went on to record it himself.

David Bowie: Aladdin Sane

Aladdin Sane - 30th Anniversary Remaster
Aladdin Sane - 30th Anniversary Remaster

Containing some of Bowie's best material, what rock fan could resist A Lad Insane, or should that read Aladdin Sane? As well as including Drive-In Saturday and The Jean Genie, the album sports a cover of The Rolling Stones' Let's Spend the Night Together. Described as explosive rock, this is a recording that every Bowie fan should have in their collection.

 

1973: Life On Mars? - From: Hunky Dory

Although Life On Mars? was included on the album Hunky Dory, it wouldn't be until June 1973 that it would be released as a single. Possibly one of Bowie's strangest lyrics, the track soon found itself a Top 3 hit in the Summer of 1973.

Read more about Life On Mars? here

1973: Sorrow - From: Pin Ups

Sorrow is a cover of the mid-Sixties song originally recorded successfully by The Merseys in the UK. It was lifted from Bowie's album Pin Ups, which included twelve tracks that are favorites of Bowie from that period.

David Bowie: Pin Ups

PinUps
PinUps

A recording containing tracks which are nostalgic covers of many of David Bowie's favorite songs from the 1960s, it includes his hit version of Sorrow, as well as eleven others such as Pink Floyd's See Emily Play, The Who's I Can't Explain, The Yardbirds Shape of Things and Them's Here Come the Night, plus many more.

 

1974: Rebel Rebel - From: Diamond Dogs

Rebel, Rebel was essentially David Bowie's last glam rock style single before he moved on to dabbling in soul and funk and taking on the Thin White Duke persona.

As with most of Bowie's output at this time, the gender bending lyrics fit in well with the Ziggy Stardust character, as well as the camp nature of the music genre as a whole.

For proof of what got "mother in a whirl", check out the lyrics to Rebel, Rebel.

1974: Diamond Dogs - From: Diamond Dogs

Bowie's last gasp glam rock single, the sound of which was heading closer to what would be happening on the UK music scene within a couple of years: Punk Rock.

The title track from his latest album, it proved to be one of his least successful singles of this period, stalling at Number 21 on the UK music charts.

David Bowie: Diamond Dogs

Diamond Dogs [Explicit]
Diamond Dogs [Explicit]

Bowie's final foray into glam rock was this 1984-inspired release called Diamond Dogs. It includes his most popular single to date Rebel Rebel as well as the hit title track. The second half, in particular, is Bowie's music and songs that were to be used for a theatre production that never came to fruition.

 

Which of Bowie's glam rock songs here is your favorite?

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About This Bowie Fan

With each article, Richard invites you to step into his world of music, television and entertainment. He will introduce you to British Glam Rock, share The 20 Scariest Film Scores Ever? and even give you an up close look at some classic actors such as Christopher Lee as Dracula.

For a complete list of Richard's articles, please visit Richard's profile.

© 2012 Richard

Are You A Fan of Bowie's Glam Rock?

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    • FanfrelucheHubs profile image

      Nathalie Roy 14 months ago from France (Canadian expat)

      RIP David Bowie, this is a great lost. What an amazing artist he was

    • Paul Ward profile image

      Paul 14 months ago from Liverpool, England

      Sad news today - a great body of music and showmanship

    • WebMarketingPro profile image

      WebMarketingPro 3 years ago

      Absolutely. Fabulous lens! Thanks so much!

    • FanfrelucheHubs profile image

      Nathalie Roy 3 years ago from France (Canadian expat)

      I love everything Bowie ever did. He is one of my fav singer

    • EMangl profile image

      EMangl 4 years ago

      added to sidebar of my latest lens. took me three tries to open your lens, no idea why it makes chrome crash

    • bossypants profile image

      bossypants 4 years ago from America's Dairyland

      What memories! One Halloween, I helped a friend paint his face like the cover of the Aladdin Sane album. Probably would have been better if we had real face paint! We used pulverized pastel chalks! Ouch!

      Enjoyable lens!

    • sharonbellis profile image

      Sharon Bellissimo 4 years ago from Toronto, Ontario, Canada

      Yes, I certainly am! This brings back the memories for sure.

    • Paul Ward profile image

      Paul 4 years ago from Liverpool, England

      Ah, memories.

    • profile image

      tsissons 4 years ago

      David Bowie is THE ultimate icon in my eyes!

    • profile image

      kayla_harris 4 years ago

      Definitely Yes! I really like him!

    • JaySing profile image

      JaySing 4 years ago

      Good video biography lens. He is one of the last true artists.

