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Gospel According to
Lady Stardust (Bowie)
In "Lady Stardust" heaven is mentioned in "Really quite paradise" and the lyric "....people stared at the makeup on his face, laughed at his long black hair..." is similar to the rejection Christ endured on his way to the crucifixion.
However, the most interesting lyric occurs in this song's demo version which directly mimics Christ's denial by St. Peter, one of his disciples i.e. "Oh! how I lied when they asked if I knew his name". In the final version on the album this was changed back to "Oh! how I sighed when they asked if I knew his name." Perhaps the original version was considered too direct a reference to biblical themes.
In this song Ziggy Stardust is seen to be striving for and dreaming about rock stardom which could be interpreted as a type of salvation.
Ziggy Stardust in one of his "amazing technicolour dreamcoats" (1972)
Hang Onto Yourself (Bowie)
Note the references in this song to worship in "Praying to the light machine" (was this also a continuation of the "see his light" theme noted in "Starman"?). A description of the prophet-like qualities of Ziggy Stardust occurs in "You're the blessed, we're The Spiders From Mars". In religious terminology "The Blessed" refers to the beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount. (Matthew 5)
Ziggy Stardust (Bowie)
Very strong religious references appear in this song with "he was the nazz" being a direct reference to Ziggy Stardust being THE Nazarene (i.e. Jesus of Nazareth), and of course there is the infamous "God-given ass" and "leper messiah." Importantly, there is also the reference to "the fall" in this song (Ziggy was killed/possibly crucified?) by his own fans. The song itself is sung from the perspective of one of The Spiders (my guess is Mick Ronson because Trevor Bolder and Mick Woodmansey have already been referred to as "Weird and Gilly"). Together they can be seen here as the jealous disciples ("should we crush his sweet hands") and it interesting that in another earlier concept album by The Who, "Tommy" also had his followers/disciples.
David Bowie "walking on water" at Great Hall, Imperial College, London (February 1972)
Worth noting too regarding the "leper-messiah" concept is that on his first UK Ziggy Stardust tour there was a stunt in which six fans in wheelchairs suddenly and "miraculously" rose to their feet to greet David Bowie's entrance on stage! Bowie also once walked out into the audience (standing on their hands and shoulders) on that tour in imitation of Iggy Pop's stage act but possibly mimicking Christ's walking on water also?
Suffragette City (Bowie)
"Katja" stated that her favourite religious parallel on the album was that this song was about Jesus Christ's special fondness for Mary Magdalene and his reappearance to her alone (e.g "There's only room for one and here she comes - here she comes") and this theory would fit neatly into a Ziggy Stardust resurrection theme - i.e, coming right after Ziggy's death in the previous song. Btw - did you know that David Bowie's friend Dana Gillespie (vocalist on "It Ain't Easy") played Mary Magdalene in the UK stage production of "Jesus Christ-Superstar" and that it's soundtrack was a top seller in pre-Ziggy 1971?
Rock n Roll Suicide (Bowie)
"Rock N Roll Suicide" can alternately be seen as the crucifixion ("All the knives seem to lacerate your brain, I've had my share, I'll help you with the pain" - a reference to Christ's crown of thorns?) or as an interpretation of the resurrection.
As seen above Bowie would typically sing "Rock N Roll Suicide" at Ziggy Stardust concerts dressed in an all white costume - signifying purity and/or burial robes? The word "religion" occurs in this song in "religiously unkind" while the famous "Gimme your hands" directly mimics the religious "laying on of hands" to perform a miracle and the healing of the physically/spiritually afflicted. Thus in this final song Ziggy Stardust ends by performing a miracle just as he had begun in "5 Years" ("I want you to walk").
Sweet Head (Bowie)
While not on the album itself - the Ziggy sessions outtake "Sweet Head" is also worth examining in that it uses the religious order name "Brother Ziggy..." (the only non-Ziggy album song to use his name) and importantly as noted it contains the line: "Till there was rock - you only had God...".
Still not convinced? Well - even leaving out the demo version and bonus tracks mentioned above, the following shows the extent to which the Ziggy Stardust album, compared to those which preceded and which follow it, contains a high degree of religious content.
Religious word/phrase counts:
Hunky Dory (1971) = 1
The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars (1972) = 20
Aladdin Sane (1973) = 5
And we shouldn't forget that David Bowie did directly base his character of Ziggy Stardust on rocker Vince Taylor, who ended up claiming to be the son of God live onstage in France.
Finally here is an interesting piece of trivia. According to his biographer Stephen Davis (1985), reggae star Bob Marley (himself a very religious man) was so taken by spiritual/religious aspects of the Ziggy Stardust album that he gave his son (then aged five) the nickname Ziggy (Ziggy Marley) and its a moniker that has remained to this day even though his given name is really ... wait for it ... David!
---This page last modified: 11 Dec 2018---