    • profile image

      Derek_Armson 4 years ago

      Excellent Lens, great memories, Ziggy Stardust was the first album I ever purchased! On new Dynaflex which was so buckled my "Star" slipped and Rumbelows wouldn't change it! Even now when I listen to the CD I epxect the slip :>)

    • profile image

      Derek_Armson 4 years ago

      Excellent Lens, great memories, Ziggy Stardust was the first album I ever purchased! On new Dynaflex which was so buckled my "Star" slipped and Rumbelows wouldn't change it! Even now when I listen to the CD I epxect the slip :>)

    • profile image

      julia007 4 years ago

      I am a fan of Bowie's Clam Rock!

    • DreamingBoomer profile image

      Karen Kay 4 years ago from Jackson, MS

      Love Bowie! Saw him in the Glass Spider tour... but that was after the glam rock days.... he still rawked it! I named my cat after Ziggy Stardust. Thanks for the great lens! Love it!

    • profile image

      Terrie_Schultz 4 years ago

      Love Bowie! Awesome lens.

    • sherridan profile image

      sherridan 4 years ago

      I agree totally with Poddy's comments. Brilliant lens which takes me back......

    • profile image

      maree-martin 4 years ago

      Oh yeah.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Congrats!

    • microfarmproject profile image

      microfarmproject 4 years ago

      Fun lens. Thanks!

    • clouda9 lm profile image

      clouda9 lm 4 years ago

      Everything anyone ever wanted to know about David Bowie and the glam rock era is right here on this page. Excellent presentation...congrats on LOTD.

    • FionaCarroll profile image

      Fiona Carroll 4 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      OMG ! I loved him so. Terrific lens. Thanks for the walk down memory lane.......

    • Michey LM profile image

      Michey LM 4 years ago

      Well deserved purple star and LOTD. Congrats!

      Regards

    • profile image

      burd1982 4 years ago

      Congrats on LOD. Great Lens!

    • LittleLindaPinda profile image

      Little Linda Pinda 4 years ago from Florida

      Congratulations on getting the LOTD, Yeah!!!

    • Cabmgmnt LM profile image

      Corey 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Love, love, love David Bowie...this lens is awesome....thanks!

    • Aquavel profile image

      Aquavel 4 years ago

      My roommate dragged me to see a Bowie concert in Boston many, many years ago. I wasn't a fan until that moment when I watched him sing "Changes." And yes, he was dressed in full regalia as Ziggy Stardust. I've loved his music and performances (on film too) ever since!

    • profile image

      soaringsis 4 years ago

      Congratulations on you LotD

    • profile image

      soaringsis 4 years ago

      I liked Bowie because he had the courage to be himself.

    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 4 years ago from Southampton, UK

      Excellent job Richard and congratulations on Lens Of The Day, a rare award. I loved the early Bowie, from Space Oddity through Hunky Dory to Starman, but didn't like Ziggy Stardust and for years I didn't enjoy his music. It was only when Let's Dance was released that I began to like Bowie again, and now enjoy the hits of those in between years. Great job, blessed.

    • RawBill1 profile image

      Bill 4 years ago from Gold Coast, Australia

      I have never been a huge fan of Bowie but I do like some of his songs. The Jean Genie is my favourite of this period. I cannot help but tap my foot to the beat of that one. Congrats on LOTD. Great to see a classic rock Lens featured! :-)

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      grannysage 4 years ago

      David Bowie is not one of my favorites but he is original and influenced a lot of later performers, Adam Lambert to name one. Very well presented information. Congrats on LOTD.

    • Franksterk profile image

      Frankie Kangas 4 years ago from California

      Congrats on a great lens and getting a LOTD. Way to go! Bear hugs, Frankster

    • momscorner profile image

      momscorner 4 years ago

      I really love Space Oddity. "Ground control to major Tom, commencing countdown engines on...." Just beautiful. Thanks for this.

    • eilval profile image

      Eileen 4 years ago from Western Cape , South Africa

      Great lens ! Congrats on LOTD !

    • eilval profile image

      Eileen 4 years ago from Western Cape , South Africa

      Great lens ! Congrats on LOTD !

    • profile image

      sheezie77 4 years ago

      Very nice post Thumbs up!

    • KathyMcGraw2 profile image

      Kathy McGraw 4 years ago from California

      Rich...you did it again :) I don't know anyone that writes with such pleasure as you do about music. Sorry to say David Bowie isn't a favorite of mine, but I read this whole thing and learned a few things. Congratulations my friend on LOTD :)

    • pkmcruk profile image

      pkmcr 4 years ago from Cheshire UK

      Congratulations on a well deserved LOTD!

    • MelissaRodgz profile image

      MelissaRodgz 4 years ago

      I love that David Bowie is not afraid to express his originality. Congrats on the LOTD!

    • profile image

      coincrazy98 4 years ago

      Congratulations on LOTD! I pubished my first lens yesterday. Your great work here has given me lots of ideas to help me!

    • OldStones LM profile image

      OldStones LM 4 years ago

      Great selection of music,David Bowie has always been a favorite.

    • Scotties-Rock profile image

      Clairissa 4 years ago from OREFIELD, PA

      Congrats on your lens of the Day! Great Lens and tribute to David Bowie.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Loved all of those Bowie albums and his shows. Great lens. Congratulations on getting LoTD!

    • profile image

      MissMalaprop 4 years ago

      Congrats on your LOTD! It's well-deserved! I'm a HUGE David Bowie fan and the glam rock period is absolutely one of my favorites! I love the way you did this lens too!

    • MJsConsignments profile image

      MIchelle 4 years ago from Central Ohio, USA

      I'm a huge David Bowie fan, period. I graduated from HS way back in '84. His music was part of my "formative" years, LOL.

    • debnet profile image

      Debbie 4 years ago from England

      I'm a fan of all Glam Rock!!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      You have a very interesting lens.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Congratulations on LotD on David Bowie! :D

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 4 years ago from Arkansas USA

      Congratulations to an all-star lensmaster for your Lens of the Day!

    • jayceehaynes profile image

      jayceehaynes 4 years ago

      He's a cool guy but, no :) Congrats on on LOTD!

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 4 years ago from United States

      Back to say, Congratulations on LOTD!!! Rock on!

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 4 years ago

      Very cool to have David Bowie featured as a LOTD to showcase such an original and unique talent who put the GLAM into Rock! He was/is a showstopper for sure!

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 4 years ago from Colorado

      Congrats on LotD! Bowie certainly did glam like no one else.

    • Faye Rutledge profile image

      Faye Rutledge 4 years ago from Concord VA

      Congratulations on LotD!

    • profile image

      getmoreinfo 4 years ago

      Congrats on making LOTD I have featured you on my trendsetting music of the 80's lens.

    • profile image

      JoshK47 4 years ago

      Forever one of my favorites - thanks so much for sharing this lens! Blessed by a SquidAngel, and congrats on LotD! :)

    • fdurham profile image

      fdurham 4 years ago

      Fantastic lens! Thumbs up.

    • Wednesday-Elf profile image

      Wednesday-Elf 4 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

      Congrats on LotD for this review of David Bowie's Glam Rock. I like the way you interspersed posters throughout this page. Great wall art for Bowie fans!

    • MartieG profile image

      MartieG aka 'survivoryea' 4 years ago from Jersey Shore

      Congrats on a well deserved LotD - As a sixties child I remember Bowie well and this sure brings home many memories :>)

    • aka-rms profile image

      Robin S 4 years ago from USA

      I'm such a huge fan that I couldn't answer your favorite song poll because there was no way to choose "all of the above".

      Congrats on LOTD! Here's the write up:

      http://hq.squidoo.com/lotd/david-bowie-the-glam-ro...

    • agoofyidea profile image

      agoofyidea 4 years ago

      Congratulation on LOTD! I don't care what a singer looks like as long as the music is good. Lucky for a lot of singers.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Congrats on LOTD for your incredible tribute to David Bowie during the Glam Rock Years. Pretty awesome on both counts.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      From a distance - meeting him back then would have been scary.

    • Gloriousconfusion profile image

      Diana Grant 4 years ago from United Kingdom

      Definitely a fan - this lens brings back happy memories of my daughter painting up my son's face to look like Ziggy Stardust, when they were both teenagers. We used to have his records blaring morning noon and night.

      Congratulations on Lens of the Day, and here are some Angel Blessings

    • profile image

      Kapalbility 4 years ago

      Congrats, RIch. :)

    • Paul Ward profile image

      Paul 4 years ago from Liverpool, England

      LOTD! WTG!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Congratulations Rich on such a well deserved Lens of the Day - hubby has just put his head around my office door and is VERY impressed that I am listening to Bowie at 9.30 in the morning!!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      What a pity !Dacid Bowie is a great musician!

      Once I uploaded video on the website Milli0nαire connect.C`oM-

      All you can go and memorise DB!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      i like the post very much

    • CameronPoe profile image

      CameronPoe 4 years ago

      "Man who sold the world" during his glam years? I'll be looking it up.

    • profile image

      legalmoviedownloads1 4 years ago

      I'm not a fan of glam rock, but I must admit that David Bowie is great musician. His songs are awesome!

    • piarejuden profile image

      piarejuden 4 years ago

      Great lens.. congrats on the LOTD! Thanks for the info! Cheers!

    • profile image

      MaggiePowell 4 years ago

      Nice coincidence... I've been listening to my Bowie CD's all day!

    • profile image

      trendydad 4 years ago

      great job on writing about david bowie

    • profile image

      myamya 4 years ago

      Great lens! Thumbs up

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Congratulagtions once again on this Bowie lens. Nice to see it #82 in Music, #1,674 overall on Squidoo. Yes, I'm a fan of David's! :)

    • profile image

      OctavioMelesio 4 years ago

      Great Lens.... thans for share... i like it

    • AlexTedford profile image

      AlexTedford 4 years ago

      Grrrrreat lens! Thanks...I look forward to seeing your other lenses!

    • avigarret profile image

      avigarret 4 years ago

      Oh my god do I love Bowie and his alter egos, and this lens :)

    • profile image

      getmoreinfo 4 years ago

      David bowie really set some great trends in music from the 80's.

    • KimGiancaterino profile image

      KimGiancaterino 4 years ago

      I used a lot of David Bowie's music when I taught aerobics. He was a trailblazer for sure. Nice job on the lens!

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      Matie 4 years ago

      I love him! Thank you very much!

    • profile image

      Matie 4 years ago

      I love him! Thank you very much!

    • intermarks profile image

      intermarks 4 years ago

      Great piece for David Bowie. Very nice information!

    • blessedmomto7 profile image

      blessedmomto7 4 years ago

      Love David Bowie!

    • Close2Art LM profile image

      Close2Art LM 4 years ago

      awesome lens, Blessed****, huge Bowie fan

    • profile image

      xmen1209 4 years ago

      Yes, i love his song, good musician

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      @xmen1209: No stops here!

    • nancyrowina profile image

      nancyrowina 4 years ago

      Great idea for a lens, I love David Bowie, why didn't I think of it?

    • profile image

      cleanyoucar 4 years ago

      Great musician, great lens :D

    • profile image

      xmen1209 4 years ago

      @anonymous: Great song and distinc, i love it

    • profile image

      miaponzo 4 years ago

      I sure used to be! Blessed!

    • arcarmi profile image

      arcarmi 4 years ago

      I love his music! Huge fan!

    • writerkath profile image

      writerkath 4 years ago

      Well, I've never been much of a fan, but you cannot deny his brilliance! Pretty amazing artist! By the way, you did a great job on this lens! *Blessed!*

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      Derrolyn 4 years ago

      Love, love, love Bowie. I could listen to Ziggy all day long... and sometimes do.

    • Spokanewebdesig1 profile image

      Spokanewebdesig1 4 years ago

      I always thought he was strange, but he had a way about him and his music that was just great.

    • Fcuk Hub profile image

      Fcuk Hub 4 years ago

      He is great singer, but I wouldn't say is my idol :)

    • Nanciajohnson profile image

      Nancy Johnson 4 years ago from Mesa, Arizona

      Ziggy Stardust was my first Bowie Concert in Hollywood. A night to remember so many years back. I love David Bowie's Glam Rock. Owned every album.

    • GoAceNate LM profile image

      GoAceNate LM 4 years ago

      I loooove David Bowie. Hunky Dory is my fav Bowie album.

    • flycatcherrr profile image

      flycatcherrr 4 years ago

      David Bowie was a genius both as a musician and as a showman... but I would have been just as happy to never again see that pic of him in the short-shorts body suit. :)

    • Charlino99 profile image

      Tonie Cook 4 years ago from USA

      Fav Glam Artist is David Bowie. Diamond Dogs was my first Bowie album. Talented artist, great performer, and this is a great tribute to the star.

    • MissionBoundCre profile image

      MissionBoundCre 4 years ago

      Just watched labyrinth on Netflix. Big DB fan

    • nickupton lm profile image

      nickupton lm 4 years ago

      These are all great songs. The David Bowie CDs are coming out of the cupboard right now.

    • JoolsObsidian LM profile image

      JoolsObsidian LM 4 years ago

      Great lens! some Youtube footage I've never seen before - thanks for posting it. I loved David Bowie up to the 'Scary Monsters & Supercreeps' album but not so much after that, the seventies and early eighties were my favourite.

    • annieangel1 profile image

      Ann 4 years ago from Yorkshire, England

      strange to think how shocking it was back then.

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      Always been a fan of David's.

    • WhiteOak50 profile image

      WhiteOak50 4 years ago

      I like Bowie-especially "Changes" very good song. You did a great job putting this page together (as always!)

    • Heather426 profile image

      Heather Burns 4 years ago from Wexford, Ireland

      love David Bowie!

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 4 years ago from United States

      Awesome article! David Bowie has always been extremely entertaining!

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